Dear SFUSD Community:
This year has been filled with unforeseen challenges and our community has been working every single day to make learning possible through this pandemic. Before we recess for the winter break, I wanted to let you know that we will not begin our phased approach and reopen the first 12 schools to in-person instruction on Jan. 25 as originally proposed. Throughout the fall, we have shared our aim to gradually bring back some students (what we are calling Phase 2A) as long as all of the conditions in our Phase 2A decision tree are met.
Progress Being Made
We have been making steady progress, including:
- Every classroom in the first school buildings proposed to reopen has been assessed for ventilation, physical distancing, etc.;
- A letter of interest to reopen schools has been submitted to the SF Department of Public Health;
- Families in Phase 2A have been surveyed to identify those who wish to return to in-person;
- Staff COVID-19 testing has begun; and
- We have a 3-month supply of physical protection equipment (PPE) for each school site.
Progress has been slower on the actions and plans that are dependent on SFUSD completing bargaining with the labor organizations that represent our district employees, including teachers, principals and many others who serve our students.
Update on Labor Negotiations
In September, the District began talks with our labor groups by sharing criteria for reopening. These criteria included steps to prepare health and safety protocols as required by public health experts, including the district’s criteria for reopening (the Phase 2A and 2B decision trees).
On Dec. 15, SFUSD labor unions shared a new set of health and safety criteria they would like to see the district follow before any return to in-person learning. While many of these requests are consistent with what SFUSD has been preparing for, there are significant new requests proposed that go beyond the Department of Public Health’s guidance. The District cannot meet all of the new requirements SFUSD’s labor unions have proposed, and there is not sufficient time to complete bargaining in order to reopen any school sites on Jan. 25.
Most significantly, our labor groups have proposed that no staff or students return to in-person learning until the City and County is in the state’s orange tier, indicating “moderate” spread of COVID-19, for 14 consecutive days. This differs from the plan adopted by the Board of Education and permitted under state and local health orders, which allow schools in counties rated in the most restrictive purple tier to reopen for in-person instruction if they receive a waiver.
We are committed to continuing our work with labor representatives to agree upon health and safety standards. This includes working with the City and other potential partners to identify the additional resources we will need to implement these standards.
We will continue to prepare in other ways so that we can safely resume in-person learning in alignment with public health guidance and all the indicators in our dashboard, including completing bargaining with our labor partners.
I am disappointed that we cannot offer a guaranteed date for when we can resume in-person learning for our youngest and most vulnerable students. This pandemic has required us to live with a great deal of uncertainty and it’s simply not over yet.
When school resumes on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 our schools will continue to provide distance learning. We will also continue to work hard to offer a safe in-person learning opportunity to our most vulnerable students, which includes meeting as much as possible with our labor partners to complete bargaining.
Meanwhile, please follow public health orders and guidance, including practicing social distancing, wearing masks and washing your hands. Please take good care of yourselves and each other so we can get through this and be back together again soon.
Dr. Vincent Matthews
Superintendent of Schools