Families leaving San Francisco Unified for schools with in-person learning

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- SFUSD campus inspections are underway to prepare for reopening. But, is it too late for some students? Many San Francisco families are considering leaving the district for in-person learning at schools that are already open.

"It's been a real struggle, I daresay a nightmare, this last year," said SFUSD mom, Lindsay Sink. 11 months after San Francisco closed its schools, Sink, like many parents, is at her wit's end. "We feel like their school community has been taken from them... We just feel really let down as a family."

On Wednesday, SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews did say the City's schools are getting organized. "We are getting closer to opening our sites to students every day."

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But, there is still no set date that kids will be back in the classroom. As a result, SFUSD's Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Enikia Ford-Morthel, said families are leaving the district. "It was a reality pre-pandemic, and it's definitely a reality now, as families look for other solutions."

SFUSD provided the following data comparing pre-pandemic Fall enrollment to Fall 2020 enrollment.

School Year 2019-20: 52,645

School Year 2020-21: 52,140

Based on this data, SFUSD says their enrollment is down about 500 students or 1%. But Sink believes declining enrollment is much higher.

"There's no way just from our community that it's only 1%, we know multiple families that have gone private or that have moved," said Sink.

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Sink and her partner have a blended family of four. Their three oldest children have been enrolled at SFUSD, but this week they are starting at a private school. "Our children were jumping for joy when we told them they were going to go to school."

Still says Sink, it was a deeply undesirable decision for her children who miss their SFUSD teachers and friends. And financially, paying private school tuition will be a stretch for Sink and her partner, since they have already lost one of their two bars to the pandemic, and business at their remaining wine bar, Yield Dogpatch, is down 75%.

"We're going to be scraping by," explained Sink, who says the sacrifice is necessary for the health of their kids. "Their mental health is at stake, and so we've been forced into a position that we're uncomfortable with, but we've got to do it. We're going to dip into our savings."

Sink says even if SFUSD does reopen, they've lost faith in the district, and don't plan on returning.

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