San Francisco Unified School District officials and the unions representing district employees have reportedly reached a tentative agreement to determine when to re-open the city’s more than one-hundred public schools, union officials announced on Sunday.
The city’s public school system can re-open if the county reaches “red-tier” status and vaccines have been made available to in-person staff, or the “orange tier” if vaccines haven’t been made available, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Under California’s reopening blueprint, red-tier counties meet the criteria for “substantial” county-level spread, while orange-tier counties meet the criteria for “moderate” county-level spread. Currently, more than 99% of California residents — over 40 million people — live in “purple-tier” counties, the most restrictive of the tiers.
“This is a major step forward toward a goal that we share with so many parents: safe reopening of school buildings for students and staff,” said the unions representing school employees. “In addition to reaching agreement around baseline safety standards, the unions also negotiated groundbreaking language that provides school district support for vaccine prioritization, availability, and education for their members.”
The agreement must still be approved by the board of education. Furthermore, even if the agreement is approved, the school district will still “need to reach an agreement with the teachers union on daily schedules and other educational aspects of in-person learning, which means there is still no target reopening date and the district is likely still several weeks, if not months, from bringing the first students back,” reports the Chronicle.
The agreement comes less than a week after San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco Unified School District and the board of education, accusing them of not having a concrete reopening plan as required by law.
“Private and parochial schools in San Francisco have figured it out,” he said. “In-person instruction needs to be the Board of Education’s singular focus — not renaming schools that are empty, or changing admission policies when teachers aren’t in classrooms. It’s unfortunate we have to take them to court to get it figured out, but enough is enough.”
Mayor London Breed (D), who has been pushing for schools to open, supported the lawsuit. She also held a press conference on Thursday, featuring children with signs saying “I miss my friends,” and called on officials and unions to come to a solution.
“It just really breaks my heart to be here to see these kids and these families to know what they’ve been going through,” said Breed, who became teary at the press conference, reports the Chronicle. “Kids are struggling in our city and we all know it.”
After the San Francisco city attorney filed the lawsuit against the school district, Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino (D) announced that he would ask Los Angeles to file a similar lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is also closed.
“I actually agree with the pediatricians,” Buscaino told the Los Angeles Times in an interview, citing a recent statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics affiliate based in Southern California. “I support the science that says it’s safe for students to return to schools. Let’s get the adults out of the way, the politics out of the way.”