S.F. to open playground gates

The gates of five public schoolyards will be unlocked on the weekends and open for public use starting as early as January, the first phase of a program championed by Mayor Gavin Newsom that has some parents and school staff concerned about vandalism.

The City’s eventual goal is to have at least one playground opened in each district. City staff from the Recreation and Park Department will lock and unlock the gates and the Department of Public Works will be responsible for cleaning up any graffiti or other damage before school starts on Monday morning.

The City will take on the liability for any vandalism or injuries that occur on the school campuses during the new open hours, according to a memorandum of agreement it signed with the school district.

Two weeks ago, Newsom met with the principals of the first five schools — George Peabody Elementary, Cesar Chavez Elementary, Robert Loius Stevenson Elementary, James Lick Middle School and Civic Center Secondary — according to the mayor’s education adviser, Hydra Mendoza.

“All the principals that were at the meeting said this is such a great idea,” Mendoza said, adding that the discussions with the mayor included addressing specific concerns for each site.

“Peabody, for example, has an afterschool program with a big shed, and we wanted to make sure it gets secure before we start doing this,” Mendoza said, adding that community outreach will also be a part of the preparations for the program. “Some want signage, saying no skateboarding or no this or that.”

Notably absent from the list of schools that will open during the first phase of the program — called the “Schools as Community Hubs” pilot — is Dianne Feinstein Elementary, the site of last month’s news conference to announce the new program. Although the Mayor’s Office initially said it was a participating site, parents showed up at the event to protest the decision, saying they didn’t want to risk having the new school site vandalized.

Mendoza said that although Feinstein’s principal was at the recent meeting with the mayor, it was still up in the air whether the campus would be unlocked for public use.

“Both the PTA and the SSC [School Site Council] are on record as being against the plan,” Feinstein parent Matt Mitguard wrote in an e-mail to The Examiner.

Open playgrounds

Starting as early as January, these five schools will unlock their gates for public use of their fields and playgrounds during the weekends.

George Peabody Elementary

Cesar Chavez Elementary

Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary

James Lick Middle School

Civic Center Secondary

Source: Mayor’s Office

beslinger@examiner.com

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