San Francisco school board could compel public schools to start reopening

(Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The San Francisco school board could compel public schools to start reopening in two months under a proposal to be introduced Tuesday. 

At least three of the seven board of education members told the Chronicle that they support the idea to reopen schools to a small subgroup of students by Jan. 25. 

The measure calls on the district to begin reopening elementary schools for students with moderate to severe disabilities, as well as all other students in, preschool, transitional kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade.

Other grades would be added on a rolling basis. Berkeley schools began doing just that on Monday. 

The San Francisco school board could vote on the plan as early as next week. 

District officials would be required to submit a reopening plan for elementary schools and a timeline to the board by Dec. 8.

Parents have called on the district to be more transparent and when in-person classes would be resuming and Mayor London Breed has been outspoken in pushing for campuses to reopen. Last month, during an interview with KTVU, Breed didn't mince words.

"The schools can open now and we need to get them opened now sooner rather than later," she said. "Unfortunately our public schools are not at a point where they have any plans to reopen this year. That is hurtful, that is disappointing and they need to do better."

At the same time, the superintendent of San Francisco Unified School District told KTVU that the schools cannot reopen before the end of 2020, time enough to ensure adequate testing and personal protective equipment.

"We have to COVID-19 measures in place, we have to make sure our school facilities are prepared, for distance learning, for socially distance learning," Dr. Vincent Matthews said in October. "We have to be sure that there's a three month supply of PPE and cleaning supplies at the schools. We have to make sure instructional learning plans are in place and then we need to have labor agreements in place."

The San Francisco proposal explicitly states that reopening schools are among the top priorities for the district — something parents have questioned in recent weeks as the school board has largely avoided the topic during their meetings other than informational updates, the Chronicle reported.

Meanwhile, Matthews notified principals Friday that those welcoming students back in late January would be required to return to school sites starting on Nov. 16. The other principals would be required to start working from their school offices by Nov. 30.