The San Francisco United School District will welcome back the district’s high school seniors for exactly one day of in-person learning so that San Francisco’s schools can qualify for $12 million in state-based COVID-19 relief funding in a deal reached with the San Francisco teachers union, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The students, however, will not receive any in-classroom instruction from a teacher but will, instead, be “supervised” by unnamed staff members who will help them explore careers or prepare for college.
The bizarre arrangement is the result of months of negotiations between the district and the teachers union, which demanded that students return to classrooms only when all of the district’s teachers were fully vaccinated, according to the SF Chronicle, even though, the outlet noted, private schools and some nearby school districts have been in-person for some time.
“After months of pushback, the teachers union announced Sunday the ‘exciting news’ that they had reached an agreement with the district to allow seniors to return,” the Daily Mail added. “The details of the plan were not specified in the announcement, but it has since been revealed that each cohort of students will have two staff members supervising them on campus. The cohort size is not yet known but activities will include ‘end of high school conversations’ and ‘college or career exploration’, district officials said.”
Although the arrangement would likely prove fruitless for the class of 2021, the SF Chronicle notes that it does help the school district qualify for state-level COVID-19 relief grants because it allows the district to claim that, technically, students returned to reopened classrooms in the 2020-2021 school year.
“District officials believe the plan would see $12 million offered in state reopening grants,” the Daily Mail added. “State law required districts to reopen elementary schools and at least one grade in middle or high school for in-person instruction before May 15.” Elementary schools have been open since April, and a small fraction of middle and high school students have been in person since the middle of last month — but just those students that require special considerations, like English as a Second Language instruction, or who have special needs.
Around 20,000 of the district’s 52,000 students were in classrooms full time at the beginning of May, which left the school district struggling to qualify for California’s relief grants. “Officials and the union then scrambled to get the potential $12million and came up with the plan to reopen for one day,” the Daily Mail said.
Parents told the Chronicle that the arrangement appeared to be a money grab, given that the students were not technically receiving any in-person instruction during the outlined period.
“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?” a San Francisco student advocacy group told the paper.
It’s not clear that the plan will work. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the California assemblyman who wrote the provision granting COVID-19 relief to districts that welcomed students back in person says that while the plan follows the letter of the law, it fails to follow the “spirit” of the law.
“It definitely doesn’t meet the spirit of the law. Kids were supposed to come back in person. Kids were supposed to come back to learn,” he said.