School board member says ‘we have to commit to five full days a week in the fall’ | #Education


The San Francisco school board is meeting now to vote on a health and safety plan for reopening schools for in-person instruction.

Even if the board approves the health and safety plan, the district still needs to reach an agreement over the number of days and hours of in-person instruction and vote on that before moving forward. Then, schools would be allowed to reopen in California’s second-most-restrictive red tier after the staff is vaccinated, or in the orange tier without vaccinations.

Chronicle education reporter Jill Tucker is listening in and covering the meeting live. Here are the latest updates:

8:05 p.m. School board member calls for district to focus on middle and high schools: Board member Matt Alexander said he was shocked that current bargaining with the teachers union to reopen classrooms doesn’t include middle and high schools, despite clear updates on district proposals focusing on elementary school. He urged district leadership to start addressing reopening for the older students. “We have to commit to five full days a week in the fall,” said Alexander.

7:50 p.m. Board members weigh in on reopening: School board members raised a range of questions about reopening plans and when staff will be able to start providing information on upper grades going back, while acknowledging there are still a lot of issues for the youngest students who will go back first.

“I’m feeling really overwhelmed in a way. These are really tough times, touch challenges,” board Vice President Alison Collins said. “We all want to go back to regular in-person learning. What we’re faced with is trying to make a move and there’s no easy answers. With every choice we make there are going to be some positives and some negatives. As elected leaders we have to own that.”

6:40 p.m. Feedback on district’s reopening plan: Several teachers speaking during public comment criticized a district proposal to bring students back to in-person learning, but not necessarily with their current teacher. Educators said this would disrupt the relationships with students. “I’m urging the board to trust and value educators,” said teacher Betty Estrada.

5:55 p.m. Update on assessments for students with special needs: The district opened up 10 classrooms at John O’Connell High School to assess students for special education services once the city enters the less restrictive red tier, according to the district reopening update. The site will be staffed with volunteer teachers, therapists and psychologists. Currently, assessments have been done virtually when possible. An estimated 800 students haven’t been able to be assessed because of the school closure, according to the Community Advisory Committee for Special Education

5:40 p.m. Family survey on returning to schools: In a school survey of the 11,645 families in the first groups scheduled to return, including early elementary and the most at-risk students, 57% of those who responded said they want to return to in-person learning, district officials said. But the response rate varies depending on the schools, ranging from 17% to 86%. By ethnicity, the update showed 80% of white families would return, compared to 41% of Filipino American and 35% of Asian American.

5:20 p.m. Reopening discussion starts: Two hours into the board meeting, Superintendent Vince Matthews begins the update on school reopening. Factors currently having an impact on the timeline for reopening: spread of virus; vaccine availability; whether the city is in the red or orange tier. District has also gotten 17 proposals from providers to conduct the COVID-19 testing for students and staff. City-funded testing has resumed at the district’s central office.

4:31 p.m. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander presentation: The district’s newly formed Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Parent Advisory Council presented before the board for the first time Tuesday, providing background on the 500 Pacific Islander students and issues they face. Currently, the council said, 70% of the Samoan students live in public housing and 20% receive special education services — disproportionately high percentages compared to the district overall. The group requested more Pacific Islander educators and social workers in the district, as well as a Samoan dual-language immersion program. It also recommended renaming a school after Tupufia Valentino, a long-time leader in the Pacific Islander community.

4:10 p.m. Speakers react to the delay on renaming schools: Several speakers are addressing the board’s decision over the weekend to suspend the process to rename 44 school sites. There is about an equal number of supporters and opponents of the delay. One teacher thanked the board, saying there is too much on his plate during the pandemic to deal with picking a new name. Other speakers criticized the delay, saying it was a brave decision and students don’t want to walk into schools named after racists and oppressors and murderers.

3:55 p.m. Public comment includes a goodbye: A parent speaking during general public comment informed the board that his family is leaving the district due to frustration over reopening. The district has lost about 1,000 students this year, although it’s unclear how many will return when schools reopen. Dad Jonathan Alloy said his children wouldn’t be back. “We have to do what’s best for our kids,” he said. “Goodbye.”

3:15 p.m. Reopening update moved up on the agenda: After recent complaints among parents, board President Gabriela López said she will move up the reopening update toward the top of the agenda. During the previous two meetings, the board didn’t take up the reopening topic until seven hours in.

3:10 p.m. — Fireworks before SF school board meeting: The San Francisco school board meeting Tuesday was preceded by dueling teachers union and district commentary over ongoing negotiations to reopen. While the United Educators of San Francisco officials said they hoped to have an agreement days ago, it appears the bargaining has bogged down, with labor leaders calling for a moderator. The school board will hear an update on reopening later in the meeting.

Related Reading

• For weeks, the pressure has been building on San Francisco school officials to reopen classrooms, with national media berating them and parents and politicians threatening a shake-up of the school board over what they say is dysfunctional and tone-deaf leadership.

• On Sunday, San Francisco’s school board president signaled that working to reopen schools will be the board’s “only focus,” and it is pausing controversial efforts to rename 44 district schools. In an opinion piece published in The Chronicle, Gabriela López acknowledged mistakes in the process that have resulted in a potential lawsuit and possible recall efforts targeting several board members, including López. Read more on what López wrote here. Last Tuesday, the board held a seven-hour closed special meeting that presumably addressed the legal challenge and renaming issue.

• Chronicle columnist Heather Knight has argued that San Francisco’s school board is wasting time on ridiculous debates as students remain home.

• San Francisco has lowest COVID case rate of major U.S. cities. Its schools are among last to reopen.

• Meanwhile, parents have witnessed the academic, emotional and mental impact of shuttered schools — the lack of social interaction and in-person academic support apparent in their children’s behavior, attitude and grades. And in recent months, research and data have confirmed what families have felt: School closures have had a devastating effect on many children.

• Dozens of San Francisco educators and supporters gathered for a vigil on reopening plans on Saturday evening after five straight days of union negotiations over returning to classrooms.



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