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CCSF Castro Campus To Close Amid Budget Woes

By Sasha Lekach

The Castro campus of City College of San Francisco will soon be no more.

CCSF is scrambling to reorganize after the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) called for a report of the community college’s finances and accreditation requirements following a review of the school this June.

Subsequently, as part of an overhaul of the school’s spending and organization, the Castro campus’ classes will be consolidated with other sites throughout the city and the campus closed, effective spring semester.

Among the many changes that the school’s leaders are pushing through in the face of near-bankruptcy and preparation for the submission of the report to the commission in March, the Board of Trustees voted in September to relocate classes at the Castro and Park Presidio sites to other centers. The same number of classes will be offered, however the geographic location of classes will be rearranged.

Following the closure at Castro and other campuses, seven sites of the college, with its main campus on Ocean Avenue, will stay open.

A Castro campus has existed in some capacity for more than 20 years, leasing sites from various San Francisco Unified School District schools including James Lick Middle School, Mission High School and most recently for the past five years, Everett Middle School at 450 Church St.

Ms. Bob Davis, Dean of Liberal Arts and the Castro Campus of CCSF, said the reality of the closure hasn’t hit yet as fall classes continue, but come spring semester it might shock a few who attend the more than 45 courses offered Monday through Thursday evenings and nights.

Nobody is happy about this, by any means,” Davis said, who has been with City College since the early 1980s. “But financially it really was unavoidable.”

The courses offered at the Castro location are mostly foreign language with a few LGBT studies and other general studies, which will all be available at campuses in Chinatown, the Mission, downtown and elsewhere.

All faculty are expected to be reassigned to other campuses, along with the three evening site supervisors. Davis said students may initially be disappointed in the closure, but overall other campuses have better facilities.

It was always a very uncomfortable fit—in terms of the facility,” Davis said of the Castro campus.

The Everett space doesn’t have wireless Internet access, a library or counselors on hand, which created a school that “really wasn’t supported in the way one would need to make it a viable campus,” Davis explained.

The accrediting commission noticed these missing resources as well and in their report said there were too many campus sites that were not well supported.

Castro is the poster child for that,” according to Davis.

The consolidation of Castro classes will save the college $85,000 per year in rent money, which student trustee William Walker said is the equivalent of offering 12 more courses throughout the system. He suggested in the future a Castro campus could be resurrected and even spared closure if a SFUSD site offered a space free of charge.

However, as Davis explained it, the rent Everett receives in their lease with City College goes straight to the SFUSD general fund, with no benefit to the middle school. She said it comes down to the fact that “the school is not very happy about us there,” although they are accommodating and flexible enough with the shared campus space.

In a July letter from CCSF interim Chancellor Dr. Pamila Fisher, whose term ended Nov. 1 when Dr. Thelma Scott-Skillman took the helm, she listed concerns from the commission’s 2012 report including the inadequacy of administrative leadership, ill-conceived long-term financial plans, and issues with deficit spending.

Davis said as a dean she is one of many faculty members putting in six-day workweeks in the months ahead to compile program reviews, progress assessments and other work on top of regular loads for the upcoming evaluation in March, which will determine the school’s accreditation status and ultimate future as a higher education institution.