by YourSFPublicSchools Team ~ June 15th, 2012
By: Rachel Gordon
The gates of almost two dozen city schoolyards will be unlocked on Saturdays and Sundays, opening up more places for San Franciscans to learn to ride a bike, play four square and toss a baseball.
The Neighborhood Schoolyards Project will kick off Saturday at the Claire Lilienthal School, 3630 Divisadero St., complete with entertainment, jumpy houses and organized sports activities, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Use of the other participating public schools, whose principals agreed to open their blacktops to the public on weekends, will be phased in, said Supervisor Mark Farrell, who has taken the lead in organizing the project.
Eventually, schoolyards will be open on weekends throughout the city. Farrell said 22 elementary and middle schools are now on the roster, and more may be added.
Farrell grew up in the Marina and played ball with his dad on the schoolyard at Claire Lilienthal (it was called Winfield Scott when he was a kid), and he wants his children and others of their generation to have an opportunity to do the same.
"We live in an urban environment, and we need to use every single piece of real estate available," Farrell said. "This is about creating space for children and their families and building community."
Farrell raised more than $120,000 last year to fund the project. The money will be used to pay staff members to unlock and lock the gates. In addition, the PTA at each participating school will get a $1,000 grant.
Farrell conceded that many principals have been reticent to sign up because they don't want to risk their schoolyards being trashed and vandalized - a problem suffered by many of the city's public parks.
The Department of Public Works has agreed to swing by each yard at the end of the weekend to pick up any garbage left behind. Twice a year, public works crews will do a deep cleaning.
A similar program was tested a few years ago but withered when funding ran out. To get the new initiative under way, Farrell partnered with the Recreation and Park Department, the Department of Public Works and the San Francisco Unified School District.
- Rachel Gordon