Plans for distance learning at San Francisco Unified schools met with challenges

San Francisco Unified School District is gearing up to get kids back in the virtual classroom. The plan was rolled out Thursday with some long lines and logistical problems.

School officials are looking to resume teacher led instruction for more than 50,000 students.

"Teachers will be planning typically about four hours of instruction," said Enikia Ford-Morthel, Deputy Superintendent at San Francisco Unified School District. "Of course in high school their work and classload varies depending on the courses that they're taking."

The district instructed the families of the youngest students, pre-kindergarden through 2nd graders, to begin picking up packets containing age appropriate learning materials.

For some parents it was a breeze. "It was easy," said Sean Coulehan. "I think I got here just in time, because I heard some people say there are no more kindergarten packets left."

Others were met with long lines, and little information. Parents trying to gather supplies at A.P Giannini Middle School waited in line for hours, some worried about gathering in a large group in middle of a pandemic.

"When you send a group text en masse for most of the people here in San Francisco's Sunset District to come out starting today to pick up packets for your kids' education, you know, you should probably be ready and prepared," said Dennis Sumaylo. "

The district said the problem with transporting materials to some schools and with volunteers led to problems at three of the nine distribution points.

"Though we did give out 4,000 of those kits throughout the various sites, we do recognize that those issues that took place at those three sites was a hardship on our families and we are very apologetic," said Deputy Superintendent Ford-Morthel. "We're already thinking about what went wrong and what we want to do differently."

The district said it will be making those packets available online so families can download and print them out for themselves.

The district has also been working to get laptops out for older students. Learning for them will primarily be led by their teachers online.

"The teachers know the students," said Deputy Superintendent Ford-Morthel. "The teachers know the class, and what they were doing before the closure. So, now can do a lot more differentiation and meet the students where they are with the content that we provide or that they create."

For those nearing the end of high school, the district is working with colleges and universities to get those students ready for their next academic step.

"We have been in contact with the UCs and CSUs and we've been mindful of the implications for our graduating seniors," said Deputy Superintendent Ford-Morthel. "So far everyone has been super generous and responsive and recognizes the impact that this is having."

The district says this is still a work in progress, and while education begins next week they will be continuing to distribute materials and computers to those students who need them throughout the week.

The school district is still working to determine if the academic year will stretch into the summer to make up for lost time.