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Plan moves forward to build new school in Mission Bay

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Land in the Mission Bay area where a new school will be built was set aside in 1998 for the school district to use at no cost. (Ekevara Kitpowsong/ Special to S.F. Examiner)
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The San Francisco Board of Education may soon commit to building a new elementary school in Mission Bay nearly two decades after the land was set aside for the development.

Two school board members introduced a resolution Tuesday directing the superintendent to begin planning for the school in Mission Bay, where hundreds of school children are expected to move in the coming years as housing developments spring to life in the neighborhood.

“The studies have been done, the community has spoken, now it’s time to get the school developed,” said school board member Matt Haney, who introduced the resolution with the board’s Vice President Hydra Mendoza-McDonnell.

If the resolution is approved at the next meeting in two weeks, the San Francisco Unified School District will have set in stone a plan to build its first new school in more than a decade. The school would be built on less than an acre of land near UC San Francisco’s Mission Bay campus, which was set aside for the school district to use at no cost in 1998.

The last time the district built a new school was in 2006, when it opened Dianne Feinstein Elementary School in the Sunset District. While Willie Brown Middle School just opened in the Bayview in 2015, it was rebuilt on the site of a former school.

The resolution’s approval would also mean the school board decided to build a school in Mission Bay before the Bayview — a historically black neighborhood that has also experienced its share of development in recent years, but is a step behind Mission Bay in the process.

“We need more schools to absorb and retain our growing family, particularly in District 6,” Supervisor Jane Kim, a longtime proponent of the Mission Bay school, said in a text message.

In November, San Francisco voters approved a bond that allocated $100 million for the construction of new schools in the Bayview and Mission Bay, leaving room for the school board to decide in which neighborhoods to build first and where in the neighborhoods.

“[Mission Bay] is going to have the highest growth of children of anywhere in The City and it currently doesn’t have any school,” Haney said. “There will also likely be a school built in Bayview but what’s different about Bayview is the growth there is a little further off and we already have schools there, some of which are not full.”

An enrollment forecast found in November 2015 that while few students lived in the neighborhood at the time, between 600 and 1,000 students are expected to live in Mission Bay by 2022 because of the construction of new affordable-housing units.

In comparison, the forecast found the Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment would bring between 800 and 1,600 students to the Bayview by 2036.

“Based on projected growth of school age youth in the Southeast area of the city, we intentionally included construction of a new school in either Mission Bay or the Bayview in November’s Bond measure,” Interim Superintendent Myong Leigh said in a statement.

“The resolution being introduced is consistent with this planning process,” he said. “I am confident the Board will look at all of the data and give it careful consideration in committee before coming back to the regular meeting for discussion.”

Neighbors are already witnessing the influx of children in the neighborhood.

Sarah Davis, a spokesperson for Mission Bay Families, has lived on a houseboat in the neighborhood since she moved there three decades ago at the age of 9.

“There were no kids here when I grew up,” said Davis.

Now, Davis said there is a waitlist for the reading program at the library and the local playgrounds are regularly full.

“Access to public education is the key for a community,” Davis said. “Until we have that in Mission Bay, a part of the community is going to be missing.”

Still, supporters of a new school will have to wait at least five years for it to open. Haney said it takes five years to build a new school, and the school district still has to put forward a plan and timeline for the development.

Haney suggested that the plan could include teacher housing above the school, since the site is zoned for up to nine stories of construction.

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