Noe Valley Voice November 2003

School Report

by Susan Cattoche


"Dream Playground" Coming Soon

It's the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 29, and a panel of 550 young playground experts has been convened to decide which features will be included in a new playground for Alvarado School. Each student in the school is clutching a crayon or marker to help design the new "Dream Playground," which will be built at the Douglass Street school on March 9, 2004.

On this "Playground Design Day," the children, their parents, and teachers are providing valuable input to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, which will work with KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization, to design and build a safe, wheelchair-accessible playground at Alvarado Elementary School as a public service and gift to the San Francisco Unified School District.

The new playground will be built in a single day by orthopaedic surgeons and their families and associates who will be in San Francisco for their annual meeting in March. Orthopaedic surgeons treat children's physical disabilities and see firsthand the fractures, dislocations, and other problems caused by playground injuries. Each year, the Academy builds a safe and accessible playground in the city that hosts its annual meeting.

"The playground will address a fundamental need in this area--a place for children with and without disabilities to play together safely," says David Weiner, principal of Alvarado. "We are most grateful for the generous support of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons."

Members of the community are encouraged to volunteer with the project. Please call the school for details.

October Workday

If you heard the banging of hammers or smelled fresh paint coming from Alvarado School on Saturday, Oct. 18, you may thank the hundred-or-so parents, grandparents, students, community volunteers, and school staff who spent the day building new shelves, scrubbing neglected corners, painting, gardening, and generally sprucing up the school. Guided by a "Workday Wish List," these volunteers also fulfilled requests from the school's teachers, for special items such as an aquarium, a puppet theater, and old clocks, radios, and rotary dial phones, which could be taken apart and explored.

Dia de los Muertos Assembly

At Alvarado School, the Dia de los Muertos Assembly is one of the most beautiful and memorable events of the school year. Each student creates a work of art in honor of a special person and places it on a large altar in the school's auditorium. This year's event takes place on Monday, Nov. 3, and the colorful display of skeletons, flowers, drawings, and small sculptures will remain on view all week (Nov. 3­7), including Tuesday morning at 8:30 a.m., when members of the community are invited to stop by for the weekly school tour.

Transition to Middle School

Alvarado's Nov. 4 PTA meeting will feature "Middle School Night," with parents from area middle schools present to discuss and answer questions about the schools their children attend. This follows an information meeting with Diane Meltehsen, head of middle school operations for the SFUSD, at James Lick Middle School on Saturday, Nov. 1, for parents of elementary school children.

School Tours

School tours are conducted Tuesday mornings from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. (Oct. 7 through Dec. 12). The address is 625 Douglass Street at Alvarado Street.

Chats with the Principal

Alvarado Principal David Weiner opens his doors on the first and third Fridays from 8 to 9 a.m. For more information, call 695-5695 or visit the school's web site at


It Was Rocket Science

Bottle rockets spouting plumes of water over James Lick's upper playground sent delighted students from Ann Martin's eighth-grade science classes scrambling to keep dry one brisk October morning. This wonderfully wet and slightly wacky activity was actually a well-organized lesson on "force," with groups of students arrayed in a neat grid. Equipped with bicycle pumps, measuring devices, and plenty of water, each team of students launched a series of ordinary plastic water bottles with varying quantities of water at a variety of angles, then determined which combination of variables achieved the maximum "liftoff." Each student was individually responsible for predicting the volume of water and angle of force that would propel his or her bottle to the greatest height; measuring and recording results; and finally developing conclusions from the experiment.

Beautification Projects

If you've ever walked by the James Lick playground and thought it could use a touch of greenery to soften the hard edges, you'll be pleased to hear that the school is planning some improvements. With support and funding from Every One Matters, a nonprofit organization that promotes student pride and achievement through campus beautification and improvements, several projects are in the works for a James Lick Beautification Day in early 2004.

The school will create a new garden area in the lower playground, featuring raised planters, lattice screens, and new benches. New hoops and nets will be provided for the basketball goals, and the flagpole will be repaired so the neighborhood can enjoy the sight of Old Glory and the Bear Flag flying above the school once again. Students from each grade will gather outside to create three new murals to be displayed on the second floor of the building. The stage in the school's auditorium will be completely refinished, and the worn curtains will be replaced. James Lick has volunteers who will sew the new curtains, but the school will need a lot of fabric--preferably purple velvet! Please call if you can help out.

School Hours

A reminder to merchants and others in the community: The James Lick school day begins at 9:07 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m. (2:30 on Thursdays). Students should not be in stores between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (2:30 Thursdays).

If you see any James Lick students (our uniform is a white shirt and black pants) off-campus during these hours, call the school at 695-5675 and ask for Mr. Pena or Ms. Rueda.

Coffee with the Principal

Parents, neighbors, and merchants are invited to join Principal Janice Daniels for coffee between 9:30 and 11 a.m. on the last Friday of each month. The chats take place in Room 107 and feature open discussion of school-related issues.

The James Lick Community Alliance

The Alliance meets on the last Wednesday of the month at 12:30 p.m., with lunch provided. Those Noe Valley merchants and neighbors who would like to attend should call ahead to reserve a spot.

School Tours

School tours for parents of new and prospective sixth-graders are held Wednesdays starting at 9:30 a.m. James Lick Middle School is located at 1220 Noe Street at 25th Street.

Make a Difference!

Please visit Room 107 or contact Denise Rueda, Parent Liaison, at 695-5675. Share your ideas, your talents, your enthusiasm, and support for a diverse and caring community.


Alvarado Elementary School

625 Douglass Street


David Weiner, Principal

James Lick Middle School

1220 Noe Street


Janice Daniels, Principal