The San Francisco Unified School District wants to relocate a Bayview elementary charter school to Treasure Island to free up space at Malcolm X Academy.
But KIPP charter school is opposed to the idea and wants to remain right where they are to serve those in the low-income neighborhood. And those who serve on the board overseeing the man-made island are also not convinced the school district has it right.
Under state law, the district is obligated to offer space for approved charter schools to operate. In this case, school officials have identified a former elementary school site on Treasure Island to offer to KIPP Bayview Elementary, a charter school that has shared space with Malcolm X Academy since 2018.
The co-location has led to a space squeeze, school officials said.
Treasure Island Development Authority Board of Directors, which oversees the man-made island, would need to approve a lease with the school district, which in turn would then lease out the space to the charter school.
But the TIDA board postponed a vote on the arrangement last week, despite pressure from school district officials who said they had an April 1 deadline to make the deal work with the charter school for the upcoming school year. The proposed lease between TIDA and the school district is for three years and six months.
TIDA board member Linda Richardson, a proponent of charter schools, was the most outspoken critic of the school district’s plan last week.
She said that she has heard from concerned parents that the charter school should remain in the Bayview. “It appears you are kicking them to Treasure Island,” Richardson said.
The district closed the Treasure Island elementary school site down due to low enrollment in 2005 after opening it in the 1960s. But the district plans to eventually reopen as a public school as the island is undergoing a major redevelopment of 8,000 new homes.
“Why subject at-risk kids that are barely making it in their community that is poor to this? It does not seem fair,” Richardson said. “They have to come down to Treasure Island and then kick them out when you are ready with your program. I think is unacceptable.”
However, Supervisor Shamann Walton, who represents the Bayview, told the San Francisco Examiner in a text message Wednesday that he doesn’t support charter schools and “would be ecstatic if KIPP Elementary School (a charter school) left the Bayview.”
“They are taking up space at Malcolm X and basically preventing growth at that school,” Walton said.
Mike Davis, director of charter schools for SFUSD, said that KIPP’s elementary school, kindergarten through third grade, has increasing student enrollment. In its first year, 2018, the school had 60 students and next year it projects an enrollment of 118 students.
In addition to classrooms, Davis said that both schools also “have a need for ancillary support spaces for private counseling, for mental and physical health support and things that we provide to schools in impacted neighborhoods.”
“The proposal would allow KIPP to go to Treasure island, have 10 classroom spaces right off the bat, when they only need about six or seven,” Davis said. “They would have plenty of space for their ancillary services and the squeeze would not be put on Malcolm X Academy to have to either stunt their growth or retrench and they would still be able to grow their program.”
But one of the concerns raised by the board was how would Bayview families get to the school.
“It seems like logic would follow that you are expecting a lot of the families to travel from the Bayview to Treasure Island,” said TIDA board member Sharon Lai. “I am just trying to understand the transit pattern because there is a not a whole lot of direct ways to get to the island from the Bayview from my understanding.”
SFUSD spokesperson Laura Dudnick said in an email Wednesday the school district already made an offer on Feb. 1 to KIPP to use the TIDA space and KIPP has until March 1 to respond.
“TIDA campus provides all the space that KIPP needs, and moving to that campus would allow Malcolm X to grow its own program,” Dudnick said.
She said the TIDA vote postponement “gives us an opportunity to provide further clarification.”
“Our hope is that this is the beginning of a long-term partnership with TIDA to exercise our options to utilize the TIDA campus,” she said.
The school board had actually rejected KIPP’s elementary school application in 2017, but KIPP appealed to the state and prevailed. The school board has approved the school’s other applications for a high school and two middle schools.
KIPP’s spokesperson Maria Krauter told the Examiner that “the vast majority” of their students at the elementary site are from families who live near their current campus.
Krauter said that KIPP officials told the district that they preferred to remain at the current site. But that “to our surprise” the district is offering them Treasure Island.
“KIPP parents are very disappointed by this potential placement. Treasure Island is not near our students’ homes, nor is it accessible to them via public transit, so it is simply not an acceptable location for the school,” Krauter said. “We look forward to working with the District to identify an appropriate placement in Bayview–Hunters Point for the coming school year.”
Those from the public who spoke at last week’s hearing raised another issue.
Steve Zeltzer, of United Public Workers for Action, among others, opposed any school on the site. He argued that the U.S. Navy’s cleanup of the site was insufficient and poses a health risk to children. A lawsuit was filed last month making similar claims.
TIDA board member Mark Dunlop, a Treasure Island resident, said that there has been “tons of work” to cleanup the site and that “I don’t think anybody on this commission would dare put a child, San Francisco’s children, into a poisoned island.”
“I find it to be a pretty marvelous place,” Dunlop said. “I don’t glow at night. I just got back from my doctor who has found me in great shape.”