May 12, 2021
The San Francisco Unified School District is being accused of a “blatant money grab” after concocting a plan to have high school students briefly return to in-person school in order to nab millions in state reopening funds.
What are the details?
The San Francisco teachers’ union recently announced that high school seniors would get to return to in-person school starting this Friday.
The union described the development as “exciting news,” and union President Susan Solomon told the San Francisco Chronicle the return would allow seniors to spend time with friends and teachers before graduation.
“UESF brought the initial proposal to SFUSD so that our current graduating seniors would have the opportunity to spend some time in-person on campus with teachers and their peers during their last few weeks of high school as they say goodbye to classmates and prepare for graduation and the next chapter of their lives,” Solomon said.
But what the teachers’ union did not say is that the return would be for one day only — and students would not even be in the classroom with their teachers.
According to Chronicle, the city school district and teachers’ union agreed to a deal that would bring the class of 2021 to school “for at least one day before the end of the school year” so that “the city’s public schools can qualify for $12 million in state reopening funds.”
To obtain the reopening funds, California law required school districts to reopen in-person instruction for elementary students and at least one entire middle or high school grade. The deadline to qualify for the funds is May 15, one day after the SFUSD and San Francisco teachers’ union suddenly agreed on an in-person return for seniors.
As part of the deal, seniors will be allowed to attend in-person at “one of two school sites,” and instead of instruction from their teachers, they will receive “in-person supervision.”
More from the Chronicle:
Each cohort of students would have two teachers or staff supervising them on campus. Activities might include “end of high school conversations,” or “college and career exploration,” district officials said, who were still working out the cohort size. Only two high school sites would be made available to seniors, meaning most who do return won’t be at their own school. As of Monday, it was unclear how many students would accept the offer, with the district polling families to see how many of the 4,000 12th graders want to return.
What was the reaction?
Decreasing the Distance, a San Francisco group advocating in-person learning, slammed the decision.
“What message does this give our kids about what they are worth and how adults take care of our vulnerable populations, including kids? Does this show them that they matter, or just that the money matters?” the group told the Chronicle. “One senior told us she wants to return, but not like this. Her reaction: ‘It’s too little too late. School’s over.'”
Meanwhile, California state Rep. Phil Ting (D) said San Francisco might not qualify for the funds because the deal is violating the spirit of the incentive, which was to promote a permanent return to in-person learning.
“It definitely doesn’t meet the spirit of the law,” Ting said. “Kids were supposed to come back in person. Kids were supposed to come back to learn.”
How is COVID in SF schools?
Despite being one of the last school districts in the country to return to some in-person learning — elementary students and some middle and high school students returned last month — in-person transmission of COVID-19 has been virtually nonexistent.
In fact, since 20,000 students and staff returned last month, there have been only 20 positive COVID cases inside San Francisco schools.
Of those, zero originated from within school buildings.
“In other words, zero cases were related to in-school transmission at SFUSD,” the city Department of Public Health said.