SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – San Francisco is forging ahead with school reopening plans, with thousands of students set to attend in-person classes at “community hubs” at 40 sites citywide, beginning Monday, September 14.
A tour of one of the sites at the Minnie and Lovie Ward Recreation Center featured rooms with folding tables spaced six feet apart, ample hand sanitizers and masks. No more than 14 students are allowed per “pod”, according to county health orders. Students must wear masks while attending class, except while eating and exercising.
This initial phase will focus primarily on serving the city’s neediest and most vulnerable kids, such as those in foster care or experiencing homelessness.
Cherease Coats, program director for San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks Department, says they have been successfully implementing many of the requirements over the past six months under their summer and emergency childcare programs.
“We’ve been doing it really, really well. And so because of that, the crew that I have here, specifically at my hub, we definitely we got this,” said Coats.
As for the rest of San Francisco’s students, schools that meet certain health criteria can reopen for in-person classes starting on September 21.
Ben Harrison, Director of Operations at Adda Clevenger School, a private school in the Mission District, says they are expecting to complete city inspections and welcome students back in class beginning September 21.
However, San Francisco Unified School District and the United Educators of San Francisco are still in negotiations over the terms of the reopening, and will likely not reopen by September 21.
“So we are not at the stage of being ready to open 10 days from now,” said Susan Solomon, president of UESF.
SFUSD listed additional reopening criteria, including an adequate coronavirus testing plan, staff training, properly informing students and families of the protocols, minimum three-month supply of PPE for students and staff and labor agreements.
Solomon said she is concerned about the frequency of COVID-19 testing for teachers, which currently is planned for “several times” a month.
“That doesn’t sound frequent enough to me. I’m not a physician, but we’re all doing everything we can to keep track of what’s going on with COVID. And I think it would make people feel better about feeling secure and safe, and maintaining their health, if they knew that testing would happen more often than that,” said Solomon.
Solomon declined to speculate if a deal would be reached in October, but said the District and union are meeting every day.
“The union and the District are not far apart in concept, we’re very much in agreement and alignment,” said Soloman.
David Penney, whose son Erly attends a public Montessori school, says he is “100%” comfortable in sending his son back into class when schools reopen. Penney said first grade online glasses have been challenging, and the lack of a clear timeline has left his family “very confused”.
“That is unhealthy for him,” said Penney, “There’s a ton of frustration.”