SFUSD Submits Letter of Interest to Reopen Schools
Shares more details regarding plans for return to in-person at 72 elementary schools, 12 early education sites, and county schools
San Francisco (December 9, 2020) - As part of its plans to begin offering in-person learning to students enrolled in certain grades and programs at a set of schools, the San Francisco Unified School District SFUSD) has submitted a Letter of Interest (LOI) to the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH), marking the first step in the process to obtain City approval before reopening school buildings to in-person instruction. City approval is one of a number of indicators that SFUSD must meet before reopening school buildings.
Per SFDPH guidance, TK-12 schools must submit a Letter of Interest to SFDPH followed by an application/plan for Health Officer review and approval before re-opening for in-person instruction. The number of students and staff in the LOI is an estimate and dependent on the number of students who elect to return, the space available, and the staff resources. The final application will contain more specific numbers for both students and staff.
In addition to the schools listed in the district’s LOI, SFUSD is planning to offer in-person to preschool students who attend programs at the District’s stand-alone early education schools. Based on DPH guidelines, SFUSD does not need to submit an LOI and go through an approval process to serve preschool students in small contained cohorts.
SFUSD has identified schools and student groups to gradually and safely return to in-person learning by adhering to public health guidelines and equipping schools and classrooms with the necessary materials to keep students and staff as safe as possible. Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews also shared “Return Safely Together: SFUSD’s In-Person Learning Plan” at a SF Board of Education meeting on December 8.
SFUSD is aiming to open the first group of schools (Wave 1 schools) January 25, 2021 and more schools (Wave 2) on February 8. Schools will first open classes to students in Pre-Kindergarten and Special Education classes. After that, those same schools will open to students in TK-2nd grade. Student groups invited to return will gradually grow to include homeless and foster youth and those students who have shown the lowest overall online engagement. Any date to reopen is subject to change based on many factors including the prevalence of COVID-19 in the community and completion of bargaining with the teachers union and other labor groups.
SFUSD has shared a dashboard that provides real-time updates on all the areas of work that must be completed before school buildings can reopen. This work includes identifying small groups of students for opening; having a staff testing plan in place, training all staff in and informing families of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, putting in place COVID-19 prevention measures, preparing school facilities for social distancing, securing a three-month supply of PPE, putting in place instructional learning plans, and completing bargaining with various labor groups.
In early December SFUSD sent a questionnaire to families with students in the first phase of in-person learning (Phase 2A) to understand their specific interest in returning to in-person. Families are asked to indicate their preference to return to in-person or remain in distance learning by December 11 so SFUSD can plan for the number of students and amount of space that will be needed to serve those students in Phase 2A prior to determining how it might be able to expand to offer other students an in-person learning option.
“We know that schools are places for interaction and connection, and there are critical components that must be in place for in-person learning to happen safely,” Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said. “Returning to our school campuses involves modifying learning plans and bell schedules, developing and deploying appropriate protocols and training for employees, providing sufficient cleaning and supplies for all sites, and instituting prevention measures and changes to facilities among so many other things. This is new for all of us and it’s important that we approach this work in a systematic and thoughtful way, providing opportunities for us to learn and make adjustments and improvements along the way.”
“We must implement a phased approach to in-person learning because we know, given the need to adhere to social distancing and other safety guidelines, we will not be able to safely invite all students to return to school buildings at the same time,” Board of Education President Mark Sanchez said. “We’re all anxious to see our students back in our classrooms and we appreciate all that our educators and families are doing to attend to the learning and social-emotional needs of our students during distance learning.”
Read the LOI.