San Francisco and San Leandro schools reopen, but to different degrees

At Bret Harte Elementary School in San Francisco Monday morning there was a sight no one had seen in more than a year: students coming to school again.

At least one first grader apparently lost some sleep in anticipation.

"He's excited. He's a little grouchy because he's been up all night. He will have to adjust his hours," said Eduardo de la Cruz, the boy's father.

"It's different. We are used to doing it this in August and now it is April. But the first day of school is still the first day of school. And whenever it happens we still feel those jitters," said Principal Jeremy Hilinski.

Harte is one of 22 public elementary schools and 11 early education sites reopening Monday, as the schools have staggered dates through April for resuming in-person instruction. Students still have the option of remote learning.

But it is all but certain middle and high school students will have to wait until fall to return, except for special education, homeless, and foster care students.

"We are still looking at the possibility of getting a grade level back. So we are still looking at that. But for most middle and high it will be the fall," says Superintendent Vincent Matthews.

Still getting elementary schools open was not an easy road. There were difficult labor negotiations, school board squabbling, and even a lawsuit by the city attorney demanding schools reopen

"It took people putting aside the drama, their differences, and doing what is in the best interest of children," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

Across the Bay in San Leandro, James Madison Elementary School and every other school in the district pre-K-12 reopened.

"We'd do anything for them to go to school. And I know the school is doing it very safely," said one parent.

The students are in smaller classes, while wearing masks, with desks six feet apart. Students come in two days a week.
Students in the two districts can choose whether to come back to class.

By comparison, San Leandro has a 30-40% return rate.
In San Francisco, it is a much higher rate of 70%.