The grating din of happy children

October 2, 2007

Playgrounds at some San Francisco public schools will be open to the public on weekends under a new program announced Monday.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Unified School District board member Hydra Mendoza met at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School to say that the district would open as many as 14 playgrounds and schoolyards starting in November.

After the mayor’s strange “send me a resignation and then just relax while I think about whether I’ll accept it” demand of department heads and his insistence on turning San Francisco into a crime-camera surveillance society, this is a welcome change.

To be sure, there are many details still to be worked out. But Newsom and school district leaders should be congratulated for seeking to unite neighborhoods with their public schools.

I live close by a Catholic church and school that keeps its yard open on weekends and until about 11 at night. As long as you don’t mind the grating din of happy children (a melodious sound integral to a healthy city), this is a wonderful resource for the neighborhood. There’s always something going on over there, usually with some adult present. Bored kids can get up off the couch, parents can do something with their children, and the resultant back-and-forth foot traffic makes the surrounding streets safer (without cameras).

This isn’t an effect limited to private schools. Before Proposition 13, San Francisco public schools filled the same role. I remember playing in the yard of the school in the neighborhood where I grew up: It was full of kids of all ages on summer afternoons and weekends, with one or two adults supervising in the school gym.

The San Francisco Examiner’s story is here and the Chronicle’s is here.