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San Francisco Unified: Tentative Deal Reached On Reopening Schools; No Date Set

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco appears to be a step closer to reopening the city's public schools for in-class instruction.

San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said a tentative agreement has been reached for re-opening, which the city's Board of Education is expected to ratify next week. Some schools are ready for students to return, having painted red "distance markers" on campus to help enforce social distancing, as well having cones, plexi-glass, and signs in place.

Officials said six elementary schools within the district have been inspected by city health officials and are ready to reopen for in-person learning.

With inspections by the San Francisco Department of Public Health at Alvarado, Dr. William Cobb, Glen Park, Lawton, John Muir and Sunset elementary schools now completed, the district is preparing to reopen those sites as part of the first wave of school reopenings.

However, as of Wednesday afternoon, no firm re-opening date for all 52,000 students has been announced.

Public school students have been out of class since March. So far, six elementary schools have been set up with safety guidelines and inspected by the city's Department of Public Health. Matthews did not have specifics during a news conference Wednesday on when the schools will reopen.

"The challenges and complexities of reopening our public schools during the pandemic cannot be overstated and are definitely not unique to SF Unified," said Matthews, who noted that nine out of 10 large school districts in California remained closed because of high COVID infection rates.

On Wednesday, the United Educators of San Francisco said an agreement with the district was reached on Monday that will allow special needs students to be assessed in-person as soon as the city returns to the Red Tier under California's Blueprint for a Safe Economy. The city is currently in the Purple Tier, the highest category indicating widespread COVID-19 risk.

The union said the agreement does not require vaccinations of the teachers involved, and could be put into practice as soon as San Francisco leaves the Purple Tier. A proposal for implementing in-person general education for grades Pre-K through 5th grade aligned with federal, state and city guidelines was also submitted, the union said.

The Board of Education is now calling on the city to support the district's reopening efforts to get students back in classrooms.

"We are asking for help from the City of San Francisco to support work within the purview of city departments, including prioritizing school staff for vaccines; conducting student and staff surveillance testing every two weeks; and providing sufficient public transportation infrastructure for students and staff," Board President Gabriela Lopez said in a statement. "We cannot open school sites without real support from the city. Our children deserve to have us working together now."

"The mayor can get the vaccines we've been asking for," Lopez added. "All these issues are thrown on school districts unfortunately but we're not departments of health."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the state health department and the city's own Department of Public Health have all indicated vaccinating teachers is not a requirement to open schools for in-class learning, However, teachers' unions have pushed back on that, insisting their members be able to get vaccinated first, or at least see less COVID community spread.

SFUSD, Superintendent Matthews and the San Francisco Board of Education have been sued by the City of San Francisco over the failure to reopen public schools. The lawsuit alleges school officials have failed to create a specific plan for reopening as required by state law and a motion filed last week included testimony on the emotional and mental harms of extended distance learning.

On Tuesday, the Board of Education delayed a discussion and vote on a tentative deal on health and safety reporting requirements for a week, instead discussing legal issues related to a controversial plan to rename dozens of schools.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Faulconer highlighted the city's public school impasse Wednesday as a way to criticize the school board, as well as Governor Gavin Newsom over what Faulconer called Newsom's failed leadership on reopening schools.

Faulconer spoke at a campaign event held outside Abraham Lincoln High School in the city's Sunset District, one of the school's on the list to be renamed.

"This is about not rolling up your sleeves and saying that this is important," said Faulconer "How on earth are private schools open where teachers are teaching safely, kids are safely learning, and it's not happening in public schools? It's unacceptable."


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