SFUSD Board Sets Re-Opening Date, Requires Plan for Phased Return of Students

  • The San Francisco School District approved a resolution requiring in-person instruction for early elementary students and students with moderate to severe disabilities, to begin no later than Jan. 25, 2021

  • A plan for elementary schools is to be presented to the Board on Dec. 8, followed by a plan for middle and high schools in January

  • SFUSD officials estimated a total of $40-65 million in staffing, facilities modifications, equipment and supplies are needed for re-opening plans

As San Francisco County’s COVID status moved from yellow to red and businesses rolled back activity in response, the San Francisco Unified School District Board voted Tuesday to push forward with re-opening plans.

Under pressure from City Supervisors and some parents, Commissioners approved a detailed resolution requiring in-person instruction for early elementary students and students with moderate to severe disabilities to start no later than January 25, 2021. The resolution also requires a phased re-opening plan with timelines for pre-K-12. The plan for elementary schools is to be presented to the Board on December 8, followed by a plan for middle and high school students in January.

Currently, 95 schools are approved by SF Department of Public Health for re-opening. None of them are public schools and the District has not yet applied.

Several members of the public, including labor representatives, expressed concern that re-opening is being rushed and may jeopardize safety. Many called on the District to follow the science. Others, including a single mother of 6-year-old twins who was near tears, implored the District to bring students back to school. You can never be completely safe, she said, noting that there have been no outbreaks at the learning hubs that have been going on since summer.

“The resolution is our attempt to move forward when everything’s set and ready to go,” said Commissioner Gabriela López who co-authored the resolution with Commissioners Jenny Lam and Stevon Cook. “We’re giving families the option to stay with distance learning or return.”

In early December, the District will be surveying parents of children in the first phase of re-opening to find out which families want to return to school. Any parents who prefer to keep their children at home during the pandemic can continue with distance learning.

Attempting to assure worried staff, Superintendent Vincent Matthews pointed to the District’s Phase 2 decision tree with nine criteria that must be met before students return. Criteria include meeting all state and county COVID prevention measures including a staff testing plan, training, families informed of health and safety protocols, school facilities sanitized and prepped for social distancing and labor agreements in place.

The District’s re-opening progress dashboard shows that the least work has been done on prepping classrooms to meet social distancing, ventilation and other health requirements. On Monday, approximately 20 City employees joined District teams to help assess school campuses to ensure the facilities meet the re-opening standards. The number of schools that were identified along with the 20 that have already been inspected will accommodate returning about 10,000 students to campuses.

A contract has been signed with Curative, a testing lab company, for test kits and analysis. Now the District is working out logistics of staffing and setting up the testing sites at schools. They are also negotiating with unions to ensure safe working conditions and deliver both hybrid and online learning.

At a joint City-District meeting last week, District officials estimated a total of $40-65 million in staffing, facilities modifications, equipment and supplies are needed for current re-opening plans.

Supervisors Hillary Ronen, Matt Haney and Sandra Fewer expressed support.


“We’ll work to get the resources that are needed,” Haney said. “I think we’re working together now and moving forward faster.”

“We have a responsibility to support our public schools, whatever it takes,” Fewer said.

Image by Jake Buonemani
Image by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup
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