Mission Bay parents dream about walking their kids to an elementary school that soaks up the intellectual capital of next-door UC San Francisco and is only blocks from bay views, transit and downtown.
However, though ideas about a biotech or science-themed school have been percolating informally for San Francisco’s newest neighborhood, they haven’t originated from the school board.
In a Wednesday meeting, the Board of Education promptly brought biotech school dreams to ground with more sensible talk about the district’s needs and budget, as well as the decision on school choice expected in March. Currently, school choice means that kids get assigned to one of seven schools that the parents pick.
For some commissioners, it was the first time they’d discussed a new school in Mission Bay, though the city, developers, and the redevelopment agency finalized the zoning in 1998 as part of a master plan for an area that covers more than 300 acres one block south of AT&T Park.
Commissioners appeared interested in the potential for district teachers to get more science training, assuming anything built would have a natural collaboration with its science-heavy location.
However, the commissioners asked for significantly more data before going further, particularly demographics and information on the system’s needs.
The nearest elementary schools are Bessie Carmichael Elementary and Daniel Webster Elementary. Both are roughly a mile away from the site, and parents recently saved Webster from being shut down altogether.
The school site is a 2.2 acre parcel bordered by Owens Street, Nelson Rising Lane, Mission Bay Boulevard South and 6th Street. If these streets sound unfamiliar, it’s because they’ve all been installed in the last few years and some are still incomplete. The nearest preexisting roadway is 16th Street. Nearest mappable address.
Mission Bay’s master developer – FOCIL Holdings, owned by Farallon Capital Investment – is required to give the land to the district at no cost after the city has issued building permits for at least 3,200 units. That condition has already been satisfied. The school district would build the school, and the master developer is responsible for the school yard.
Amy Neches, a senior project manager for the SF Redevelopment Agency, said that an informal survey of building managers tallied more than 300 children in Mission Bay, most under 5 years old.
“Our experts told us there are only 60 kids in Mission Bay,” said board vice president Jane Kim later in the meeting, not to disagree with the agency but to show that the board needs better information on the area.
Neches’s presentation to the board suggested a kindergarten through fifth or eighth grade, perhaps with a “science center with outside partners (UCSF, SF State, City College) for teacher training and specialize programs for high school students citywide.”
David Goldin, the school district’s chief of facilities, said that the space could hold about 500 kids and that grades higher than fifth would be difficult to accommodate because of sports requirements.
Despite any talk otherwise, what the site will actually be used for has yet to be hashed out. Furthermore, the board hasn’t even decided if it will continue hashing anytime soon.
Two residents made it to the meeting, which was announced early that day. Houseboat resident Sarah Davis and Matthew Springer, a professor at UC San Francisco, expressed their support for an elementary school in the area.
Springer, whose wife Jasmin is the children’s librarian at Mission Bay’s new public library, wrote an email to the board as well, since public comment was taken after the board discussed the school.
“Regarding the needs of Mission Bay, this is ground zero for a child population explosion in a city that does not have enough children,” Springer wrote. “My wife’s childrens’ programs at the library have gone from small groups to almost overflowing crowds during this time. She had 170 people in attendance at a program today, over half of them children.”
Other considerations raised at Wednesday’s meeting included the needs of kids in the southeast neighborhoods like Bayview, as well as bond money, and what’s going on with the status of other schools in the district.
“If we’re going to be closing schools and then building one, then that’s a marketing conversation we’re going to have,” commissioner Hydra Mendoza said, perhaps joking a bit.
Commissioner Rachel Norton’s blog post on the meeting can be found here.