It may not look like it when you pass by our schools, but a lot of work is happening to prepare for a safe return to in-person learning.
From hanging signs and checking the ventilation in classrooms, to ensuring there are health and safety protocols, to developing a registration process so families can indicate whether they want to send their child to in-person classes or remain in distance learning, the San Francisco Unified School District is working all day every day to take the next steps to carefully and safely welcome students and staff back to our sites.
When we enter into a hybrid in-person learning model, we plan to have a regular surveillance testing program of our school staff. In doing so, SFUSD will be by far the largest single testing entity in the city of San Francisco.
Just this past week, our district reached an agreement that will provide access to screening testing services for the staff of our public schools. The agreement marks a significant step in preparing SFUSD for gradually returning to in-person learning for some students starting in late January if all necessary targets are met.
Screening testing provides an important measure of security against transmission of COVID-19 by identifying potentially asymptomatic individuals. Asymptomatic individuals who test positive will be informed of their status and asked to isolate to avoid widespread exposure to others.
In another area of planning for in-person learning, this week we’ve reached an agreement with The City to send disaster service workers to help support our school facility assessments.
The School Site Assessment Team will work with district staff to assess school facilities on a classroom by classroom basis for their readiness to receive students and staff for in-person learning during this pandemic.
These evaluations will include things like operability of classroom windows; type of classroom furniture; presence of functional hand washing sinks; and basic working condition of the classroom, for example window shades and classroom light fixtures.
The site assessment teams will provide valuable data on school site readiness for a hybrid or full in-person learning school day.
We’ve completed these site assessments at several school sites but there are dozens more to go. I am grateful to have The City’s partnership to conduct site assessments quickly and thoroughly so we can make any needed adjustments as soon as possible.
I also know that there are a range of feelings about in-person learning during the pandemic. You can view progress updates on our school reopening dashboard and join us at a Board of Education meeting to share your thoughts.
Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of schools for the San Francisco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.