Plan would open S.F. school playgrounds on weekends

At least one school playground in each San Francisco district could soon be open to the public on weekends, but some parents and school staff fear unlocking the gates could increase vandalism on campuses.

Under an agreement that will be drafted between The City and the San Francisco Unified School District, The City will agree to accept liability for any vandalism or injuries that occur on the school campuses during the new open hours, which will include weekends and some school holidays. Only some of the school sites will be monitored, according to Mayor Gavin Newsom, who said the increased playground access would add to recreational opportunities for youth.

“There is nothing more frustrating than a kid who’s standing there with a basketball right outside a schoolyard on a weekend that [it’s] locked,” Newsom said at a news conference announcing the plan at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School on Monday.

City staff from the Recreation and Park Department will lock and unlock the gates, and the Department of Public Works would be responsible for cleaningup any graffiti or other damage before school starts on Monday morning.

Only Feinstein Elementary School has been confirmed as a participating site, according to the Mayor’s Office. Another 13 schools will be selected after meetings are held with school principals.

New district superintendent Carlos Garcia said principals are worried about damage to their campuses, but he said he feels confident that The City is going to ensure that the burden of the program doesn’t fall on the schools.

Feinstein Elementary parents who attended Monday’s news event with the mayor were less assured. Matt Mitguard told the mayor that his skepticism came from seeing the damage done at nearby Parkside Park.

“It’s been torched, trashed and vandalized,” Mitguard said. “Do you really want to introduce that into our play yards?”

Another parent, Debbi Masterson, expressed concern that the children would arrive Monday morning to discover trampled school gardens.

Newsom reminded the parents that the program was merely a test.

“If it doesn’t work, what do we lose?” he said. “We learn a little bit, and we try to fix whatever went wrong.”

beslinger@examiner.com

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