San Francisco Unified approves unexpectedly high number of medical exemptions from staff, teachers

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- By this coming Monday, San Francisco public school students Pre-K through fifth grade will be fully engaged in in-person learning, a major accomplishment for that school district. Except that, not every teacher is back in the classroom. In fact, close to 20% of the overall staff has obtained medical exceptions, allowing them to continue to work from home.

Since April 12, San Francisco Unified has been welcoming students back to the classroom.

RELATED: Some SFUSD students return to classroom for 1st time since March 2020

On Monday, everyone Pre-K through fifth grade will be at a desk, if they choose to. But not every school staff or teacher will join them.

The school district has approved an unexpectedly high number of medical exemption letters.

"Which says they're in increase risk or live with someone they can't distance from who is also at increase risk," explained Daniel Menezes, Chief of Human Resources for the San Francisco Unified School District.

Claudia Tirado, a teacher, has a 9-year-old son who suffers from a respiratory illness.

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"I've already have had that feeling of me sitting next to him in the emergency room when he is knocked out because he couldn't breathe. Imagine that I can't go in if he has COVID, I can't even go in," said

In a study done before the vaccine became available, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that one in four teachers reported having health conditions that put them at a higher risk for complications of the virus.

The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines show a protection rate of 94% to 95%. Still, even though it's rare, a few end up with breakthrough infections. That's why the CDC continues to recommend prevention measures.

"Masks and hygiene and physical distancing," reiterated CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

RELATED: 3 Bay Area districts welcome students back to schools

"My hope is that they see that things start to change, things start to open up and they start to feel safe to go back because our kids need them now more than ever," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

The district has a total of 270 teacher slots that need to be filled. They hope to achieve that by Monday. They are hiring from different pools of educators.

"This included our current pool of subs who are wiling to do in-person, that included some contracted subs that we've been able to secure and that also includes deploying central office staff," added Menezes.

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