By Ashley Mackin | SDUN Editor
After a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, April 12, North Park got a little more park space. Community leaders launched an inaugural event for a new multiuse field at Jefferson Elementary School and announced the field will open as a joint-use park on Monday, April 16 after school ends.
The school’s new field and play equipment will be open to the public when school is not in session in the evenings and on weekends due to a joint-use land agreement between San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) and the San Diego Park and Recreation Department. The gates leading to the field area will be unlocked, but the gate that separates the park from the school buildings will be locked.
Jefferson Elementary School Principal Francisco Morga said he was excited to have more play space for the students. “This truly is a memorable day for our school, our students and our North Park community,” he said.
Morga said he calls the synthetic turf field a “field of dreams,” which was the theme for the jog-a-thon the school held that day. Acting as the inaugural activity for the field, students participated in the jog-a-thon to raise money for the school.
“This field of dreams [is] for both our students and the community to be able to enjoy; [and] this field not only benefits our school, but is in line with all the great changes happening in… the community and the city,” Morga said.
SDUSD Superintendent Bill Kowba spoke at the park opening, saying this was the 76th joint-use facility brought about by the partnership between the city of San Diego and the school district.
“That is clearly a history of collaboration that I honor and appreciate for all the goodness that our two institutions can collectively bring to our neighbors,” he said.
Kowba then said he looks forward to opening more schools as joint-use parks.
District Three Councilmember Todd Gloria agreed and said he looks forward to opening the play areas of McKinley Elementary School in North Park and Florence Elementary School in Hillcrest as similar parks in the future.
Gloria continued to thank the school and the community, saying, “I want to thank the members of the North Park community who have been wonderful collaborators with the school district to invite this new asset to the community.”
Gloria said projects like this are examples of government, in partnership with SDUSD, doing what it does best. “This is two organizations leveraging their minimal resources to make more of an impact on a community,” he said.
At a recent opening of a joint-use park at Normal Heights Elementary, parents protested, citing concerns over their children’s safety.
SDUSD Communications Supervisor Cynthia Reed-Porter said parents are fully supportive of the Jefferson Elementary joint-use park, and none have expressed concerns over safety. “It’s not an issue… there’s a lot of support from the community and parents are completely supportive,” she said.
Director for the San Diego Park and Recreation Department Stacey LoMedico said, unlike the Normal Heights Elementary campus, the Jefferson campus is rectangular, leaving only the joint-use field and play equipment open to the public. The field encompasses 1.5 acres.
Mayor Jerry Sanders said he was thrilled with the arrangement and told of his frustration with finding the field locked when school was not in session. Calling it a wonderful addition to North Park, Sanders said, “This is a tremendous asset to our community.”