SAN FRANCISCO - As San Francisco Unified School District faces major budget pitfalls, city parents are starting to get anxious.
Luz Rodriguez, a mother of three residing in the Mission District, has a lot on her plate. By day, she dedicates herself to her job at a local nonprofit. But in a neighborhood where community involvement is paramount, she also finds herself taking time off work to clean her daughter's school, Buena Vista Horace Mann.
"It's a struggle. Our schools are not receiving the resources they need. Our students don't feel safe. Sometimes the roofs are collapsing because the district doesn't prioritize it as much," Rodriguez explained.
Rodriguez's concerns are echoed by numerous parents in the Mission District, who are deeply worried about the future of their schools. Their worries only increased after a recent Board of Education meeting, where the possibility of school closures in response to the budget deficit was floated.
"We have been battling with this for a long time. It's not something new or isolated. We want families to stay and fight instead of going elsewhere because the schools are not being well managed by the district," Rodriguez emphasized.
San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) officials have stressed that no immediate action was taken during the August 29th Board of Education meeting, and that they understand how serious the situation is.
Enrollment in SFUSD has plummeted by over 4,000 students since the 2012-13 school year. Demographic trends, such as declining birth rates, suggest that the district could lose an additional 4,600 students by 2032.
Local community advocate Maria Jandres has been striving to explain these challenges to parents in the Mission, especially those who do not speak English.
"It's hard for them to advocate for their kids. They probably don't have the time to evaluate the schools with the academics that they have, and then they encounter these types of problems," said Jandres.
These problems are attributed by the school district to declining enrollment, which has resulted in staffing shortages. In both the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years, substitute teachers or teachers on special assignment were required to staff at least 15% of classrooms. Custodial Services and Student Nutrition Services have faced a staffing deficit of nearly 25% over the past year.
For now, parents like Luz Rodriguez will continue their daily trek to pick up their kids from school. They watch these developments unfold anxiously as the potential closure of schools looms.
"They have to work as leaders, they have to work with us, with local families, and create plans. Instead of investing in unnecessary things, they should invest in our schools instead of thinking about taking away funds, more and more funds," she said.
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