San Francisco Teachers Union Agrees To Return For In-Person Learning After City Threatened To Sue School District

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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San Francisco teachers unions have reached a tentative agreement with the district to return to classrooms days after the city announced its plans to sue the district to force it to reopen, numerous sources reported. 

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) said that it had come to a tentative agreement with a group of unions representing teachers in its district on Sunday, ABC 7 reportedThe agreement stipulates that schools can return to in-person learning once the city is in the Red Tier, meaning there is substantial COVID-19 spread.

Currently, the Bay Area region is in the Purple Tier, meaning COVID-19 is widespread, according to California’s tier assignment system. Teachers would also need to be vaccinated in order to return if the city enters the Red Tier.

If vaccinations are not available, then schools would reopen once the city enters the orange tier, meaning COVID-19 spread is moderate, or any lower tier, according to the agreement. 

“The tentative agreement addresses the health and safety standards necessary for the return of students at all grade levels, preschool through 12, and the parties have agreed to meet and confer on any additional negotiable impacts of the District’s plans for the return of middle and high school students,” the statement says.

Susan Solomon, the president of the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), said teachers would only return to in-person learning instruction once the city entered the Red Tier, according to ABC 7.

“Now we need city and state officials to step up and make vaccines available to school staff now, while UESF continues to focus on finalizing agreements around classroom instruction, schedules, and continuing to improve remote learning for the students and families who choose not to return even with these standards in place,” she said.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 17: A mural of Abraham Lincoln is visible outside of Abraham Lincoln High School on December 17, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Two days prior, city attorney Dennis Herrera announced plans to sue the San Francisco Board of Education and SFUSD for violating a state law requiring districts to establish a clear plan during the pandemic that details actions they will take to move toward “classroom-based instruction whenever possible,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday. (RELATED: San Francisco To Sue Its Own School District Over Lack Of Clear Reopening Plan To Force It To Open Classrooms

Herrera said the district’s plan has been full of “ambiguous, empty rhetoric.” Although the law compels the district to create a plan for students who’ve suffered “significant learning loss” during school closures, not a single student out of the 52,000 in the district have returned to their classrooms in almost a year. 

Roughly 14,000 students were expected to return to classrooms between January and March as part of a reopening for the district’s youngest and most vulnerable students, including those with special needs and those who are homeless. However, San Francisco school district and the teachers’ union has failed to come to an agreement. Mayor London Breed said the union had unrealistic requirements, according to ABC 7.

Unions representing workers at the SFUSD have previously made some demands that go far beyond the Department of Public Health’s requirements, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Some union members urged a strike if schools go forward with reopening before all school employees have had access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 17: A sign is posted outside of Abraham Lincoln High School on December 17, 2020 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci has recommended that schools should reopen and bars close as part of an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus while mitigating the impact of keeping children from the classroom. Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Tom Frieden echoed this belief, and said in February that schools can be reopened with a “reasonable degree of safety” even before the vaccine is distrusted.

“We can’t hold up reopening schools for vaccination,” Frieden told CBSN. “The fact is, that we have seen very little spread in academic settings in schools. Most of what we see is spread in the community.”