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SFUSD Reopening Plan Scuttled As Labor Negotiations Stall

  • Days after submitting a plan for in-person learning for some students starting in late January, SFUSD said that negotiations with the teacher's union fell apart, further delaying a reopening timeline for the district's roughly 55,000 students

  • In a letter, Superintendent Vince Matthews said that SFUSD could not accommodate a "new set of health and safety criteria" requested by the union

  • Mayor London Breed called the impasse "infuriating," pointing to 91 private and parochial schools and 78 learning hubs that have reopened without any COVID outbreaks

Just days after filing a "letter of intent" to reopen schools starting in late January, San Francisco Unified School District said on Friday that it failed to reach an agreement with the teacher's union, further delaying the resumption of in-person learning for the District's roughly 55,000 students.

"I am disappointed that we cannot offer a guaranteed date for when we can resume in-person learning for our youngest and most vulnerable students," wrote Superintendent Vince Matthews in a letter to parents on Friday. "This pandemic has required us to live with a great deal of uncertainty and it’s simply not over yet."

The school district submitted a phased reopening plan that would have reopened six elementary schools as early as Jan. 25, followed by 18 other sites in early February and 48 more starting in late March. San Francisco public schools have been closed since the pandemic began.

However, the plan required an agreement with the United Educators of San Francisco, which represents 6,500 educators in the district. Negotiations for a reopening plan began in September, and working conditions were a main sticking point in negotiations between the school district and the union.

"On Dec. 15, SFUSD labor unions shared a new set of health and safety criteria they would like to see the district follow before any return to in-person learning. While many of these requests are consistent with what SFUSD has been preparing for, there are significant new requests proposed that go beyond the Department of Public Health’s guidance. The District cannot meet all of the new requirements SFUSD’s labor unions have proposed, and there is not sufficient time to complete bargaining in order to reopen any school sites on Jan. 25," Matthews wrote.

School will resume on Jan. 5 on a remote basis, and the district will continue the bargaining process in the new year, he said.

In a statement on Friday, Mayor London Breed blasted the lack of a reopening plan, pointing to the City's 78 community learning hubs and 91 private and parochial schools, which are open for in-person instruction and none of which have reported an outbreak.

“It is infuriating that our schools are not going to reopen for in-person learning in January. I can’t imagine how hard this is for our families and for our young people who haven’t been in the classroom since March and are falling further behind every single day," Breed said. "We can’t create unrealistic standards for in-person learning that aren’t even recommended by the Department of Public Health."

Under health guidelines published by the SF Department of Public Health, elementary schools may apply to reopen for in-person instruction provided that safety protocols, such as masks and proper ventilation, are observed.


Image by Jake Buonemani
Image by Rasmus Gundorff Sæderup

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