Friday, August 17, 2012

S.F. schools complete ADA access work

Ryan Henderson, project manager, checks out the new
play structure outside the Chinese Immersion School
at DeAvila, among the last schools to complete the
access work. Photo: Sonja Och, The Chronicle / SF
After 13 years under the shadow of a lawsuit, San Francisco Unified has spent about $250 million to fix some 50,000 code violations to ensure nearly 100 school buildings are fully accessible to the disabled.

The last legally required drinking fountain, elevator, ramp and toilet were installed in several schools this summer to complete work outlined in a settlement in a class-action lawsuit filed in 1999.

The district has been under the watchful eye of a federal judge since 2004 and under tight deadlines to adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act at the schools listed in a legal case named after the Lopez family, lead plaintiffs in the class-action suit.

It wasn't easy, said David Goldin, the district's chief facilities officer.

"We have the oldest building inventory in California," Goldin said. "We're on a city of hills."

At many schools, that meant installing new elevators, multiple ramps for wheelchairs, new light switches, wider doorways, auditorium wheelchair lifts, braille signage and bi-level water fountains, among a long fix-it list.

While doing the work to upgrade access, the district spent an additional $550 million to modernize each of the 90 or so schools, replacing roofs, heating systems and windows, putting on fresh coats of paint, repaving playgrounds and upgrading wiring, among other projects.

The Chinese Immersion School at DeAvila was among the final schools on the district's legal list, and it exemplified the challenges in offering complete access to every part of a school to every child regardless of disability.

The Haight-Ashbury neighborhood school built in 1924 sits on a hillside with a 40-foot elevation difference from one side to the other.

Read more: SF Chronicle