San Francisco Unified, teachers union reach tentative agreement to reopen schools amid COVID-19

ByLuz Pena and Kayla Galloway KGO logo
Monday, February 8, 2021
SFUSD, teachers union reach agreement to reopen schools
The union representing teachers in the San Francisco Unified School District say they've reached a tentative agreement regarding the reopening of public schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's been nearly a year of virtual classes and 8-year-old Rishan Sivaraj says he's had enough.

"I want to go back to school, but I think it might happen this year, but I'm not sure," said Sivaraj.

Siva Raj left his job several months ago to focus on his 8 and 14-year-old sons. Raj says the youngest one is doing OK but his concern grows deeper for his high school freshman.

"He barely eats a meal a day and he is bed most of the time. That's what he does with school and goes back to game station... and it's insane. He used to play football and was an extroverted kid and was very active kid. That has come to a grinding halt," said Raj.

Sunday's announcement gave the family some hope. The union representing teachers in the San Francisco Unified School District say they've reached a tentative agreement regarding the reopening of public schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the union, under the agreement, schools can return to in-person learning once the city is in the red tier, meaning there is substantial spread of the COVID-19, and staff and teachers onsite are vaccinated.

RELATED: SF files lawsuit against its own school district to force classrooms to reopen

If vaccinations are not available, classrooms could reopen once the city is in the orange tier, when the spread of COVID-19 is considered moderate, according to the agreement.

In a statement Sunday morning, the school district said, "The tentative agreement addresses the health and safety standards necessary for the return of students at all grade levels, preschool through 12, and the parties have agreed to meet and confer on any additional negotiable impacts of the District's plans for the return of middle and high school students."

The agreement is set to be ratified by the board of education on Tuesday.

VIDEO: SF mayor slams school district's priorities amid lawsuit

"During that time the school board has alienated parents and made national news for their focus on renaming 44 of our schools, all while there wasn't a plan to reopen those very same schools," says Mayor Breed.

The president of the teachers' union, Susan Solomon, said the tentative agreement reached this weekend "sets the stage to safely reopen schools in San Francisco."

"Now we need city and state officials to step up and make vaccines available to school staff now, while UESF continues to focus on finalizing agreements around classroom instruction, schedules, and continuing to improve remote learning for the students and families who choose not to return even with these standards in place," she said.

Solomon says they want all their teachers vaccinated before going back to in person classes and will only go back when the city is in the red tier.

"That's true in the red tier if the county gets to orange tier we do not require that vaccines be available to teachers," said Solomon.

This development comes just days after the city filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco Unified School District to reopen public schools for in-person learning.

The lawsuit, backed by the mayor, was announced by the city attorney on Wednesday.

Mayor London Breed was clear in her stance last week, saying "distance learning is not good enough."

RELATED: CDC: Schools can safely reopen even if teachers aren't vaccinated for COVID-19

The lawsuit says the district is violating state law that says districts must have a clear plan during the COVID-19 pandemic to offer in-person instruction whenever possible, especially for students suffering serious learning loss.

Solomon says these are their requirements: "PPE for students and for staff as well as masks, socially distance classrooms and work spaces and those things have been getting set up. Priority for vaccines for availability and education for school workers. Health screenings set-up so as people come into the building we can make sure they are safe. Safe and enhanced COVID cleaning protocols. Also, making sure that things are disinfected if someone does have COVID while they are on site. Robust contact tracing and plan with the County and Dept. of Public Health to make that happen."

The board of education's president of the city says they are getting the schools ready.

"They are open to returning when we are in the red tier and have the ability to provide vaccine for our teachers. Or in the orange tier. What is I see moving forward is the city of San Francisco our community coming together to really ensure that we are decreasing the spread and in the meantime we are getting all of our buildings ready we've gone through the department of public health infection and I've been at our sites and I've seen the setup is aligns with the guidelines that they set and they've agreed on," said Gabriela Lopez, president of the Board of Education of San Francisco.

The SF Board of Education is meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 16 to discuss the tentative agreement

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