Parents say school district didn’t do enough to publicize new, modern Sunset campus
The newest crown jewel for the San Francisco Unified School District — a freshly constructed $18 million elementary school named after San Francisco’s hometown hero, Sen. Dianne Feinstein — does not have enough students to maintain all of its staff.
Although the school opened just last month with much fanfare, last week parents of the school’s students were disturbed to receive a letter that said the school already faced a $218,423 deficit in per-pupil funding caused by lower-than-expected enrollment.
The school was slated to enroll 280 students, according to the letter, but only 216 families had signed on for the inaugural year.
District officials say there are a number of factors that have contributed to the unanticipated shortfall in enrollment, including the school’s early start time of 7:40 a.m. and the challenge of getting parents already invested in one school to switch to another.
Districtwide, many schools have experienced a strong drop in enrollment over the last decade. Last January, The City’s school board voted to close, merge or relocate 14 schools due to a budget deficit caused by the loss of students in the district.
Leah Dang, who transferred her son from another district school to enroll him in the third grade at Dianne Feinstein, said all of the seats at the new school would be filled if the district had done more marketing, as well as provided bus service to bring students from outside the neighborhood. The school is located on 25th Avenue near Vicente in the Sunset district.
"They want to talk about diversity and equity, then this beautiful school, this gem in the middle of the Sunset, should be available to any child in The City," Dang said.
Interim Superintendent Gwen Chan conceded that the district needs "to do a better job of marketing a new school," but added that she was hopeful that, "in time, Dianne Feinstein will be bursting with
Two teachers at the elementary school are expected to either lose their jobs or be moved to other schools in the district due to the low enrollment.
Although Dianne Feinstein has the capacity for 500 K-5 students, this year it only accepted students up to the third grade.
Tonight, Dianne Feinstein parents will attend a meeting at the school to talk about the budget deficit and discuss ways to support the struggling new school.
Andrea Koura, who enrolled her daughter in the second grade, said as a result of the bad news, parents and teachers are bonding together. Nonetheless, she resents the predicament imposed upon the new community.
"It’s a shame the school district sees our children as numbers, rather than humans," she said.