The closure will apply to students in pre-kindergarten through Twelth grade, Superintendent Vincent Matthews said. The closures will take effect Monday and will overlap with a week-long spring break.
All school activities, child care, health services and enrichment programs are cancelled during the three week period, he said.
"We're exploring with our city partners what we can do to support our students and families while schools are closed for three weeks," Matthews said. "The San Francisco Unified School District is taking the time to prepare school communities for the likelihood of a prolonged COVID-19 epidemic. This is not business as usual."
Matthews went on to say it's likely San Francisco will see more cases of coronavirus in the coming weeks and months.
"This will require a measured, sustained response," he said.
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On Thursday evening, Seven students from Glen Park Elementary have reported respiratory illnesses to the health department and it's prompted the San Francisco Unified School District to close the school immediately and days before the district wide changes.
"This is not business as usual," says SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews.
Parents like Diana have questions about the timing of the move.
"Why are they being sent to school? That's what I'm thinking."
The closures in San Francisco don't start until next week but Diana isn't waiting for that and will make an immediate change with her 16 year old son.
"I'm not sending him tomorrow you just don't want to chance it? No if they're closing the schools there's a reason so I don't want him to get sick," she says.
Lakeshore Elementary School has already closed due to four students who came down with pneumonia and are currently being tested for Coronavirus.
Attendance in San Francisco schools is already down among students and staff. The main concern for Diana is having enough food for her family over the next three weeks when everyone is at home.
"I'm scared," Diana said. "I came into buy dinner and I seen mass hysteria in there and I thought well I better join in because the cupboards are literally, there's hardly any food."
The superintendent said the school community needs time to plan and prepare for how to operate schools during the COVID-19 epidemic -- which would include social isolation tactics and universal health precautions.
SFUSD Superintendent says there isn’t a clear cut answer on what will factor into the decision to either keep schools closed or reopen them in San Francisco after the 3 week closure. @abc7newsbayarea— J.R. Stone (@jrstonelive) March 12, 2020
The announcement comes after city and district officials said Wednesday that schools would remain open because schools were considered an "essential service."
The virus has been very mild in children so far, city officials said Wednesday -- and it was a recommendation from the health department that guided the San Francisco's earlier decision not to close schools.
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SFUSD is closing schools to students for 3 weeks beginning Monday, March 16 through the end of regularly scheduled spring break (ends Fri. 4/3). Staff will be working part of this time to prepare and train on how to educate and support community health - https://t.co/TyJcRPIvLM— SF public schools (@SFUnified) March 12, 2020