Although San Francisco public schools remain closed as COVID-19 continues to rise across the state, officials from the San Francisco Unified School District announced new city funding Tuesday to support COVID-19 testing for district employees.
The increase in funding and support comes as the district announced last week that it will not start reopening schools as planned next month as negotiations with unions representing teachers and other staff on safety measures have failed.
“We know that getting our students back to class safely is an absolute top priority for our city and school district right now,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. “While we must all continue to do our part to bring this current surge under control, we must also keep moving forward and putting the pieces in place to support the reopening of our schools next year, including the right testing program.”
The new funds will be provided by the city’s Children, Youth and Their Families Department, and will support surveillance testing conducted by the city’s Latino Task Force.
“We are grateful for the expertise and additional resources that the Mayor, City Councils and the Latino Task Force have provided to meet the new demands of school operations during the pandemic,” said SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews. “Our staff surveillance tests are key to being ready to serve students personally.”
In addition to the Latino Task Force, the tests are carried out by the biotechnology company Curative Inc.
Initial testing will take place at the district’s main office at 555 Franklin Street and will be rolled out to other locations later. Elementary school staff slated to reopen will be prioritized for testing, district officials said.
According to the district’s original reopening plan, face-to-face learning was to resume on January 25 for preschoolers, kindergarten teachers, first graders, and special education students and programs for the deaf and hard of hearing, with all students placed in small cohorts.
Earlier this month, unions, which include the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) and Service Employees International Union Local 1021, raised concerns about resumption of personal learning as the city and state see an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases . The unions’ demands include a detailed health and safety plan for staff; robust student and staff testing and contact tracing logs; and free rapid tests for anyone showing symptoms.
At the time, the district said it could not meet all of the union’s demands and would not complete negotiations by the scheduled reopening date.
Union officials have announced that they will continue to push for a solution so staff and students can return to the classroom.