San Francisco sues own district to open schools

Elias Hubbard
February 4, 2021

San Francisco resorted to the "drastic step" of suing its own school district Wednesday to try to force the reopening of public schools for in-person learning.

Data clearly show that students, especially low-income students, have suffered from online learning and health issues are piling up, including eating disorders and depression, the mayor said.

The officials have put forth an ambiguous proposal that amounts to "a plan to make a plan", he told reporters, giving them "an 'F'".

The city of San Francisco will sue its own School Board for failing to reopen for in-person learning, The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Wednesday.

School Board President Gabriela López tells the Chronicle, "I think filing a lawsuit will most likely slow us down". But the teachers' union balked and laid out safety demands that, according to the district, were "beyond the Department of Public Health's guidance". "The Board of Education and the school district have had more than 10 months to roll out a concrete plan to get these kids back in school".

"What I can not understand is why the School Board is advancing a plan to have all these schools renamed by April, when there isn't a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then", the mayor added in a statement attached to the tweet.

The mayor noted that the renaming of more than 40 schools has captured national attention - much of it scornful - in part because it has occurred while schools have faced the much more pressing dilemma of reopening during a pandemic.

In a January 25 presentation, school officials said they've obtained 100 percent of the personal protective equipment they need to safely reopen and assessed the working condition of 15,000 windows across 1,600-plus classrooms.

Supt. Vincent Matthews said the city and the school district should be working together, not embroiled in a lawsuit.

"We have to agree with our labor partners around what a safe return looks like", he said.

Newsweek reached out to Breed's office and the San Francisco Unified School District but didn't hear back in time for publication. "The city has offered resources and staff to get our school facilities ready and to support testing for our educators".

The suit alleged San Francisco school board's reopening plan violated a California mandate that required a clear procedure "to offer classroom-based instruction whenever possible", per Axios. The suit seeks to have the San Francisco Superior Court order the district "to prepare to offer in-person instruction now that it is possible to do so safely", the announcement said.

"Most urban school districts across the state are in the same position - one big difference is, their mayors are fully supporting them", Lopez said in a statement.

She went on to note the impact closed schools are having on students who have "lost ground academically" as well has how the situation is "hurting the mental health of our kids and our families". "Our teachers have done an incredible job of trying to support our kids through distance learning, but this isn't working for anyone".

Parents and some public officials have said months of remote learning were resulting in children falling behind. It appears that the City Attorney has not read through our plans or joined the hours of open meetings we have had on the topic of safely returning to in-person learning. Meanwhile, the state just gave the green light for four Bay Area counties, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Marin, to reopen K-6 schools due to declining COVID cases. With nearly 16,000 students attending classes again, fewer than five cases of in-school transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus have been reported.

In Marin County, almost 90% of schools have resumed classroom teaching since the fall, with nine cases of suspected in-school transmission of the virus, according to Herrera.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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