Ronen, Melgar propose working group to strengthen city’s education system

During San Francisco’s first full Board of Supervisors meeting of the year, supervisors Hillary Ronen and Myrna Melgar introduced an...

During San Francisco’s first full Board of Supervisors meeting of the year, supervisors Hillary Ronen and Myrna Melgar introduced an ordinance to establish a working group to develop a plan to rebuild the city’s public education system once the pandemic ends.

Under the proposed ordinance, the Students and Families Recovery with Inclusive and Successful Enrichment Workgroup would be made up of 10 education experts and stakeholders, meeting for six months to develop a plan to, among other goals, help San Francisco Unified School District students who’ve fallen academically behind during distance learning; enhance wraparound service for students and families; and create new enrichment programs to further challenge students.

In addition, the workgroup will also be tasked with seeking funding from philanthropists to help launch the initiative, as well as long-term public funding for the city’s public schools.

The workgroup will then make recommendations to Mayor London Breed, SFUSD, and the Board of Supervisors on a post pandemic recovery strategy.

“We must take this moment of crisis and turn it into an opportunity to make our excellent public school system even better,” Ronen said. “Many families have fled SFUSD during distance learning and many students have fallen significantly behind in their academic achievement. We cannot let either situation go unaddressed.”

“All throughout California, communities have witnessed the damaging toll that prolonged school closures have had on the academic and personal well-being of students, particularly students from low-income and immigrant families who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 health and economic crises,” SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said in a statement. “Substantial investments in education supports are needed to help our children and families overcome the significant challenges they’ve encountered while trying to engage with distance learning, despite the heroic efforts of our educators to teach remotely.”

Once established, the group would then submit final recommendations to the Board of Supervisors, the Mayor and SFUSD officials by Aug. 1 for implementation for the 2021-2022 school year.

Also during the Tuesday meeting, Supervisor Gordon Mar introduced an ordinance to provide incentives for the construction of Accessory Dwelling Units, also known as in-law units, to increase the city’s affordable housing stock.

According to Mar, by providing ADU fee waivers, residents will have more housing options, particularly those who own single family homes and have multiple generations living under one roof.

“Even during the pandemic, housing prices and rents here and all over the city have remained astronomically high,” Mar said. “Homeowners told us they wanted to build ADUs for many reasons, including the opportunity for rental income, and the expansion of housing for family members. In our immigrant communities, we’ve heard that this could support a senior homeowner wanting to live in the ADU and allow family members to live in the main unit, or a young adult who would otherwise be priced out of the neighborhood where they grew up.”

Mar added, “Our broader goal is to champion policies that support the construction of affordable ADU units, as well as the development of financing tools that make ADUs accessible for low- and moderate-income property owners and tenants.”

Finally, Supervisor Matt Haney on Tuesday called for a public hearing on the San Francisco Department of Public Health plan to expand COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Haney is also pushing for a mass vaccination center in San Francisco, much like other vaccination centers planned throughout the state.

“Our residents need clear information and transparency on the roll out of the COVID vaccine and they need to know that our city is taking responsibility for the effective administration of a mass vaccination strategy for San Francisco,” Haney said. “We’ve been doing mass testing for months so we know that the infrastructure is there. Other cities and counties have announced mass vaccination centers and there’s no good reason at all why we don’t have any here.”

Haney is also requesting that private health providers be present at the hearing, since currently the vaccine is being given to patients by their medical providers, who aren’t moving fast enough, Haney said.

“We should be committing to vaccinate at least 5,000 people a day in San Francisco, as other counties have,” he said. “Private insurers and hospitals don’t generally have any answers for their patients right now. They also don’t have the mandate to act in the public interest or move fast for mass distribution. A public health crisis requires public leadership and public action. Deferring to private providers, who don’t share the same public mandate, especially in reaching directly those who are most vulnerable, is not at all acceptable.”

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