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San Francisco, unions reach tentative deal toward reopening public schools, but offer no exact date

Written by on February 8, 2021

The San Francisco Unified School District says it has reached a tentative agreement with a group of labor unions on health and safety standards for reopening its schools during the coronavirus pandemic – but as of Monday, it remains unclear when exactly students will be allowed to return to their classrooms. 

The development toward bringing more than 50,000 children back to schools in the Bay Area comes days after San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued the district and its board of education for failing to release a “meaningful plan for how or when in-person” learning will begin again. And even after learning of this latest agreement, his office reportedly is arguing that it’s “not enough.” 

“Per the tentative agreement, the unions and SFUSD agreed on baseline health and safety standards,” the district said in a statement released over the weekend, calling it “a critical milestone toward reopening schools.” 

The Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco. The city of San Francisco took a dramatic step last week in its effort to get children back into public school classrooms, suing its own school district to try to force open the doors amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)

The Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco. The city of San Francisco took a dramatic step last week in its effort to get children back into public school classrooms, suing its own school district to try to force open the doors amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)

CHICAGO STUDENTS TO RETURN TO CLASSROOMS AS MAYOR STRIKES ‘TENTATIVE AGREEMENT’ WITH TEACHERS UNION 

The statement says all students will return when “San Francisco City and County are in the Red Tier as determined by the California Department of Public Health, and according to California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, and all staff reporting to District school or worksites have had the opportunity (eligibility and access) to be vaccinated at the recommended dosage,” or if “San Francisco City and County is in the Orange or any lower Tier, as determined by the California Department of Public Health, regardless of the availability of vaccines.” 

San Francisco is currently in California’s purple tier, which is the most restrictive in terms of which businesses are open and what activities are allowed per state health guidelines. 

Counties are placed in that tier – where the risk of coronavirus is “widespread” and “many non-essential indoor business operations are closed” — when the weekly average of new cases is more than seven per 100,000 residents and the positivity rate is more than 8%, according to the California state government website

The San Francisco Board of Education is expected to ratify the tentative agreement on Feb. 16 – but the city attorney’s office is signaling that the district still has a lot more work left to do. 

“This is progress, but it’s not enough,” John Coté, a spokesperson for City Attorney Dennis Herrera, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “We have not seen the details of any agreement, and so far this raises more questions than answers. There does not appear to be any agreement on classroom instruction and schedules, for example. The school district would need to share the whole plan and show us that it is concrete and meets the requirements of state law.” 

Herrera, during an appearance on “Cavuto Live” Saturday, said, “it’s clear that the status quo is not working for the 54,000 kids that are in the San Francisco Unified School District.”

“It’s time to get these kids back in school as 113 private and parochial schools here in San Francisco are open,” he continued. “And we need to get these kids educated because it’s harming their mental wellbeing.”

Hundreds of parents and students also marched from City Hall to the district’s offices Saturday to demand the resumption of in-person learning, the San Francisco Chronicle added. 

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The Board of Education’s president, Gabriela Lopez, says she is “excited we have found common ground on these baseline standards with our unions, paving the way for our gradual reopening of schools.” 

“Given the constant shift during this pandemic it’s important to do all we can for the health and safety of our students, families, staff and community,” she added in a statement. 

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