Urban is founded by a group of parents on Washington and Divisadero Streets with 22 students and seven faculty members. The founders’ goals are to create a school that keeps students motivated, active, engaged and enthusiastic. They intend Urban to be an environment that will nurture students’ excitement for learning and their curiosity about the world. Urban’s early principles – to sustain students’ curiosity and engagement while recognizing their individuality, to use city and outside resources for hands-on learning, and create supportive relationships between students and teachers – all remain as core values of the school 50 years later.


On May 2, 1973, educators from the Far West Laboratory for Educational Research and Development, Stanford University and University of California at Berkeley, meet with students, faculty and members of the Board of Directors to evaluate Urban and describe their impressions. The evaluation is positive commending many features that are present in the Urban we see today, including the exceptional depth of discussion, exciting and broad curriculum and students motivated to continue in the pursuit of knowledge.

Also in 1973, Urban faculty members take students on a bus to Baja for a six-week educational trip. The trip is so successful that it launched Urban’s unique, annual California Studies (Cal Studies) class.


The first block scheduling plan is instituted dividing the school year into six five-week blocks, with one morning and one afternoon class each day. Over the years, Urban has introduced other pioneering programs that are now widely emulated both in San Francisco and across the country, such as our integrated community service project, outdoor trips, field education and our 1:1 laptop and integrated technology program.


Urban puts down roots in the Haight when the school moves to its present location on Page Street, leasing the Gumption building and purchasing the three-flat building next door at 1563 Page Street. By the late 1970s, Urban has grown to 165 students and 24 staff and faculty.


Carl Munger takes over as Director and leads Urban through its first formal accreditation, connecting the school to the broader educational world and solidifying its roots in the community by fully integrating the service learning program.


Urban’s broad enagement of technology begins with the first computer lab consisting of 12 Apple Macintoshes.

Carl Munger and Director of Development, Mark Salkind (’70), raise the funds to purchase the Gumption building and Carl leads the effort to raise money and neighborhood support to start the Haight Ashbury Food Program. After his death in 2004, HAFP writes that Carl motivated Urban community members and neighbors to prioritize community involvement and social change, core values that continue at Urban today in the form of a four year service learning curriculum.


Mark Salkind (’70) is appointed Head of School and prepares for Urban’s 20th Anniversary, the opening of the Gumption building and Urban’s first Circus Class. During its 20th Anniversary year, Urban has a total of 174 students.


The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) accreditation visiting committee commends the Urban faculty for its generous, wise and inspiring teaching of students, instilling confidence in each student and the resultant ability to assume responsibility. It commends the students for their enthusiasm for both the program and the faculty at Urban; and specifically for the qualities and attitudes with which the school seems to develop in them. The students are articulate, generous, inquisitive, responsive and competent.


Urban’s Board of Trustees states in its Strategic Plan that Urban will commit to no less than 25% students of color. In the coming decade, Urban focuses its efforts on creating a more diverse and inclusive student body, and expanding opportunities for students to learn about and discuss issues of race, gender and culture.


The Aim High collaboration between Urban, Lick-Wilmerding and the San Francisco Unified School district begins. Today, Aim High continues to create life-changing opportunities during its summer learning program nurturing the promise and potential of middle school students from low-income neighborhoods, prepares them for high school and setting them on the path to college and future success. The summer Aim High program continues at Urban and at 20 campuses in five regions that serve 3,000 middle school kids annually.

Students working with faculty member Stephen Thomas create the Intercultural Student Union, Urban’s first affinity group.


Urban’s recently purchased Page Street property, adjacent to the exisiting school buildings, opens providing the school with additional classrooms and the Herbst Library. Urban now has 215 students and 30+ faculty/staff.


Urban completes a two-year curriculum review process, the findings of which were distilled into seven goals approved by the Faculty and the Board of Trustees. The result of this deep work can be seen in the integration of music, co-curriculars and faculty collaboration into the school day; the availability of more rigorous, upper level elective classes; and the integration of technology into teaching and learning.

Phase II construction of the Gumption is finalized and other renovations include music studios, classrooms and offices.


Urban negotiates the purchase of two more buildings on Page Street setting the stage for additional classrooms, labs and office space, and the eventual expansion to 350 students. The groundwork for the upcoming 1:1 laptop program is laid when Urban installs its wireless network, a first step toward the goal of seamlessly integrating computers with daily curriculum.


Urban’s 1:1 laptop program launches first for teachers, then in 2001 for students. This unique program continues to attract the attention of educators and scholars from around the world, including past visitors from China, Russia, South Korea, Canada, Australia, Singapore and more.


The expanded school building opens on Page Street with additional classrooms, labs, a student center, food service and faculty offices.

Enrollment is 327 students and 51 faculty/staff.


The Board of Trustees develops and approves Urban’s Core Values made up of seven statements of belief that build upon the school’s 1981 statement of educational philosophy. The values serve as a foundation and guide as the school launches its strategic planning process, ensuring that it preserves and strengthens the distinctive aspects of its programs. In addition, Urban’s faculty, under the direction of the school’s Curriculum Committee, launches a two-year multicultural curriculum review focusing on both the content and teaching methods in the curriculum.


Urban’s strategic plan, Vision 2013: Creating a Sustainable Future, focuses on environmental sustainability; enhanced global awareness and service learning; diversity, inclusion and accessibility; facilities; working at Urban; and financial sustainability. Urban also adopts the Statement of Diversity and Inclusion that expresses the school’s vision and commitment to a diverse community of learners and adults, and establishes a set of practices for fostering an inclusive school community. Also in 2007, Apple names Urban a Distinguished School in recognition of its 21st century approach to education.


Urban’s Service Learning Program incorporates curriculum in identity, equity and diversity. A new course, Identity and Ethnic Studies, is established for all incoming Freshman to provide them with a solid foundation and framework to become self-aware, thoughtful and engaged citizens in our world, and to prepare them for active and meaningful volunteerism in the broader community.


Urban signs a 95-year land lease with the San Francisco Archdiocese and St. Agnes Parish to build a new academic and athletic facility over the parking lots on Oak Street. Also this year Urban receives a LEED EBOM (Existing Buildings; Operations and Maintenance) Platinum rating, the first school in the nation to receive this distinguished award. Urban creates the Bay Area BlendEd Consortium with four other Bay Area independent schools with courses designed to combine face-to-face and online instruction.


UrbanX Labs launches, expanding Urban’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) curriculum, with new courses in advanced computer science, robotics, engineering, industrial design and more.


50 years since the founders came together to create the first independent co-ed high school in San Francisco, Urban continues to lead the way in educational excellence, innovation and pedagogy while staying true to the founders’ original goals. In the 2016-17 school year, Urban and its 417 students and 95 faculty and staff celebrate this landmark anniversary with the opening of The Mark Salkind Center and a community celebration honoring Urban’s past, present and future.