A large crowd of parents and children marched from San Francisco City Hall to San Francisco Unified School Distrait offices on Franklin Street Saturday to call for a return to in-person teaching.
The protest, organized by the recently formed group Decreasing the Distance, demonstrated the growing pressure on the district to reopen classrooms, ten months after it switched to distance learning to help contain the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
The School Board has increasingly come under fire for slow progress toward reopening, as private schools and some districts in other counties return to the classroom, and for efforts to address other priorities such as the renaming of schools. Data shows some learning disparities have increased during distance learning, and many parents say their children and families are struggling emotionally and academically.
District officials had at one point set a target date of Jan. 25 to bring the first wave of students back, but postponed that date after they said they were unable to reach an agreement with labor groups. Most recently, they have said they need to reach an agreement by Feb. 18 to begin reopening by March 25. Even then, however, progress will be limited to a small group of the youngest and most vulnerable students, and the district has said there is little chance of middle school and high school students returning this school year.
The pressure increased Wednesday, when City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a lawsuit with the support of Mayor London Breed arguing the district does not have an adequate reopening plan as required under state law.
District unions on Friday said that their current proposal calls for classrooms to reopen when The City returns to the “red” risk tier, as defined by state health officials, so long as district employees have access to vaccines and other safety precautions are addressed. Right now San Francisco is in the highest, “purple” risk tier, and it is unclear when it will drop to red.