The city of San Francisco will sue its own School Board for failing to reopen for in-person learning, The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Wednesday.
None of San Francisco’s public school students have returned to a classroom since the beginning of pandemic closures in March 2020. Cities across the country have struggled to reopen public and charter schools, in part because of opposition from teachers’ unions, although some, including New York, have managed to keep their districts open for in-person instruction.
San Francisco city attorney Dennis Herrera plans to sue the School Board and San Francisco Unified School District for violating a state law ordering districts to outline steps they “will take to offer classroom-based instruction whenever possible.” Herrera has received the backing of Mayor London Breed.
“It’s a shame it has come to this,” Herrera told the Chronicle. “The Board of Education and the school district have had more than 10 months to roll out a concrete plan to get these kids back in school. So far they have earned an F. Having a plan to make a plan doesn’t cut it.”
Mayor Breed said in a statement that she supported the lawsuit because of school district data showing that the city’s low-income students and black and Latino students were harmed by the ongoing closure.
“This is not the path we would have chosen, but nothing matters more right now than getting our kids back in school,” Breed said. “This is hurting the mental health of our kids and our families. Our teachers have done an incredible job of trying to support our kids through distance learning, but this isn’t working for anyone.”
The sudden switch to remote learning and absence of social connections has likely harmed students’ mental health across the U.S. The Clark County school district, the fifth largest in the nation with students in and around Las Vegas, announced that it would attempt to reopen because of a spate of student suicides during the months of remote learning.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, the director Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told reporters that vaccinating teachers was not a “prerequisite” for opening schools.
“There’s increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen and that that safe opening does not suggest that teachers should need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely,” said the director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky.