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SF Public Schools Still Closed With No Reopening Date, Despite ‘Minimal’ County Risk-Level Designation
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 18: An aerial view of the empty schoolyard at Ulloa Elementary School on March 18, 2020 in San Francisco, California. As millions of Americans shelter in place in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus, schools across the country are being closed. Nearly 99 percent of the schools in California are currently closed and it is unclear if they will be able to reopen before the start of summer break.
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The San Francisco Unified School district does not have a return date for schools to fully return for in-person learning, says the school superintendent.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Superintendent Vince Matthews revealed earlier this week that the school district doesn’t “anticipate we’ll be able to bring students back before the end of the [calendar] year.”

He did, however, indicate that the school district now has a reopening tracker, which shows how far along the district is with tasks it needs to complete before opening. The tracker shows most “areas of work” on the list as “in progress,” with one in particular, the district accumulating a “3-month supply of PPE and cleaning supplies,” as 85% completed, or “almost done.”

The lack of public schools open for in-person learning in the county comes as the state of California has granted San Francisco the “minimal” county spread designation, which is part of the state’s “blueprint for a safer economy.”

“Schools may reopen fully for in-person instruction. Local school officials will decide whether and when that will occur,” reads the state’s website for counties in the lowest risk tier, which is based on a county’s test positivity rate and average daily case rate.

Only nine of California’s fifty-eight counties have this designation, which requires a county to have fewer than 1 new daily coronavirus case per 100,000 residents, and a test positivity rate lower than 2%. (While San Francisco has been reporting 2.5 cases per day on average, the county was granted the “minimal” status through a separate health equity metric, which “aims to ensure that counties are tracking and controlling the virus in disadvantaged communities,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. This metric can be used in some cases to move counties into a lower-risk tier at a faster rate than usual.)

San Francisco is also, by far, the largest county on the state’s “minimal” risk tier of counties. The county has nearly 900,000 residents, while the second-largest county in the same tier has about 135,000 residents. The remaining 7 counties have a combined population of roughly 105,000 residents, including three counties with under 10,000.

Meanwhile, the city has already allowed schools to apply to reopen, a process that over 100 private and public charter schools have shown interest in. According to a city dashboard, over 60 of those schools have been approved.

Mayor London Breed (D), who reportedly has little authority to reopen the schools herself, recently called on the San Francisco Unified School District to focus on reopening the public schools, a development that came after it was reported that a committee was planning on renaming 44 of its schools for having problematic names, including George Washington High School and Dianne Feinstein Elementary School.

“[I]n the midst of this once in a century challenge, to hear that the District is focusing energy and resources on renaming schools—schools that they haven’t even opened—is offensive,” said Breed. “It’s offensive to parents who are juggling their children’s daily at-home learning schedules with doing their own jobs and maintaining their sanity. It’s offensive to me as someone who went to our public schools, who loves our public schools, and who knows how those years in the classroom are what lifted me out of poverty and into college. It’s offensive to our kids who are staring at screens day after day instead of learning and growing with their classmates and friends.”

She nonetheless left the door open to renaming them at a future date: “Conversations around school names can be had once the critical work of educating our young people in person is underway. Once that is happening, then we can talk about everything else.”

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