S.F. residents: Open school doors

Residents of the Parkmerced living community are steaming over a plan to sell a nearby vacant school site they say should be reopened to serve neighborhood children currently bused to campuses across The City.

The San Francisco Unified School District agreed recently to put the former School of the Arts site at 700 Font Blvd., vacant for the last five years, up for sale at $13.75 million.

San Francisco State University, which abuts the 2.5-acre site in the Park Merced neighborhood, offered to buy the vacant campus for $10.2 million, but the San Francisco school board turned the proposal down. The district is expected to review any new bids for the site this fall.

The plan to sell the site, which closed in 2002 after School of the Arts relocated, has enraged Parkmerced residents who say their community is home to hundreds of families who want a neighborhood school. In addition, they say a school within walking distance would help green The City by moving parents out of vehicles and onto foot.

“It would be instantly better for the families to have a school close by,” said Michelle Miller, a Parkmerced Residents Organization board member. “It’s not a place to take away education, it’s a place to put it.”

Built in 1956, the site — which district officials say is badly deteriorated — has been used as a storage facility since its 2002 vacancy. The district declared the site a surplus property last spring.

“The district has no projected use for that facility as a school,” district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said. “We don’t foresee any need for this property.”

In 2000, there were slightly more than 5,000 people ages 0 to 19 living in the area surrounding the site, according to the U.S. Census. While exact figures are not available, one Parkmerced resident estimates that 10 percent of the 3,000 units are families with school-age children.

Children who live in Parkmerced are served by schools throughout The City, some which are less than one mile away. Regardless, the neighbors are still pushing for a neighborhood school.

“To have a public school or middle school in the area is such an amenity to the community,” said Aaron Goodman, also a board member of the residents’ organization who sends his child to nearby Montessori Children’s Center.

In the meantime, San Francisco State still has its eye on the site.

“We remain interested in buying at that price,” said Ellen Griffin, a university spokeswoman.

arocha@examiner.com

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