San Francisco sues its own school district to reopen classes

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — San Francisco filed a lawsuit Wednesday against its own school district and board of education for not reopening schools for in-person instruction.

City attorney Dennis Herrera and Mayor London Breed addressed the litigation during a 10 a.m. press conference.

Herrera said they are suing for “violation of administerial duties,” claiming the school district failed to perform its duties in preparing for a return to school. The lawsuit is the first of its kind in California.

“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,” Herrera said. “Having a plan to make a plan isn’t going to cut it.”

Breed said keeping the classrooms closed is hurting Black, Latino, and Asian students, especially low-income students.

“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,” Breed said.

According to Herrera, the lawsuit seeks a court order directing the school district to prepare to offer in-person instruction now that it is possible to do so safely.

The city attorney notes that SFUSD is a separate legal entity from the City and County of San Francisco, and does not answer to the mayor or board of supervisors.

Herrera said he will file a motion Feb. 11 asking San Francisco Superior Court to issue an emergency order, which can only be filed if a lawsuit is in place first. The order would force the school district to make a reopening plan before the case is ultimately decided.

Breed and Herrera point to the success of private schools reopening without any outbreaks.

“Various public schools in Marin, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Napa counties have all figured it out,” Herrera said. “Private and parochial schools in San Francisco have figured it out.”

California has allowed San Francisco, plus three other Bay Area counties, to resume in-person learning plans.

However, SFUSD’s return to in-person learning plan requires some conditions to be met before they reopen school buildings.

As of Wednesday, just two of the school district’s nine requirements are completed. Four requirements are “almost done.”

Once SFUSD determines schools are ready, they will allow small groups to come back, made up of the youngest students in early elementary grades, and students with disabilities in moderate/severe special day classes, according to their plan.

The health department has inspected three elementary schools since Monday to ensure they are equipped to have students walk the halls.

The schools inspected so far are Alvarado, Glen Park and Lawton.

In an Instragram update, SFUSD Chief Facilities Officer Dawn Kamalanathan said: “We are scheduling the rest of Wave 1 sites this week. So far, so good!”

Last week, Breed had criticized the school district on its priorities.

The school board had voted in favor of replacing the names of some schools by the end of 2021.

“What I cannot understand is why the school board is advancing a plan to have all these schools renamed by April when there isn’t a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then,” said Breed of the resolution. “Our students are suffering, and we should be talking about getting them in classrooms, getting them mental health support, and getting them the resources they need in this challenging time.”

The San Francisco Board of Education had recommended changing the names of 46 campuses.

KRON4 has reached out to the mayor’s office as well as the school district for comment. This story will be updated.

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