At Burton High School, students can take reading, writing and arithmetic, but to get to those classes, they have to endure the cracked tiles, broken windows and leaking roof.
The San Francisco Unified School District hopes to change that with a $531 million bond — the most asked for by the school district to date — that would be the final funding source in a series of multimillion-dollar upgrades to aging facilities.
Burton, built in the 1960s, shows its age. It’s a three-story solid concrete building with single-pane windows and cracked sidewalks.
The entire first floor is vacant not only because enrollment has decreased over the years but because if there’s a sewage backup, it leaks into these classrooms.
Principal Bill Kappenhagen said he also has a persistently leaking roof and traces of termites in the basement of the school.
“We’re at a disadvantage by the dilapidated facility,” he said. “It hinders school spirit and pride, and affects our ability to recruit and attract students.”
The bond program would pay for these fixes and more, according to district facilities manager David Goldin.
Nearly 50 other schools would benefit from the bond money in addition to Burton, which will be one of the first schools renovated. Willie Brown Academy in the Bayview neighborhood — scheduled to close at the end of the school year — is slated to reopen in a completely new building. James Lick Middle School and Roosevelt Middle School would also get updates as a result of the bond.
An estimated $5 million will be set aside from the bond to create or sustain “green” programs such as school gardens at 30 elementary schools. The bond would go before voters in November if approved by the school board and placed on the ballot.
The amount residents would pay has not been finalized for this bond, but for the $450 million bond passed in 2006, the owner of a $400,000 home pays roughly $129.
If voters decline to approve the bond with the necessary 55 percent approval rating, Goldin said he didn’t know what the district would do to help these aging schools.
“We’d be in real trouble,” Goldin said. “How do you fix schools without money?”
The district successfully passed bonds in 2003 and 2006 to upgrade and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements; those bonds totaled $850 million.
Burton’s upgrades, one of the largest proposed projects, would cost roughly $20 million and take several years to complete. The laundry list of necessary fixes has not yet been compiled, but Goldin said it will likely be the size of a history textbook.
“Does that mean we can get new bleachers?” Kappenhagen asked Goldin.
“If we’ve got the money,” Goldin said.
$531 million bond
50 schools would benefit
$5 million set aside for “green projects”
30 schools would participate in green projects
Source: San Francisco Unified School District