Live Blog: SFUSD School Re-Opening Town Hall

I’m live blogging the San Francisco Unified School District “Fall Learning Town Hall,” in which the district will be taking family feedback and questions about school re-openings for the 2020-21 academic year.

6:35 pm: There are more than 2,500 people attending as SFUSD Board President Mark Sanchez opens the Town Hall. Sanchez: “We must be guided by the science…and by what is economically feasible.”

6:38 pm: Superintendent Vincent Matthews acknowledges that there are many questions, and that SFUSD doesn’t have answers to everything. The goals for this meeting include recapping what was learned over the spring and taking feedback on that semester, hearing about public health guidance for schools, and a Q+A about the fall.

6:44 pm: In Spring 2020, most families reported that they were okay, but the disparities between neighborhoods were large.

6:49 pm: A platform called Thoughtexchange has been introduced to collect feedback both through a short survey (on questions such as the below) and provide your thoughts, as well as “to rate the thoughts of others” on a five-star scale. We are now listening to elevator music to allow for time for people to participate in the Thoughtexchange system.

6:56 pm: Most of the attendees tonight seem to be parents of children in the younger grades of elementary, as well as Pre-K. The biggest concerns expressed have to do with the lack of social engagement and interaction, as well and equity in terms of access to teachers, mental health professionals, food, learning and support.

7:00 pm: While plans won’t be finalized until July 28, the general direction should be made clear by this Friday. It’s mentioned that PreK, TK, and K students weren’t given instruction via Zoom, as it was not felt to be developmentally appropriate, so they had less social interaction than older students.

7:05 pm: Ana Validzic from the SF Department of Public Health shares some general safety guidelines that SFUSD will be paying attention to:

  • symptom screening, with temperature checks either at school or at home
  • stable cohorts and physical distancing (6′ when possible, but 3′ for students okay).
  • hand washing on schedules, with every instructional area having hand sanitizer or a hand washing station
  • use of face coverings (masks), although there are exemptions for medical or behavioral conditions; if a mask is not worn, the student needs to maintain 6′ of distance. Face shields cannot replace masks.
  • cleaning and disinfection, with routine cleaning of frequently-touched surfaces; the virus is easily killed and doesn’t require deep cleaning
  • ventilation

7:24 pm: Another round of Thoughtexchange is used to gather questions and feedback about the fall. Here are some of the top comments:

7:27 pm: “We are focusing on safety recommendations for everyone, but with increased focus on older students and staff” given evidence that the youngest children are less at risk and less likely to transmit the disease.

7:30 pm: Dawn Kamalanathan is SFUSD’s Chief Facilities Officer and she worked for 12 years for the Recreation and Parks Department; she’s looking into holding classes outdoors.

7:32 pm: Cloth masks are “perfectly fine” and although SFUSD is scheduled to receive PPE shipments, the general requirement is not for medical-grade supplies.

7:38 pm: Superintendent Matthews: SFUSD wrote to the state to let them know they can’t follow health guidelines if budgets are cut. State came through on PPE, but there are still gaps. There may be another opportunity for funding at the federal level. Mark Sanchez: Spark SF Public Schools is set up to receive donations for SFUSD; they’ve received $5M so far during the pandemic and would be glad for more.

7:40 pm: This Friday, July 10, high-level (i.e. general) recommendations will be published to the website, in advance of the board meeting on July 14. This will give everyone a general sense of the direction–i.e. distanced learning vs. in-person vs. hybrid. The detailed plan will be delivered on July 28, three weeks before the start of school.

7:43 pm: In response to a question about “LIVE distant learning,” Sanchez helps Matthews out to understand that this is meant to refer to synchronous learning experiences rather than asynchronous.

7:49 pm: Matthews: We don’t want to open schools only to have to close them again. Everyone shares the concern about spread of COVID-19. Clarification that as of this moment, given that case numbers are rising, schools are not allowed to open; the May 16 health order that closed schools is still in effect.

7:53 pm: Matthews confirms that SFUSD will meet the needs of all families (albeit imperfectly). Given the situation, if the district goes to in-person learning and there are families who do not feel this is safe, SFUSD will still work to meet these families’ needs.

7:55 pm: Is hybrid learning safer than fully in-person? It’s not known conclusively, but the national and state guidelines are based on the most reliable research.

7:56 pm: Closing comments from Matthews. Families will receive a link to a brief, anonymous survey; they’re working hard to integrate feedback as they develop plans.

Join our Facebook group Pandemic Pods and Microschools – San Francisco Bay Area to connect with families, teachers, and caregivers for your remote learning pod, microschool, or nanny share; and for resources to help you organize your pod.

The images for this post are from SFUSD.

About Littldata: Littldata’s goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing tools such as maps, calendars, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics. Reach out to us anytime at Join Littldata’s mailing list here for updates and special content to make your family logistics easier. Follow Littldata on Twitter @littldata, and on Facebook at Littldata.