Mayor Breed delivers emotional plea for unity in demand to reopen SF schools

"There has been a complete disconnect between what the parents and students of San Francisco need and what the school board has been focused on."
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Thursday, the San Francisco parent collective, Decreasing the Distance, held a news conference to highlight families' struggles with distance learning, and their grassroots action to safely reopen San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) classrooms.

This comes on the heels of the City of San Francisco suing SFUSD for their failure to devise a concrete plan for reopening schools, 11 months into the coronavirus pandemic.

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

City Attorney Dennis Herrera and San Francisco Mayor London Breed have expressed frustration and disappointment with the district's priority list, so-to-speak, focusing first on renaming dozens of its schools.

"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," Mayor Breed said.

"Parent collective Decreasing the Distance is cautiously optimistic about the new direction City leaders are taking to safely re-open San Francisco Unified School District classrooms," the group said in a statement.

"While we thank City Attorney Dennis Herrera for pursuing the legal action that could help get our kids safely back in school, we are so sad that it has come to this point," said Meredith Willa Dodson, a parent and co-founder of Decreasing the Distance, a group of San Francisco public school parents advocating for effective and equitable education solutions.

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"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.



"We urge SFUSD - its administration, labor partners, and elected Board of Education Commissioners - to do right by the more than 55,000 public school children in San Francisco. Too many of them are struggling with distance learning," she said.

At the Thursday news conference, Mayor Breed gave an emotional speech about the need for unity in accomplishing the hefty goal of getting those 55,000 children back into their public schools.

"It's not about communities of color versus whites, or all of that mess. It's about these kids. I don't care what color they are," Breed said. "These are children and they deserve the very best. And we have a responsibility to give that to them."

She went on to say that San Francisco has 113 private and parochial schools that have opened with over 15,000 kids and had no coronavirus outbreaks. There are also learning hubs throughout the city, that have been operating for months, also with no outbreaks.

But, those hubs aren't enough, Breed reminded SFUSD, saying "we don't have enough space to meet the needs of all the children of this city."

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Parental concerns reached a new high after San Francisco filed a lawsuit against its school district in an effort to reopen in-person classes. In the meantime, SFUSD voted to change the names of 44 schools and banned acronyms because of links to racism.



Previous story as follows:

To say parents are frazzled over the school situation in San Francisco would be an understatement. On Wednesday the city filed a lawsuit against its own school board in an effort to reopen for in-person classes.

We heard a subtle tone of exasperation in Tom Soohoo's voice as he turned the camera in our live video chat to an image of his son in their San Francisco home.

"So, this is the makeshift setup we have for him," Soohoo said.

That video showed the eleven-year-old sitting at a desk in front of a computer. It is a better-than-average representation of what passes for public school in San Francisco during the coronavirus pandemic.

WATCH: SF files lawsuit against its own school district to force classrooms to reopen
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The city of San Francisco has filed a lawsuit against its own school district and the school board over reopening plans.



"It's disappointing," said Tom. "It's frustrating. It's aggravating and it's tiring."

It is also one more unwanted byproduct of COVID-19 that has hit parents hard. They perceive their children falling behind and not learning efficiently while schools remain closed.

"If anyone thinks a six or seven-year-old can learn to read or write over Zoom they are kidding themselves," said Tommy Bettles. He quit his high-paying job to teach his seven-year-old son, Oliver.

"No teacher can be expected to understand what twenty little boxes are absorbing over Zoom."

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San Francisco Unified School District's Art Department is taking a bold stand on acronyms, saying they tend to "alienate those who may not speak English to understand the acronym."



Parental concerns reached a new high after the San Francisco Unified School District voted to change the names of 44 schools because of links to racism and slavery. The Board has also banned acronyms as a symptom of white supremacy culture.

"Is this time or place for that?" we asked Soohoo.

"Absolutely not. There has been a complete disconnect between what the parents and students of San Francisco need and what the school board has been focused on."

"The rest of the stuff you can save for another day," opined Sonali Chopra, who has two children.

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

They all support San Francisco's suit against its own school district to force teachers back into classrooms.

"It shouldn't be this way," said Chopra of her young son. "He should be able to go this school one block from us."

Parents say the continuing closure is not what they feel they paid for with their tax dollars, even in the midst of a pandemic. They want flexibility. They want to be heard.

"In the group of people making this happen, parents are not part of the conversation," said Bettles.

They are now, and speaking up, loudly. "What about kids with no computers?" asked Chopra. "That should be the priority. Getting them back on campus and getting them learning."

What's your pandemic school story? Has learning from home been a challenge? Submit your story via the form below or here.


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