Superintendent Vincent Matthews said Tuesday the San Francisco Unified School District was determined to return students from preschool age to 12th grade to face-to-face learning by the fall of school, but left questions unanswered as to whether students would return full-time.

Speaking at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Matthews said that as vaccination rates rise, the district is developing plans to reopen all schools for personal instruction, although he noted that this would be in line with public health guidelines and include options for distance learning.

“We know a lot of students have had problems,” said Matthews, noting the disproportionate negative impact of distance learning on some students. “As a city and as a school district, we have to set priorities so that our students can safely learn personally again.”

The commitment – one that Matthews first made on Friday in a joint statement with CEO Gabriela López – fell short of the expectations of some parents. This is a full-time, five-day-a-week schedule for all students, including middle and high school students.

After Matthews spoke, the President of the United Educators of San Francisco, Susan Solomon, convened the board meeting to warn that there is no guarantee that the COVID-19 pandemic will not recur or that it will not happen before the fall a variant would prove resistant to vaccines. She said the district must prepare for any eventuality.

“I just want to bring some realistic expectations into this discussion so that we can provide the best education to our students and ensure that our educators are prepared,” said Solomon.

The fall learning statement came after months of pressure from parents and political leaders unhappy with the pace of progress the school district is making towards reopening, including a lawsuit from prosecutor Dennis Herrera. The school board is also facing a recall and possible elective action that it would replace with an appointed agency.

Teachers advocated priority access to vaccines, tests, and other health and safety precautions in lengthy contract negotiations that culminated in an agreement that allowed face-to-face tuition on April 12 for a limited group of students, starting with the youngest and most agree to resume special education classes. The reopening schedule calls for some students to be in person four days a week and others in person two days a week, depending on how many in each class are interested in returning.

The parents group Decreasing the Distance, which had formed over the past few months to put pressure on the school board, held a rally on Saturday and sent a letter to district officials on Monday, signed by a number of elected officials, and a return this fall called for a power of attorney. Time, five day, personal schedule for all students.

A number of commentators at the meeting also urged district officials to expressly commit to five full days a week in person this fall. Several suggested that with private school enrollment deadlines approaching, the district would run the risk of dropping enrollment if parents gave up and switched to other options. Many private schools have been open for a few months.

Meredith Dodson, the distance organizer, said she believed “if it were up to Matthews” the students would return five days a week, but said she was dismayed by Solomon’s remarks.

“I don’t know how to tell parents how to hold on to hope,” Dodson said in a text message. “This is bad.”

Matthews recently announced his impending resignation, and a number of speakers at the meeting thanked him for his efforts by crediting him with attempting to get the students back into the classroom and appearing to stand out from the school board.

However, Matthews declined the settlement and attempts to separate him from the Chamber.

“It’s not Dr. Matthews who does that and the board does nothing. We’re all in it together, ”said Matthews. “This board has done everything to get as many students back as possible.”

“The fight is against COVID, not against each other,” he reminded the audience.

Bay Area Newseducationsan Francisco News

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