Planning Continues for New Mission Bay Elementary School

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The San Francisco Unified School District held a briefing last fall to collect community reactions to a planned pre-kindergarten through fifth grade campus, to be built adjacent to the Owens Street traffic circle. The first of many anticipated public engagements, the meeting, held at the Mercy Housing Community Room on Fourth Street, was well attended by area residents and local merchants.  Participants were generally enthusiastic about fostering greater inclusion of kids in the area, thereby lessening the sense of isolation some feel dominates Mission Bay.  

The school will be built on “Lot 14,” a parcel donated by the University of California, San Francisco. The plot consists of 2.2 acres, with 0.7 acres identified for 80- to 90-foot tall structures and 1.5 acres set aside for a yard with open space. Current plans call for the facility to include limited office space for the school’s staff, and room for other, yet-to-be-determined, professional development activities.  Parking needs remain to be addressed. A proposal has been floated to incorporate a “linked learning hub” that’ll house a high school program whose curriculum is organized around economic sector themes, utilizing work-based learning attached to businesses.

“A Linked Learning hub would provide high school students across the District with real-world learning experiences in nearby industries, such as biotech and health,” explained SFUSD public relations manager Laura Dudnick. “The hub would strengthen the current portfolio of high school Linked Learning programs, and serve as a destination for students across the District to access specialized learning opportunities outside of the schools they attend. One example is The Center for Advanced Research and Technology in Clovis, California.” 

At the meeting, former District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim referenced her decade-long involvement in the school’s planning, and support from current and former mayors, San Francisco supervisors, and the San Francisco Board of Education. She confirmed that groundbreaking is expected by 2021, a deadline set by UCSF as a condition of the land’s donation.  

SFUSD representatives acknowledged that residences continue to be built and occupied in Mission Bay. More families bring activity to a neighborhood which formerly saw little life after the end of the business day. A large number of newly constructed apartment complexes contain affordable units, accessible for purchase or rent to families with children. Restaurants and other enterprises with extended hours have steadily opened in the area. 

SFUSD predicts that by 2025 city-wide student enrollment will increase by more than 14,000 students, exceeding the capacity of existing campuses. District 6 Supervisor Matt Haney, who enthusiastically supports the new school, had previously raised concerns that the greatest growth in student population would be from Mission Bay and South-of-Market, which helped focus attention on the project.

Vision 2025, published by the District, addresses how to better prepare students to enter the workforce in the mid-21st century. A collaboration between the new school and adjacent UCSF campus could include an expansion of the Science and Health Education Partnership, which has supported science and health education in public schools for the past 30 years.

The elementary schools nearest to Mission Bay are Bessie Carmichael, in SoMa, and Daniel Webster, in Potrero Hill. A Mission Bay school would be “fantastic,” according to Marcella Azucar, a Mission Bay resident and mother of a fourth-grader, though by the time it’s built her son will be in high school. 

As previously reported by the View, funding for the new campus will come from a portion of $100 million set-aside for school construction in Bayview and Mission Bay. The money is part of a $744 million facilities bond San Francisco voters approved in 2016. Bond funds can also be allocated to build below-market rate housing for teachers.

This year the San Francisco Unified School District will identify a design firm for the new school, and review expected student enrollment to make sure it doesn’t exceed the facility’s capacity. Construction on the yet unnamed campus is scheduled to begin in mid-2021, with an expected opening for the 2023 academic year.