San Francisco residents who are not citizens but are parents may vote in school board elections, including the upcoming recall election that could remove three members of the board. The Board of Supervisors in October made this enfranchisement, originally enacted through a 2016 ballot measure and scheduled to sunset in 2022, permanent.
San Francisco schools and their leaders have been in the spotlight recently for a variety of controversies. Some parents have pushed for schools to reopen sooner. A member of the school board is suing the district. An effort to recall some board members is underway. And an initiative to rename certain schools has come under fire.
After more than a year of online learning, certain groups of students and staff at some San Francisco schools began meeting in person in mid-April. For tens of thousands of students, distance learning continues. The school board and district intend to give every student the option of coming back full time in the fall. But the lawsuit that City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed against the district and board in February to compel them to reopen schools promptly is ongoing even as more students return to campuses. Sara Eisenberg, a deputy city attorney and chief of strategic advocacy in the city attorney’s office, said on “Civic” that the city attorney’s office is continuing the case to ensure that the district actually follows through on its promise.
Some students in the San Francisco Unified School District are back in classrooms — as of April 26, a district statement indicated more than 19,000 children had returned to campuses. But there are tens of thousands more students in the district. The Board of Education has resolved to give all students the option to return to in-person instruction in the fall. Gentle Blythe, deputy superintendent of strategic partnerships and communications with the district, discussed with “Civic” the impacts of distance learning and next steps for reopening schools. One factor is whether requirements for distance between students in the classroom remain in place, which Blythe said is the biggest limiting factor for classroom capacity.
“We’re planning for a few different scenarios.
A youth-led, youth-run initiative called San Francisco Communities who Help Advance the New Generation of Education — or SFCHANGE — is offering workshops to young people on topics that might not be taught in their classrooms otherwise, from organizing their finances to organizing around climate change.
“We had to look at community spread,” said Susan Solomon, president of the United Educators of San Francisco. “That was very important to us, that we not just protect ourselves, but protect our communities as well.”
City College says the existence of the college is at stake, and it is facing a projected budget shortfall of $33 million. Eira Kien, a student, Vick Van Chung, the student trustee, and Mary Bravewoman, a faculty member and vice president of the union representing teachers at the college, have been trying to prevent these cuts and talked with “Civic” about them.
Three educators — school social worker Yajaira Cuapio, special education teacher Megan Coluza and kindergarten teacher Cathy Sullivan — weighed in on the new school schedule and talked with “Civic” about the impacts of school closures on them and the families they work with.
Youth mental health was a growing concern even before the pandemic, but the isolation of sheltering in place has come with an increase in depression and unhappiness among young people. San Francisco high school students have been reaching out to one another despite schools being closed to offer some support. Alan Wang, Joyce Truong and Abigail Ault, who have been active in peer wellness programs, shared their perspectives with “Civic.”
San Francisco public schools remain closed and students are still distance learning. Three parents of children in the district told “Civic” how they would like schools to reopen. José-Luis Tekun Mejia, Alicia Cruz and Jennifer Sey also expressed concern about the toll that being out of school for nearly a year has been taking on young people and parents alike.
As part of a series of discussions on “Civic” about school reopening and distance learning, high school juniors Alan Terrones, at Gateway High, Adrianna Zhang, at Lowell High and William Axelrod, at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, share their experiences and perspectives.