Hannah Smith distributes meals provided by the SF Unified School District to Norma Agustin and her daughter, Marionne, 10, at June Jordan High School on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Families adapt to school, work closures during lockdown

San Francisco schools provide meals for children as grocery stores are emptied out

San Francisco’s unprecedented lockdown and school closures have made Norma Agustin’s household of 10 busier than usual.

While some family members are still reporting for essential work, three children and three adults are holed up at her house until April 7. A shelter-in-place began in seven counties in and around the Bay Area Tuesday at midnight, prohibiting residents from leaving home except to fulfill basic needs like grocery shopping and walking to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus during a critical time.

Agustin is one of a number of people who collected food on Tuesday provided by the San Francisco Unified School District at June Jordan High School. The district will have 18 sites open 9-10 a.m. on weekdays during its closure for families to collect three meals including fresh fruit and vegetables for children 18 or younger.

Szeto Chung and Lillian Wong distribute meals to families provided by the SF Unified School District at James Denman Middle School on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

In pajamas and even roller skates, school kids and their parents lined up — mostly at a safe distance from one another — to collect meals for the day on Tuesday. Parents were worried not just about feeding low-income students who rely on school food, but about the empty shelves at grocery stores caused by recent panic shopping.

“It’s unsettling to have to go out to look for necessities and not be able to find it,” said Marisol Sanchez, whose son attends Balboa High School.

Even before Monday’s shelter-in-place order was announced, families were bracing for disruption when San Francisco Unified School District said Thursday it would close all public schools for the next three weeks. District officials grappled with the decision to close schools that provide caregiving, food, and other kinds of support on top of education while parents report to work or other duties.

Families wait to pick up meals provided by the SF Unified School District at James Denman Middle School on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Students have been sent home with work and the district is looking at ways to continue a level of education remotely, said United Educator of San Francisco President Susan Solomon.

Some families are trying to work from home with their children. Lucy Lau has figured out that getting up early is the best way to do important work before her 5-year-old and 3-year-old arise.

“Otherwise they’re like this,” Lau said as her kids ran around her. “It’s nice being home, but it’s hard to get work done in general.”

Mikhail Nemirovskiy and Lillian Wong roll out a cart with fresh fruit and milk as part of meals for families provided by the SF Unified School District at James Denman Middle School on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

But not all parents can work from home or look after their school-age children all day. City libraries and recreational facilities are open to care for children of health workers and low-income parents who can’t work from home.

Agustin, a Department of Elections employee, said her 10-year-old daughter and niece and nephew of around the same age are old enough to band together and usually keep their own space while she works from home. But if the closure is extended to the rest of the semester, she is worried about the lack of socialization.

“It’s more their interaction with other kids,” Agustin said. “It’s what makes them normal.”

Volunteers at 18 sites across the city will hand out food for school children during coronavirus closures. (Photo courtesy San Francisco Unified School District)
Volunteers at 18 sites across the city will hand out food for school children during coronavirus closures. (Photo courtesy San Francisco Unified School District)

Agustin and her family tried to get supplies over the weekend at the Target in Colma but said it was “like a battleground.”

She said that she’s torn between wanting family members who work at an elder care facility in Daly City to return home, but at the same knowing it would make paying rent harder.

The family has already sent more money to their mother in the Philippines, who didn’t come with the rest of them two years ago, as the country quarantined Manila and the island of Luzon over rising coronavirus cases. Having meals provided for children in the United States has not gone unnoticed.

“It’s something I look up to in this country,” Agustin said. “Even in a situation like this, they look after their people.”

imojadad@sfexaminer.com

Norma Agustin puts bags of meals provided by the SF Unified School District for her household in the back of her car at June Jordan High School on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

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