SFUSD, City, Health Leaders Share Plans for Keeping Public Schools Open

SFUSD, City, Health Leaders Share Plans for Keeping Public Schools Open

Press Release

For the most up to date announcements from SFUSD regarding COVID-19, please refer to our COVID-19 Resources for Families and Students Page

As COVID-19 becomes more widespread in San Francisco, SFUSD leaders are working closely with the City of San Francisco to ensure the well-being of students, families, and staff. The City has declared a local health emergency and made aggressive recommendations to curb the outbreak of COVID-19 but has not recommended closing schools. City and school district leaders are working together to identify measures to keep the City’s public schools open. 

District leaders have been in daily contact with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH). At this time the majority of health experts at the local, state and federal level do not recommend broad public school closures, as schools are an essential service with multiple community benefits and children have not been shown to be a high-risk group for serious illness from this virus.

“After careful deliberation and hours of consultation with the experts at SFDPH, the San Francisco Board of Education and I agree that the benefits of keeping public schools open at this time outweigh the benefits of a citywide closure of schools,” Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “This plan could change with new information. We will continue to work with public health and state officials as we make decisions that impact all of us.”

“The coronavirus situation in San Francisco continues to change rapidly, and our public health and emergency management officials are working around the clock to provide the most up-to-date recommendations to keep our students and residents healthy,” said Mayor London N. Breed. “I want to thank the San Francisco Unified School District for working with the Department of Public Health to find the best path forward for our schools, students, and teachers.”

“We know that this virus has the greatest likelihood of harming elderly people and those with underlying health conditions and chronic illnesses,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco Director of Health. “But in children, the illness has been very mild. This is helping us to shape our thinking about schools and how to handle the question of closure. If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 at a school, we will work with the school and the district to determine the best measures.”

“Beyond providing education for our students, public schools are the access point for critical social services for thousands of families,” said San Francisco Board of Education President Mark Sanchez. “Our community values are tested in times like these. We must continue to be united and support each other as coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) becomes more widespread.”

As the district’s goal at this time is to stay open as long as possible while prioritizing the health and safety of students and staff, the following measures are being taken: 

Social distancing: The SFDPH recently issued new guidance regarding “social distancing” in light of COVID-19. Per this guidance, SFUSD has canceled all non-essential events at SFUSD schools effective March 9, 2020 until March 22, 2020. Non-essential events include assemblies, field trips, athletic and performance events, school events such as fundraisers and school community/family meetings with more than 50 people in attendance in one space at one time, and non-SFUSD community meetings during evenings or weekends being held on school property.

Excused absences for students: SFUSD officials have directed schools to honor families’ decision to keep their child home from school for as long as the City is advising social distancing measures. Absences will be excused and parents and guardians have been told to contact their child’s school if they will be keeping their child home. If a student exhibits illness or COVID-19-like symptoms at school, we’re asking schools to contact a parent or guardian to pick up the student immediately and to call their healthcare provider. Teachers are asked to provide educational activities in the event of students having prolonged absences. 

Vulnerable populations: While children in good health are most likely to only have mild symptoms of COVID-19, school staff and students who are at higher risk of complications from the virus may need to stay home to stay healthy. The district has asked them to work with their medical provider to make this determination. SFUSD will honor sick leave requests for any staff who needs it. 

Hygiene and cleaning practices: The district is ensuring every school has soap at cleaning stations and teachers are instructing students on good handwashing practices, among other disease prevention practices. School custodians are cleaning common and high touch areas multiple times a day. Resources and lessons will continue to be shared with schools to educate students and staff on standard precautions 

to prevent the spread of infectious disease.

Continuity of Learning: SFUSD is exploring how to provide online distance learning, as well as other opportunities for students to engage in learning in the event of a prolonged student absence or school closure. SFUSD recognizes that not all students have regular access to technology or the internet. The district will only implement an online distance learning model districtwide that ensures all students have equitable access to learning. 

For more information about what SFUSD is doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in its schools, go to sfusd.edu/covid19.