Sunset District preschool closure leaves parents scrambling for childcare

Parkside Preschool the latest of several preschools in SF to close or face displacement

Amid efforts by city leaders to prevent the displacement of early childcare education programs throughout San Francisco, yet another preschool and kindergarten serving 80 children is going out of business next month.

In a letter dated May 1, parents received just short of two months notice that the Sunset District’s Parkside Preschool at 2425 19th Ave. will be closing “for good” on June 28, leaving families scrambling to find new placements and 15 full-time teachers unemployed.

“We would like to inform you now so that you can have as much time as possible to make other plans,” the owners wrote in a letter.

May Lu is registered as the private preschool’s administrator and also as a landlord of the mixed-use property, which includes 13 residential units. She cited her decision to retire and a desire to “spend more time with family” as a reason for the abrupt closure in an email to the San Francisco Examiner.

Parkside Director Winnie Ly told the San Francisco Examiner that while about half of the children will be graduating into the elementary school system next year, other families with younger children are struggling to find accommodations. Efforts are also being made to place the teachers at other preschools.

According to a representative from the office of Supervisor Gordon Mar, whose district includes the Sunset, some 25 percent of Parkside’s families have secured alternatives, including placement at the Stonestown YMCA, which has conducted proactive outreach.

First 5 San Francisco, which provides resources to families with children under the age of 5, provided training and coaching to Parkside’s teachers, and it is considered a site “in good standing” by the California Quality Counts QRIS system, according to First 5 Senior Program Officer Lisa Lee.

“The loss of this preschool, which serves 80 children, is a significant one as it provided care and early education to many moderate and some Early Learning Scholarship families,” said Lee, referring to financial aid assistance.

Mar said that it is “concerning” that Parkside’s operators “didn’t give the families much advance notice about the closure.”

“It’s really not enough time given the challenges that families face in finding affordable quality preschool and childcare,” said Mar.

Parkside’s impending closure is the latest casualty in the fight to preserve The City’s dwindling early childcare education programs. Earlier this year, the San Francisco Examiner reported that a preschool that served families for five decades in the Forest Hill neighborhood will shutter this month.

Wah Mei School, which serves more than 260 children annually with bilingual programming, was also threatened with displacement earlier this year after its landlord, the United Methodist Church, listed the property for sale. The school is in negotiations to purchase its building.

To counteract a growing trend of early child care facilities facing displacement, San Francisco Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee and Mar introduced legislation to increase the scrutiny of projects where a change of use is proposed at sites housing childcare programs.

The interim zoning controls, which will only be effect for 18 months, would require a Conditional Use hearing before The City’s Planning Commission for such projects citywide.

Mar said that he has received no indication that the owners plan to sell the property, but noted that the zoning controls would apply to Parkside’s space. He added that the zoning controls also call for the creation of a comprehensive inventory of childcare spaces throughout The City, including those at risk of displacement.

Yee said that his office is working on finding “a new operator for this site so that families and children can continue to rely on this critical neighborhood service.”

“While I do not know the full circumstances for Parkside Preschool, the reality is that we have an unmet need for child care in San Francisco. There are simply not enough child care placement slots to keep up with the pace of demand,” said Yee, adding that with the zoning controls, “we now have a way to preserve the child care use of this location.”

“It is our goal to better support and plan for licensed child care facilities so that neighborhoods do not lose these services forever,” he said.

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