SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — San Francisco health officials unveiled their preliminary roadmap Wednesday designed to get students back into the classroom for the fall semester.

But it came with a big ‘if’ — “if conditions allow” for a return.

The health department guidance outlined the practices needed to safely resume in-person, on-site instruction and extracurricular activities at TK-12 schools.

Additionally, the plan also included specific actions schools should take to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19 cases.

“I know that many parents, caregivers and kids can’t wait to get back to the routine and the supportive learning environment of our schools, but reopening depends on us and how successfully we are able to control the spread of COVID-19,” Mayor London Breed said. “The next several weeks are critical. We all need to follow the requirements to stay at least six feet apart, cover our faces when we go out and practice good hygiene so that teachers and students can return to class.”

Schools in San Francisco were closed for in-person instruction in March 2020 due to concerns about spread of the coronavirus among both students and staff. Students were forced to finsih the school year learning remotely from their homes.

For students, parents and educators learning durin the COVID-19 outbreak was challenging. And although questions remain, medical studies now indicate that children are less likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 and less likely to spread the virus compared to adults.

“Drawing from the latest data and science, this guidance provides detailed advice on how to reduce the spread of COVID-19 for the entire school community – students, families, teachers and staff,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco Director of Health. “If everyone does their part by wearing a face covering, practicing social distancing and washing their hands, that will contribute to our progress and to our hope that schools can reopen with modifications.”

The preliminary plan emphasized required use of face coverings to minimize dispersion of respiratory droplets that carry the virus. It recommended stable student cohorts, physical distancing, maximizing outdoor space and limiting non-essential staff and visitors to prevent
COVID-19 transmission, as well as measures regarding handwashing, healthy hygiene practices, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.

“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, our district has worked closely with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to prioritize the safety and health of our students, families and staff,” San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “As our district continues to plan for what learning will look like in the fall, we know this guidance will serve as a valuable tool in assessing the safest way for us to provide high-quality education and equitable support to each and every public school student in San Francisco.”

The guidance also recommended that each school within the city — both public and private — have a designated COVID-19 staff liaison to be the single point of contact for questions or concerns around practices, protocols or potential exposure. Should a student or staff member test positive for COVID-19, health officials will work with the school to determine if their cohort needs to be quarantined or if the classroom or school needs to be closed.

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