[guest post by Dana]
Well, it doesn’t have a lick to do with reopening the schools for in-person learning or improving distance-learning in the city, but hey, they’re doing something, right?
San Francisco will rename 44 schools, including campuses named after former presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
The near-unanimous Monday vote by the San Francisco Board of Education, with only one dissenter, comes after years of debate — and some scorn — over the reckoning of historical figures and their contentious, flawed legacies.
“It’s a message to our families, our students and our community,” board member Mark Sanchez said in the meeting, per the San Francisco Chronicle. “It’s not just symbolic.”
The new namesakes for the schools must adhere to a new set of guidelines, including that individuals honored by a renaming are not slave owners or abetted in slavery or genocide, attached to human rights abuses, or are “known racists and/or white supremacists.”
Why the noted schools missed the mark:
Washington and Jefferson, for instance, were slaveowners, while former San Francisco mayor Feinstein was listed after reportedly reinstating Confederate flags by City Hall in the ’80s. Lincoln, widely revered for his issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, was chosen based on “his treatment of First Nation peoples,” first-grader Jeremiah Jeffries told the Chronicle in a widely circulated December quote.
Some other namesakes’ legacies, such as Junipero Serra, Jose Ortega and Vasco Nunez de Balboa, were based on colonization and abuses of indigenous people.
Meanwhile, last month Bay Area parents rallied to get their schools reopened. Their complaints were focused on the need to get kids back into school because remote learning was not effective and they were falling behind:
“Remote learning doesn’t work at all,” said parent Daniel Kotzin.
Kotzin says his 5-year-old is falling behind.
“I’m a stay-at-home parent. We have reliable WIFI. My son still doesn’t know how to read. He’s in kindergarten. Remote learning, it’s cruel joke,” said Kotzin.
These parents say they want to see the district open schools for in-person learning.
“I’m here in support of all the parents in San Francisco who would like to have their children go back to school, get a safe education and resume normal life,” said parent Erica Sandberg.
In Berkeley, parents echoed the same complaint, distance learning has been a failure.
“We’re all frustrated with our school district,” said parent Lei Levy.
…8th grader Ella Hainsworth talked about her struggles.
“It’s hard for a lot of people, my mental health has not been great during Zoom school, it’s all been chaotic,” she said.
“We really believe guided by science, our schools could be reopened,” Levy added.
San Francisco Unified School District’s website charts out their in-person readiness goals:
Below are the major areas of work SFUSD is undertaking to prepare for a phased-in approach to in-person learning. This includes modifying learning plans and bell schedules, developing and deploying appropriate protocols and training for staff, providing sufficient cleaning and PPE supplies for all sites, and instituting prevention measures and changes to facilities. We will update this information bi-weekly to share the current status of each area.
Here is the current progress chart:
Although the SFUSD had planned to reopen schools on January 25, they announced last month that union bargaining was not going to be wrapped up in time as the union believed that current health and safety measures were insufficient. The union insisted that the measures needed to exceed even those of the Department of Public Health’s Guidance. In response, Mayor London Breed issued the following statement:
“It is infuriating that our schools are not going to reopen for in-person learning in January. I can’t imagine how hard this is for our families and for our young people who haven’t been in the classroom since March and are falling further behind every single day. We should not be creating a false choice between education and a safe return to classrooms. As a society, we have a responsibility to educate our children, and safety is embedded in that responsibility. We can do both. We must do both.
Right now we are in a surge that requires us to stay home and stop the spread, but when we get through this difficult moment, we need to be ready to get our students in the classroom the moment our public health officials say we can. We can’t create unrealistic standards for in-person learning that aren’t even recommended by the Department of Public Health. I understand the concerns of some of our teachers who are in the vulnerable population, and we should listen to them. But let’s be honest: San Francisco’s public health officials have been among the most conservative in the country in terms of reopening. When they say our schools can start opening again, our kids should be in the classroom the next day.
And we have data that shows our kids and teachers can return to the classroom. Under the guidance of the Department of Public Health, our City’s 78 Community Hubs and 91 private and parochial schools across the City have been open for in-person learning for months and have not experienced any outbreaks. Even now, during this latest surge, the worst we’ve had, there have been no outbreaks. None of this is easy, but by following health protocols we can create safe environments that help us mitigate the spread of this virus and give our kids the learning environment they so badly need.
Meanwhile, the CDC has made the case for the safe reopening of public schools as they have found “little evidence that schools contributed meaningfully to the spread of COVID-19”.