San Francisco Unified to kick-off school year with distance learning on August 17

The head of the San Francisco Unified School District announced on Wednesday that the fall semester will begin online. 

Based on guidance from health officials and input from students, staff, and families, it is best to stick with distance learning for the start of the school year, which kicks off on August 17, Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthrews said in a statement. 

At some point during the year, the district hopes to implement a hybrid approach that would combine in-person instruction and distance learning for some students. But only "when science and data suggest it is safe to do so," Matthews said. 

The district's plan for the 2020-21 academic year is still in the works. Once finalized, it will be shared with the San Francisco Board of Education on July 28. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us in so many ways. There is a range of viewpoints regarding the best course of action. I want you to know we are listening and I am grateful to be part of a community that cares deeply for all children," Matthews said. 

The SFUSD said it will distribute additional technology to students who did not receive it last spring, including new students, and rising 3rd graders.

Education officials are also exploring how technology access can be provided to PK-2 students in the fall, pending available funding.

 San Francisco Board of Education President Mark Sanchez said the district knows how difficult this will be for families, and that it will impact disadvantaged kids the most. But, the health and safety of students and staff, he says, has to be of paramount concern.

"Since the trending numbers are going in the wrong direction we'd look at not being able to open up for quite a while until things really look better," said Sanchez.

County health director Dr. Grant Colfax backed that up, saying the city's COVID-19 infection rates are trending in the wrong direction.

He said students should stay out of class at least until those numbers turn around. "So, we will make the decision about whether it is safe to reopen those physical spaces depending on where we stand with the virus and with our surge in the city when the time comes," said Dr. Colfax.

KTVU's Christien Kafton contributed to this story.