San Francisco school staffers are preparing for students to come back to classrooms safely. (Shutterstock photo)

Updates on plans for in-person learning at SFUSD

Small group of youngest students to return in initial phase

Since March, I, like many of you, have been monitoring the daily updates from public health officials regarding COVID-19. In the past few weeks, the state and The City cleared a path for San Francisco Unified School District schools to return to in-person learning for the first time since San Francisco went into shelter-in-place.

Many people are curious about what progress we’re making toward reopening school buildings for students to learn together in the same space. I can assure that we are all working tirelessly to continue providing distance learning while also putting everything in place to safely welcome back our students.

In an effort to make our preparations more visible to our community, we will be sharing a dashboard to monitor progress on key indicators at the next Board of Education meeting on Oct. 20. Following this discussion, we plan to post our reopening progress update dashboard on our website.

The dashboard will contain all of the criteria for Phase 2a and Phase 2b reopening.

Under Phase 2a, we are preparing for a gradual return for a small cohort of students focusing first on our youngest students (early education students) and students with disabilities in moderate/severe special day classes.

Under Phase 2b, the gradual return to in-person will include more early elementary students as well as students experiencing homelessness and youth in foster care as many more of these students have shown lower engagement learning at a distance.

Here are some examples of the work underway that we’ll be reporting on in the dashboard:

We’re conducting school site assessments with regards to ventilation and classroom capacities in light of physical distancing and other safety measures.

We’re creating specific plans for students who may need extra support due to an increased risk for adverse infection.

We’re putting out a request for proposals to identify providers who can oversee regular COVID testing. We need to identify who is providing those services and how it is going to be funded. Based on what we’re hearing and seeing from other districts, it could cost as much as $300 per month per person tested!

I want to say to families and community members who are eager for our public schools to reopen to in person learning –– I hear you. And for those of you who want to keep your children home to limit the spread of COVID-19 –– I hear you too. Our schools are essential to the lived experiences of over 54,000 students and their families and over 9,000 staff and their families. I can assure you we are taking this very seriously and will share more progress updates in the near future.

Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of schools for the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.

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