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School shuffle raises concerns

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While not as controversial as school closures, the planned relocation of several San Francisco high schools is ruffling the feathers of school staff and parents, as well as city leaders.

One of the high schools is a charter school, another serves new immigrants who come to The City, and the third school campus is for teens who have struggled in mainstream high schools.

Leadership High School, a charter school that has received recognition for its work serving African-American and Latino students, is currently located in a former elementary school site near City College of San Francisco. Although the school was built for 250 students, Leadership has 400 students and has asked the district to provide it with a new site.

After rejecting several site offers from the district, Leadership is now considering an offer to share facilities with Balboa High School. Although Leadership officials did not respond to calls for comment, a voice message on the school’s phone line indicates that parents have had “concerns and questions” about the move, despite the fact that Balboa is only a few blocks away and the two schools serve similar populations of students.

School officials and parents at Balboa are also questioning the feasibility of two high schools sharing one site.

Balboa Principal Patricia Gray said her main concern is that Leadership High would take over classroom space that is currently used for support services, such as college advising, peer counseling and gang prevention programs.

“The schools have two different philosophies,” said Balboa Principal Patricia Gray. “I keep things very tight, and I think they're a little more liberal.”

Across town in Pacific Heights, Newcomer High School, which serves recent immigrants, has recently learned that it will share space with Mission High School because its uptown facilities will be leased to City College.

Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is protesting one of the relocation plans because it will entail closing an existing elementary school and merging it with another nearby campus.

Despite a recent ordinance that would provide the district with $660,000 of city funds to reverse a decision by the school board to close John Swett Elementary School, the district has already made plans to move three county high school programs that serve struggling teenagers into that site.

Although community advocates have asked for years that Phoenix High School be relocated from the Mission District, Mirkarimi expressed concern that putting the three schools of troubled teens together could be “potentially very reckless.”

The school district official overseeing the planned relocations is on vacation and not available for comment, but district spokesperson Lorna Ho said the district would be holding meetings to address community concerns about the moves.

“Anytime there's change — whether it be a closure, merger or relocation — there's always concerns,” said Ho. “But it doesn't mean it isn't going to work out.”

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