History: Creation of the Tenderloin School

The Creation of Tenderloin Community School:
BAWCC’s Tenderloin Gradeschool Campaign

The Tenderloin, home to more than 3,500 children since the early 1980s, was the only San Francisco neighborhood without its own public school.  Prior to the school’s opening, some 1,200 young students rose before the sun to catch buses to nearly 50 schools all around the city, some going as far as Treasure Island.  Because most Tenderloin parents rely on public transportation, and schools were so far away, they were unable to participate in their children’s school activities or help in the classrooms.

Thanks to BAWCC’s Tenderloin Gradeschool Campaign which began in 1990, all that has changed.

Despite the fact that there was no funding or site or support from SFUSD when BAWCC began its decade-long campaign to get a school built in the Tenderloin, the momentum continued to grow.  The Tenderloin school was used as the flagship issue to pass a 1994 bond measure for new construction and renovation of San Francisco schools.  $11 million was targeted for Tenderloin school’s construction.

Very early on, the late Joe Esherick, internationally renowned and award-winning architect, volunteered to be a part of the core team with BAWCC staff and urban planner Brad Paul.  Joe’s architectural firm, EHDD, along with Barcelon & Jang were later chosen to design the school.  Finally, BAWCC successfully raised the funding for the purchase of furniture and equipment and the start-up programming that was the last step in making the Family Center and many special program areas an integral part of the school.

The result is a stunning, well thought-out facility that includes a 400-student elementary school, child development center, and many beautiful on-site program areas.

Many visitors come to BAWCC and Tenderloin Community School from all around the world each year.  They want to walk through the school and family center, and hear the story of how one small organization worked with a neighborhood to create a community school.

“For me, this school is especially gratifying because there were so many people who said early on ʻforget it. Itʼs not happening.ʼ  Having a community center adjoined to the school is an idea that has been kicked around but very seldom implemented. Itʼs a stroke of genius, actually.”

Tom Ammiano: CA. State Assembly Member
Former President, SF Board of Education