Libraries and rec centers to provide childcare during school closures

City scrambles to provide aid to families

With the sudden closure of all 126 public schools in the San Francisco Unified School District for three weeks, The City and school district are scrambling to find quick solutions to provide students and families with much needed resources and emergency child care.

The City announced Friday that all public libraries and indoor recreation facilities will act as emergency child care facilities starting Monday for children of health care workers, disaster service workers and low-income families.

In addition, SFUSD will provide free meals for children during the three-week closure. Eight pick-up sites across San Francisco will distribute free breakfast and lunch to anyone 18 and younger starting Tuesday, and another 10 pick-up sites will be available by Thursday. Meals will be served on a first-come, first-serve basis with the capacity of 11,600 breakfasts and 11,600 lunches each day available until March 27, according to a press release from the 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)

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

“We are committed to continuing to provide healthy meals for our students over the next several weeks while students are not in school,” SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews said in a statement. “We are grateful for the support we already receive to make this happen, and would appreciate additional support from the community to help us keep our students fed.”

The San Francisco Department of Emergency Management and the Red Cross are working with SFUSD to set up and operate the pick-up sites. The United Educators of San Francisco have also been planning food distribution for students and families and has asked the public for volunteers to help with distribution.

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank will collaborate with SFUSD to have food pantries at the sites so adults can access groceries, according to SF-Marin Food Bank Executive Director Paul Ash. Uber is also offering a 25 percent discount, up to $10, on rides to the distribution sites during open hours.

“Now, more than ever, it is important that we are able to get healthy food out to the community,” Ash said.

Mayor London Breed announced Friday all 28 library locations and recreation facilities will be closed to the public starting at 6 p.m. March 13 until March 31. Indoor recreation facilities will serve grades K-5 and SF Public Libraries will provide homework help for grades 6-12, Monday through Friday. The child care centers will follow social distancing and related COVID-19 sanitation and hygiene recommendations. Registration for emergency child care will begin Saturday, according to the Department of Youth, Children and Families.

“During this time, health care workers and other essential staff need to be able to keep working and responding to this public health emergency,” Breed said in a statement. “With this change to our libraries and recreation facilities, young people whose parents need to respond to COVID-19 will have a safe place to go.”

On Thursday, the SFUSD Board of Education announced the three-week closure until April 3 of all 126 schools as a containment measure for COVID-19, after initially stating the schools would remain open. Glen Park Elementary and Lakeshore Elementary were closed this week while public health officials investigated reported respiratory illnesses in some students.

The board was urged by the teacher’s union, the Department of Public Health and Supervisor Matt Haney to shutter the schools for containment, but the closure has left many wondering how to find child care and other necessities that the schools provide.

“This will be hard and a huge challenge for ALL families, but of course we are especially concerned about families who cannot take time off of work, do not have other child care options, and students who rely on school for food and so much more. The City will have to step up,” Haney said on Twitter.

Ida Mojadad contributed to this report.

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