School board rejects city’s bid to reverse Swett closure

Despite desperate pleas from parents, staff and community leaders, San Francisco’s school board refused Tuesday night to take $660,000 from The City in exchange for reversing the closure of John Swett Elementary.

The January decision to merge John Swett, which currently uses 81 percent of its permanent classroom space, with nearby John Muir Elementary was supported 4-3 by San Francisco's seven-member school board. None of the four agreed to change their votes Tuesday night.

John Swett's enrollment, currently at 227 students, has dropped 38 percent in the last decade, according to district data. Its performance on standardized test scores, along with John Muir's, is below the district average.

Supporters say John Swett supports a diverse population in a low-income area that struggles with violence and needs the stability of a neighborhood school. The Board of Supervisors recently passed an ordinance that would have provided $660,000 to keep the school open in its current location.

District officials have said recent decisions to close six schools and merge four others into two sites were necessary due to declining enrollment and less-than-expected revenues from the state.

Parent Emmett House said his 7-year-old son, Elijah, was improving academically at John Swett and had already been displaced when the district closed DeAvila Elementary last year.

“He’ll have to meet new friends and teachers all over again. I don’t want him to have to go through that,” House said.

Hours before the meeting, supporters of John Swett were alarmed to see school materials already being dumped out as trash.

Books and school supplies, as well as two xylophones and a saxophone, had been thrown away, according to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who has fought since last year to keep John Swett from being closed at the end of the school year.

District spokeswoman Lorna Ho confirmed that school textbooks and supplies had been thrown out in anticipation of the school's June closure, but said all of the material had been outdated and unusable with the district's current curriculum.

Mirkarimi said the dumping of supplies “echoes the shameful disregard in the issues of John Swett.”

beslinger@examiner.com

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