Judge could soon decide whether to force San Francisco public schools to reopen

A San Francisco judge said on Monday he will soon decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction against the San Francisco Unified School District and Board of Education to force them to reopen schools as soon as possible.

San Francisco public school students have been learning remotely for almost a year and the City Attorney's Office is applying pressure to get schools to reopen. The city filed a lawsuit last month, asking a judge to force the district to act faster. 

During Monday's hearing, the City Attorney's Office argued that the schools have a duty to reopen as quickly as possible and to as many students as possible.

City attorney Sara Eisenberg argued that while the district may be taking some positive steps with elementary students, there are no plans for middle or high schoolers to return to class.

Eisenberg urged the judge to order the district "as soon as it is possible under the local and state health orders to resume in-person instruction I believe there is a mandatory duty to do so."

The school district fought back saying that is working as quickly as possible to allow all students back. The district has given the green light for elementary students and those with special needs to return to classrooms by mid-April. 

At one point, the judge told the district "the gist of your argument is you're working on it."

Suzanne Solomon, the attorney representing SFUSD, asked the judge to decide that a "preliminary injunction is not appropriate because there's no evidence in the record that the school has not offered in person instruction to the greatest extent possible and therefore it's inappropriate to issue any type of order telling tell the school to do what it's already doing."

City Attorney Dennis Herrera weighed in and released a statement that read in part, "SFUSD basically said, ‘Trust us. We’re working on it.’ Well, that’s just not good enough... Health experts universally agree it’s safe for students, teachers, and staff to go back to school with basic precautions."

School district spokesperson Laura Dudnick also released a statement about the proceedings saying, "Judge Schulman's questions of both parties demonstrated that he understands the complexities involved in reopening the district's schools for in-person learning as well as the extensive efforts the District has already taken to do so."

The judge is expected to issue his ruling soon, possibly by the end of this week.

Bay City News contributed to this report.