After years of complaints from faculty and community members, and growing distrust in the San Francisco school district’s inspections that gave the crumbling school high ratings, Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 Community School is slated to get a $140,000 third-party safety assessment of its deteriorating facilities.
An ordinance to fund the assessment, proposed by District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen and passed on first reading by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, would bring in Public Works as a third-party assessor. In the face of multiple safety issues, the school district’s prior assessments of conditions at the school have been deemed severely lacking.
“It’s very helpful, in terms of making my community’s voice feel heard, to know that the beginning of this process is starting with an outside arbiter,” said BVHM Principal Claudia DeLarios-Morán. Further, the safety assessment will be a more holistic approach to the school’s needs, DeLarios-Morán said, as opposed to the usual approach of handling issues as they arise.
The school board last month unanimously approved $40 million to address a multitude of safety hazards at BVHM but, as this process could be lengthy, the Public Works assessment intends to identify any urgently needed work.
Jennifer Li, a legislative aide in Ronen’s office, discussed the ordinance before the Budget and Finance Committee last week, where it was passed unanimously. She said that a key demand by the community had been the independent assessment.
In two separate reports last year, Li said, San Francisco Unified School District rated BVHM’s facilities as “in good repair status” and “clean, safe and functional.” However, she continued, “three major life-threatening incidents took place in this year alone,” including a gas leak that was not addressed for more than a week, dismissed as the smell of dead rodents.
District 7 Supervisor Myrna Melgar, who worked at BVHM for several years, called the school’s issues a matter of “structural racism,” in agreement with Supervisor Ronen, who was absent from today’s Board of Supervisors meeting due to a family emergency.
“This is a school that mostly serves Latino families,” Melgar said. Many monolingual immigrant families have complained about the condition of local schools for many years, she added. I’m glad that we are making progress on this issue, including with this appropriation.”
Just last week, San Francisco school board members raised concerns during their meeting that the annual Williams Report for the 2020-2021 school year, which inspects all of the district schools in the bottom one-third for academic performance, rated all of the schools as either “exemplary” or “good,” with none falling to the “fair” or “poor” rankings.
Ronen’s ordinance in mid-October originally reappropriated only about $120,000 toward BVHM’s school safety needs assessment, but Li said the supervisor’s office was able to release the full $140,000. About $70,000 comes from the Public Works Department, and a similar amount comes from the City Planning Department.
Today’s vote by the Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance on its first hearing. A second hearing to pass the ordinance is upcoming.
The funds for the assessment were originally dedicated to land use and transportation improvements around Alemany Market, which were paused due to the pandemic.