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SF Public Schools to Reopen for Some Students in April

  • After months of gridlock and growing frustration, the San Francisco Board of Education approved a plan to reopen select schools for in-person learning starting April 12

  • Students in Phase 2A, which includes the youngest students and others with special needs, will return first at a few schools in the City

  • More schools with reopen throughout April, but there is no return date for middle and high school students

  • Superintendent Vincent Matthews also announced his retirement, and will leave his position at the end of June

After a months-long impasse, the San Francisco Board of Education approved a plan that will send some students back to the classroom in person starting in April.

Under the plan, students in Phase 2A, which includes grades TK through 2 and others with special needs, will return at select schools. Those schools, which are listed on SFUSD's website, were determined by the safety of the site, access to various communities, and how much the school serves priority student groups. Other schools will be added throughout the month of April, according to the district.

SFUSD has not yet established a return date for middle and high school students, and said previously that older students are unlikely to return this school year.

The school board has come under increasing pressure from many parents in the district, as well as public officials, for failing to offer a concrete plan for reopening classrooms, even as teachers begin to receive the vaccine.

A group of parents launched a recall effort targeting school board president Gabriela Lopez and members Faauuga Moliga and Alison Collins, each of whom are up for re-election in 2022.

A political action committee called Campaign for Better San Francisco Public Schools is also aiming to place a charter amendment on the June 2022 ballot that would eliminate school board elections and make them appointed positions.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit accusing the school board and Superintendent Vincent Matthews of violating students' constitutional rights, also filing an emergency motion that, if approved by the court, could force a swifter return to in-person learning.

In the background, the school district is facing rising fiscal challenges that may be exacerbated by declining enrollment.

SFUSD's budget office is projecting deficits of $100 million and $112 million in fiscal years 2022-2023, with falling attendance rates presenting an additional risk to its budget outlook. The district estimated last October that it lost roughly 2% of its student body in 2020, a trend that could impact its funding from the state longer-term.

Matthews announced his retirement this week, saying that he will exit his role at the end of June.

“Though it saddens me to leave at a time when our district is already experiencing so many destabilizing hardships brought on by this pandemic, after much reflection, I believe this is the right time,” Matthews said in a statement.

Image by Jake Buonemani
Image by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup

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