BAWCC's largest community project: The Tenderloin Community School & Family Center

A model of what a school can be. Tenderloin Community School is an area in which children from the Tenderloin have their own School and families have their own Center. It is a source of pride, stability and inspiration of the families...

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

Tom Ammiano
Member, Board of Supervisors
Former President, SF Board of Education

The brightest building in the Tenderloin is alive with children's voices, laughter and energy as neighborhood students pour through the doors of the Tenderloin Community School. The vibrant red and yellow elementary school opened in December of 1998, marking an important change in this inner-city neighborhood. This is an era in which children from the Tenderloin have their own School and families have their own Center. BAWCC's [Bay Area Women's and Children's Center] implementation of the community's vision of an on-site school and custom-built service areas is a model of what works to make a difference in a community. The facility reflects the Tenderloin neighborhood: children want to learn here and families see the school and family center as a source of pride, stability and inspiration.

The Tenderloin, home to more than 3,500 children, was the only San Francisco neighborhood without its own public school. Prior to the school's opening, some 1,200 pupils rose before the sun to catch buses to nearly 50 schools. Because most parents rely on public transportation—and many require translators—they were unable to participate in school activities or talk with teachers. Now thanks to the Bay Area Women's & Children's Center, all that has changed.

The decade-long Tenderloin Gradeschool Campaign, spearheaded by Midge Wilson and Jacky Spencer-Davies of BAWCC, provided the key elements that allowed this school to open. Despite the fact that there was no funding to begin with, BAWCC mounted a citywide campaign and the Tenderloin School was used as the flagship to pass a 1994 bond measure for new construction and renovation of San Francisco schools. Eleven million dollars were targeted for the Tenderloin school's construction.

Early on, the late Joe Esherick, internationally renowned and award-winning architect, volunteered to be part of the core team with Midge, Jacky and urban planner, Brad Paul. Joe's firm, EHDD, along with Barcelon & Jang, was later chosen to design the school. Finally BAWCC successfully raised the funding needed for the purchase of furniture & equipment and the start-up programming that was the last step in making the Family Center an integral part of the school.

The result is a stunning, well thought-out facility that includes a 375-student elementary school with kindergarten through fifth grade classes, an on-site child development center for 3 and 4-year-olds, and a variety of on-site services, staffed through BAWCC, which were requested by Tenderloin parents during the years of the school's planning.

The full story read at 


Looking Outside the Classroom... October 16, 2008 Vol. V, No. 17. Community Schools Online. If you wish to subscribe to Community Schools Online, register at

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