School's out, but drill is still audible

While students are away for the summer, construction crews are digging, hammering and drilling away at campuses across San Francisco, launching $29 million in bond-funded improvements.

The work represents the last of a $295 million bond approved by voters in 2003, as well as the start of a $450 million bond approved in 2006, said David Goldin, facilities director for the San Francisco Unified School District. Many projects that kick off this summer will continue into the fall and winter — and some well into next year.

The construction this summer will range from a brand-new building at Lincoln High School and the completion of a wing at O’Connell High School that was left unfinished 10 years ago to disabled-access improvements at many schools, according to Goldin.

“I think people are glad it’s finally getting done, because it was promised a long time ago,” said Catherine Steinbach, president of the Lincoln Parent-Teacher-Student Association. “We hope it’s done before our children are out of school.”

While waiting for the new $31 million building at Lincoln, students have convened in portables rooms taking up space on the school’s athletic courts. Their design is so mazelike that Steinbach’s son, Joseph, has been late to class more than once.

Many schools are undergoing multiyear renovations and will see more construction this summer, including Lowell, Washington, Galileo, Mission and Balboa high schools. Malcolm X Academy will have new security cameras added in time for fall classes, Goldin said. Bonds have already paid for new fields and paint at many schools, as well as a new campus at the Bessie Carmichael Filipino Education Center.

In addition, a hefty chunk of change is being used to improve access for disabled students at 58 schools under the Lopez settlement, the outcome of a class-action lawsuit against the SFUSD in 2004.

“Once it’s done, it will be great,” said Katie Franklin, a member of the district’s citizens advisory council for special education. “It’s not just for students, but teachers and parents — I know parents who need accessible schools because they can’t visit their children.”

Because the SFUSD’s buildings are so old — many of them qualify as historic buildings — bringing them up to modern standards while maintaining their architecture is both complex and costly, Goldin said.

“These are incredibly old, wonderful buildings that have been neglected for a long, long time,” Goldin said. “We have some schools on three floors and you can enter every floor at grade, which makes [disabled access] a nightmare.”

Construction time

San Francisco voters have approved $745 million for public school facilities improvements in the last five years.

2003 BOND 

Total funding: $295 million

Schools included: 31

Work included: Disabled accessibility; upgraded electrical, plumbing and ventilation; modernizing classrooms; adding new buildings to replace portables.

2006 BOND

Total funding: $450 million

Schools included: 64

Work included: Disabled accessibility; upgraded electrical, plumbing and ventilation; modernizing classrooms; adding new buildings to replace portables.

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

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