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COVID Reopening: Judge Denies San Francisco City Attorney Request For Injunction to Reopen Schools

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF/BCN) -- A San Francisco superior court judge on Thursday denied City Attorney Dennis Herrera's request for a preliminary injunction that would force the San Francisco Unified officials to reopen school by the end of April.

Last month, Herrera filed a lawsuit to compel the district and school board to come up with a plan to reopen schools for all students for the remainder of the school year, as public schools have been closed for a year and replaced with distance learning.

The suit alleged the district has impeded students' rights to attend public school under the state's Constitution; discriminated against students due to wealth, in violation of the state Constitution's equal protection clause; and violated state law by failing to offer in-person learning "to the greatest extent possible."

A week later, Herrera filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), the San Francisco Board of Education, and Superintendent Vincent Matthews.

After a hearing on Monday, Judge Ethan Schulman had said he would decide in a week or so whether to grant the city's request.

The order denying the application for a preliminary injunction that was released on Thursday stated that the decision against granting the injunction was made for several reasons.

It noted that "the action has been rendered largely moot by recent developments," as the district had already announced plans for reopening pre-schools and elementary schools for in-person learning earlier in March. It also noted that the provision of the education code that the city was relying on did "not impose a clear, present and ministerial duty on the District that can be enforced by a writ of mandate."

The order also said the city's request to reopen all schools at all age levels to the maximum extent allowable by state and local health provisions "would be both impermissibly vague and judicially unmanageable."

Herrera released a statement in response to the order Thursday afternoon.

"Obviously this was not the decision we hoped for, and we vehemently disagree with the court's reasoning. It's disheartening for us and for all of the San Francisco families who have suffered under a year of remote learning," the statement read in part. "Today's decision was not a victory, but the court recognized the tremendous toll that being unable to return to school has taken on children. As the court acknowledged, there can be no doubt as to the adverse effects of the past year on students, families, teachers and school staff."

Herrera also said that his office was "evaluating all of our legal options going forward."

Two days after the Monday hearing, the San Francisco Unified School District announced its plans to resume in-person classes next month for grades 6-12.

The update was shared at the district's Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, for the first time providing dates for the resumption of in-person classes for secondary students.

Junior high and high school campuses will reopen April 26, although high school athletic teams can hold practices and games beginning April 12 after a separate decision the district announced last week.

Prior to this week's announcement, the district's plan had provided dates only for reopening in-person classes for students in elementary grades, which begins April 12 in phases still being determined.

The updated plan is available at the school district's website.

© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.


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