Group pushes Bayview charter school

Coalition for Essential Schools wants plan to be in SFUSD’s hands by Nov. 15; if approved, site could open next year

A national organization that advocates intentionally small schools is planning to submit a proposal for a new charter high school in Bayview-Hunters Point.

With hopes of opening by next school year, the Coalition for Essential Schools is working to submit its plan by Nov. 15 in order to qualify for a district-provided school site.

Starting this week, the organization is hosting a series of town hall meetings in Bayview-Hunters Point to generate support for the idea of a new, small high school, which would be called the Bayview Essential School for Music, Art and Social Justice.

Mara Benitez, the senior director of school development for the Coalition for Essential Schools, which is based in Oakland, said the organization has been considering ways to open a small school in the Bayview for more than a year. This summer, CES outreached to the Bayview-Hunters Point community by offering a creative arts and social justice summer program held at the local YMCA.

Janeen Long’s teenage daughter was among the 30 students who participated in the program, and now the Bayview parent wants to sign her up for the charter school.

“She told me, ‘I don’t want to miss a day,’ that she was always excited about what they’re going to do next,” Long said. “I want her four years to be filled with enthusiasm and wanting to learn more.”

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that operate with less oversight and restrictions than conventional public schools. For example, charter schools do not have to hire union teachers and can create their own curriculum. The schools are still held accountable for student achievement on state standardized tests, however.

Proposals for new charter campuses must show evidence that the school can open with a first-year enrollment of at least 80 students.

The San Francisco Unified School District has attempted numerous school reform solutions over the years in Bayview-Hunters Point schools in an effort to boost the academic achievement of students in the area.

During the tenure of former school Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, a school-reform program called the Dream Schools was initiated, but it didn’t serve high school students in the southeast sector, only students in the lower grades.

School board member Eric Mar said that while he has been a longtime supporter of small schools, he wishes that CES had not chosen to open as a charter school, since the experimental schools have no obligation to work with district officials.

Benitez said the proposed school would consider giving up its charter status if it was able to still maintain some autonomy.

beslinger@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocalneighborhoods

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