Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Willie Brown Jr. Academy razed

By: Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle

An excavator carries rubble as the Willie L. Brown Jr.
College Preparatory Academy Dream School is demolished
on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif.
Photo: Lea Suzuki, The Chronicle / SF
What had been one of the lowest-performing, under-enrolled schools in San Francisco was little more than a pile of rubble as workers demolished Willie Brown Jr. Academy in the city's Bayview neighborhood.

Loud hydraulic excavators bit off pieces of the few remaining walls still standing last week at the school, which served about 160 students in grades four through eight until June 2011. With blue sky visible above and gaping holes nearby, a paper sign directed visitors to the now-nonexistent counseling office.

Soon, the tons of mangled rebar and concrete chunks will be carted off for recycling and the 4-acre lot will be vacant, a clean slate to rebuild a new school.

Three years from now, a $40 million, state-of-the-art science- and music-focused middle school for 650 students will open its doors on the site.

School district officials hope the new school, which incorporates design elements reflecting the importance of circles in African cultures, will be embraced by the neighborhood and families across the city.
"I'm incredibly optimistic about what we're doing and how we're doing it," said David Goldin, the district's chief facilities officer. "I think it's a school that needs to be reborn."

Before closing in 2011, the public school posted some of the lowest test scores in the state. The rundown building, a former police academy, required at least $11 million in upgrades.

One of worst in state

 

When the state designated it as one of the worst 188 schools in the state and demanded the district reform it or shutter it, district officials opted for the latter.

"This can't be a school like it was," Goldin said.

The new school will be front and center on the property on Silver Avenue, rather than pushed to the back behind a parking lot, as the old one was.

"We're saying to the community, this building is part of your neighborhood," Goldin said. "It's going to feel like it's here for a purpose, and it's something everyone in the neighborhood should treasure and enjoy."
The district met several times with community groups to hash out design ideas for the school, which was named after the city's former mayor.

The result will be buildings that spin off a circular central space, hinting at the African and African American tradition of meeting and teaching in circles, Goldin said.