SF assemblymember introduces bill to reopen schools, calls distance learning 'ineffective'

Leaders propose resolutions for safely reopening California schools as soon as possible.

A San Francisco assemblymember introduced legislation to reopen public schools because distance learning is ineffective, he said, as other leaders proposed vaccine prioritization for teachers.

While separate, both argue their big picture efforts are for safely reopening schools as soon as possible. Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, on Monday introduced a bill to require public schools to reopen under most circumstances once infection rates drop, citing shortcomings in the COVID-era classroom. Parents are worried about the negative effect distance learning has on kids, Ting said, especially when analyzing student achievement, social development and emotional distress.   

“As a father, I worry about all the learning loss occurring and the millions of kids who are falling behind, as a result of our sole reliance on remote teaching – not to mention the impacts of social isolation,” Ting said.

Starting March next year under Ting’s proposal, schools allowed to reopen under state and county health orders -- those in any tier but the state’s most restrictive purple -- must implement a plan to do so within two weeks. Local districts would still be able to decide which in-person model fits their student and workforce best, including a hybrid form. 

“Schools must be ready to open as soon as public health authorities allow it,” said joint author of the bill, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach. “Distance learning is ineffective for many students. We must bring students back into the classroom with safety measures in place as soon as possible to prevent further learning loss.” 

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Meanwhile, some city, county and public school leaders gathered virtually Thursday and rallied for moving teachers towards the front of the line for a vaccine. They said educators and school employees should get shots right after front line healthcare workers.  

Leaders from San Francisco, Oakland, Contra Costa County and Los Angeles introduced resolutions calling on Gov. Gavin Newsom to prioritize teachers as vaccine distribution is expected to begin in California next week. Supporters argue it will help to safely reopen schools and get students back into classrooms.

"We are asking our governor to stand up for the public school system, stand up for educators, to stand up for children and families and to get kids back in school as quickly as possible,” said San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “The fastest and easiest and the safest way to do this is to vaccinate all adults in the schools.”

The supervisors and others say anyone who comes in contact with students, including teachers, school secretaries, janitors and bus drivers should be vaccinated as soon as possible.

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