New timeline says San Francisco elementary schools could reopen in September, but will SFUSD be ready?

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ByKate Larsen KGO logo
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
Would SFUSD be ready for September reopening?
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Mayor London Breed laid out a new timeline for reopening San Francisco schools. But, it's unlikely SFUSD will be the first to apply for waivers and resume in-person learning.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Mayor London Breed laid out a new timeline for reopening San Francisco schools. But, it's unlikely SFUSD will be the first to apply for waivers and resume in person learning.

"I'm extremely concerned about the future of our children as we continue with COVID," said Mayor Breed at a Tuesday press conference.

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With that, Mayor Breed laid out the new timeline for in person learning. Schools, grades K through 6, applying for a waiver can go back to the classroom mid-September. Schools K-6 and middle schools through 8th grade, without a waiver, can reopen mid-October.

"We know that it is not my decision, but the decision of the school district to move this forward," said Mayor Breed.

SFUSD issued the following statement Tuesday:

"SFUSD has been preparing for a gradual return to a hybrid instructional model focusing first on our youngest students and students with disabilities in special day classes. In order to reopen schools, SFUSD has several factors that need to be in place including having a testing plan, training staff, informing students and families of protocols, a minimum of three months supply of PPE for all participating staff and students, and labor agreements."

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"I'm not sure that a couple of weeks from now will really work," said Susan Solomon, president of United Educators of San Francisco, the local teacher's union.

Solomon says formal talks and negotiations with the district have not begun regarding the new timeline. "Part of those negotiations will be working conditions and learning conditions and in this particular case, that's about health and safety."

"Many more supplies and equipment are needed. So this is not a matter of stubbornness, this is not a matter of lack of willingness, we need to know that the resources are there," Solomon added.

"I'm absolutely wanting to get back in the classroom as soon as it's safe for everyone. The students are feeling the same way. Distance learning has been really tough on kids and families," said Tessa Artale, a 4th and 5th grade Spanish emersion teacher at Daniel Webster Elementary in Potrero Hill.

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When asked what it would take to make her feel safe back in the classroom, she said, "there would need to be a lot of changes made to our school buildings in order to have that happen. Things like being able to have reliable ventilation and hot water in the sinks."

As for parents, Mary Pendleton has two kids at Frank McCoppin Elementary in the Richmond District. "The 4th graders at McCoppin, there are 39 of them with just one teacher. In the 5th grade, there are 36 students with just one teacher."

Pendleton believes the school is working on the emergency hire of another teacher, but she doesn't see how socially distanced, in-person cohorts of just 14 students, would be possible anytime soon.

"People are pretty enraged about it."

As for older students, Mayor Breed said, "high schools students transmit similar to adults, so we are being very cautious and are not certain we will be able to move forward with high schools anytime soon."

Based on the new reopening calendar, private and charter schools could end up reopening for in person learning before SFUSD.

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