Even with deal, tension escalates between SF district and teachers union

The San Francisco Unified School District Board unanimously approved a health and safety agreement between the district and the employees' unions Tuesday night.

The action moves the district one step closer to reopening schools for elementary students.

But tension escalated between the district and union over how to return to in-person teaching with limited class space, different schedules, and some students choosing to continue with online distance learning.

Frustration was evident at the San Francisco school board meeting.

Many parents and staff spoke out during the one-hour public comment period.

The tension is a reflection of a city torn over getting students back into classrooms.

"I think it's really detrimental for kids not to be in school. I personally saw my son out of school and he didn't do well," said Leah Klinger, a San Francisco parent.

"I think we have to wait it out a little bit longer to make sure more people are vaccinated and that the spread isn't as high," said Andrea, a San Francisco woman with two brothers in the district.

The district told the board that they reached a deal with the unions over health and safety standards to reopen schools if San Francisco's COVID case rates decrease to the red tier.

The agreement requires that vaccines be provided for all staff before reopening schools if the city is in the red tier.

Vaccines would not be required to reopen if San Francisco's COVID rates drop to the lower orange level.

The deal also calls for free COVID tests for staff and students, mandatory COVID screening at schools, and a public dashboard that would list all COVID cases in the schools.

The district says elementary schools would open first for pre-K thru 2nd graders and special needs students. About 50 schools would have enough space for five-day instruction.

Another 25 schools would need students to alternate two days in school and three days of distance learning.

The superintendent says the teachers union has rejected that plan.

"Under the district's plan, many students would receive five full days of instruction for 5 hours each day," Supt. Vincent Matthews said.

Under the union's proposed schedule, students would never receive more than three hours per day.

Union members said their plan would allow students to remain with their teachers in current cohorts.

"We continue to believe that students should remain with their teachers and all schools should be at least four days of in-person education. And students who don't return should not be left out," said one teacher on the video posted by the union Tuesday.

The educators' union posted that video saying they have lost faith in the district negotiators and are calling for a mediator.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at jana.katsuyama@fox.com and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or ktvu.com