Plan to move School of the Arts

A renewed effort to move School of the Arts closer to the Civic Center hub of major arts providers is under way, according to the San Francisco Unified School District’s 10-year capital plan.

City and school officials determined long ago that the school — which serves about 800 students at the old McAteer High School near Twin Peaks — should be located in the downtown area near the various performing arts houses, which showcase the opera, ballet and symphony.

“San Francisco would be sending a message to the world that creativity and arts education are paramount,” said Susan Stauter, artistic director for the school district. “This is the time.”

Proponents say the ideal location would be the site of an old high school, at 135 Van Ness Ave., which was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and currently houses district administration offices. The site has been deemed unsafe for school-age children and would cost about $170 million to renovate.

The surge of interest in moving the school stems from the district’s Arts Education Master Plan, adopted by the Board of Education one year ago.

So far, the plan has generated about two dozen certificated art teacher positions, as well as pilot art coordinator programs at each school, said Antigone Trimis, the plan’s implementation manager. The idea is to bring at least two of the four identified art disciplines — music, visual arts, drama and dance — to each school. Creative writing will be added later, she said.

Trimis said having a downtown arts high school would create a facility for professional development that would attract teachers from throughout the district — and the country.

For this reason, advocates say the school would end up benefiting hundreds of thousands of students, not just those at the campus on a daily basis.

District Chief Facilities Officer David Goldin estimates that $170 million in renovations would be needed to create a state-of-the-art facility.

“I have an aging building that’s phenomenally expensive to renovate,” said Goldin, who added that the building is also considered a historic landmark, which further complicates renovations. “But it would be the biggest project in the school district’s history.”

The district already has $40 million reserved tomove School of the Arts to an updated facility, Golden said, in part from voter-approved bond measures.

Carlos Garcia, who took over as the district’s superintendent in July, said the project would need to be funded through a public-private partnership.

arocha@examiner.com

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