Advocacy Educators Safe Schools

Parent and educators’ questions on reopening schools…

Last night the Superintendent shared more detailed plans about staff efforts on reopening schools. It was very helpful to see movement in key areas, like testing, and also hear more details and timelines for bringing various groups of students back to schools.

This presentation outlines key phases the district staff has proposed to take in reopening schools. Click the image above to view or click here.

Additionally, I am also deeply appreciative of my colleague’s efforts to expand this conversation and make this process more transparent. Commissioner Jenny Lam, Stevon Cook, and Gabriela Lopez have introduced a resolution to expand on the Superintendent’s work which delineates clear timelines and additionally calls on the Superintendent to partner with City agencies like the SF Department of Public Health and health experts at UCSF. You can read the proposed resolution here in English and Spanish. We plan to vote to approve it next Tuesday, during a special meeting on November 17, 2020.

While this progress is reassuring, I still hear frustration from staff and families that the decision-making process still doesn’t feel inclusive. Even as a Board Commissioner, I often feel like an audience member at our meetings. One specific example is that district staff made a decision to reduce the number of students it proposes to initially bring back, eliminating second graders who were originally included in discussions this summer. When asked about it at last night’s meeting, I was told the change was made this fall, yet for some reason information was neither shared with the public nor Board members. When changes that impact large groups of students are made without input, it decreases trust with families who rely on us to keep them informed.

For these reasons, I am pushing for more transparency and accountability in the coordination and decision-making process. I am working with Commissioner Jenny Lam to introduce an amendment to Commissioner Lam, Lopez and Cook’s resolution and will share details later this week. Public feedback has been wide-ranging and it is unlikely we will be able to create a plan that meets every family’s needs. Nonetheless, I believe it is important to ensure we are transparent about who, how, and why we make decisions in this process. Additionally, I’d like to see Board Commissioners take a more active role in ensuring accountability and partnership with city and community partnerships.

I continually feel like I am asking when and where we will collectively look under the hood of our district’s re-entry plans, and it often seems like folks nod in agreement, and then move the agenda along. I know this process is time-consuming and not everyone needs to know all the details, but I think for parents and educators like me, it helps to understand how decisions are made. Sharing obstacles and challenges also allows City officials, families, and private partners to help. I believe that this is a big part of building trust with our SFUSD community, which is especially important if we are going to ask educators, families, and students to trust in our district’s ability to keep them and their families safe.

Photo credit: Photo 39714510 © OduaDreamstime.com

Questions about School Reopening

I’ve been asking the following questions of staff which will hopefully be answered at next Tuesday’s Board meeting on November 17, 2020, at 3pm. (Click here to see upcoming Board Meetings as they are posted.)

Enrollment

How many total students are enrolled in the following groups: PK, K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12?

Of students in those groups, how many families are interested in returning to sites? How are we surveying families to determine interest?

Please break out distinctions between Moderate Severe and Deaf and Hard of Hearing students who will be served in Phase 2a. Which disabled populations will this serve?

Please explain phased student groupings: 2A/2B. Who is in which groups and how were these groupings decided?

Where do student fit that are currently identified by coordinated care as needing in-person academic support?

Building Safety

How are staff establishing what a safe/ventilated room is? How are we measuring WHO recommended air exchange rate of 6/hour?

How are staff establishing seat capacity? Is this based on 6” social distancing for all students or some other method (e.g. partitions)?

How many classroom seats are available at various grade levels? In which schools?

Instruction

What will be required in order to reorganize class lists to accommodate varying needs for in-person learning? How will this impact folks who choose to stay in distance learning? (If the teacher to student ratio is 1:12, how will this impact distance learning?)

How will instruction change with in-person learning as compared to pre-COVID learning? (How will this affect school schedules and potential teacher assignment?)

Outreach

How are staff currently surveying families based on the basic conditions we plan to provide? (What do we plan to provide?)

What were the previous survey results? How did they break down by race, SES, and neighborhood?

How is the district currently surveying staff based on basic conditions we plan to provide?

Testing

What are the minimum requirements for SFDPH testing of staff? 

  • Preliminary 
  • Surveillance
  • Exposure testing
  • Symptoms testing
  • On-demand/as needed

What questions do you have about school reopening plans? Write them in the comments below

4 thoughts on “Parent and educators’ questions on reopening schools…

  1. Thank you so much for this post! As the parent of a second grader I was surprised and a little dismayed when their cohort was silently dropped from returning to in person learning so I appreciate you noting that 🙂

    Realistically, given the pace this process is going, I don’t expect schools to return for any meaningful number of students this academic year. I guess my question is, if we get to the end of the school year without an in person return will work continue to ensure a fall 2021 in person opening or will everything just sort of go on hiatus during the summer? I only ask because from an outside perspective it seems like crucial months of preparation were lost last summer and I fear the same thing will happen again. If sfusd is not going to open in fall 2021 giving families as much lead time as possible on that decision would be super useful! For instance, also being the parent of a fifth grader, it would be very helpful to know before the lottery deadline if I’m applying to schools my child will be attending remotely or in person.

    1. I agree we need to do more to utilize summer to prep for next fall. I will bring this up tomorrow in our meeting. I will require budgeting staff over the summer, but I think it would be a smart move

  2. Thank you so much for giving us this space to ask questions. I have several.

    1. What metrics are the district using to determine if Distance Learning is successful? (I.e. are kids learning?)

    2. When will a survey be sent out to families asking which ones would send their kids back if given the opportunity so the district can work with real numbers?

    3. When schools begin to reopen, what is the plan for after school care? Families may be very eager to return to class in person, but if after care is not provided, then parents may be forced to continue with distance learning at one of the community hubs or learning camps simply due to childcare needs. Also – how do we maintain stable cohorts of kids if childcare if only offered off site?

    4. What is currently being done to ensure that teachers are teaching to the state mandated standards during distance learning? (Without tests, mandatory assignments or grades, how are we holding teachers and students accountable?)

    5. What supports will the district provide to help teachers teach next year when kids return to the classroom at SIGNIFICANTLY different places academically speaking. (I.e. some kids will have been homeschooled, some will have had private tutors, some will have made very little academic progress at all due to challenges with distance learning beyond their control.) Differentiation has always been tough, but after a year+ of vastly different learning environments, teachers will need more support than ever to accommodate a broad range of academic levels in a given grade . How does the district plan to meet this increased challenge?

    6. What supports is the district providing NOW to help teachers with distance learning (I have asked both our 2nd grade teacher and our 5th grade teacher what supports they are receiving from the district, and they both say they aren’t receiving anything. Is this because the district isn’t offering anything or because our teachers don’t know the right channels to reach out on. There seems to be a disconnect.)

    Thank you so much for your tireless work in support of our children! I love that the first “core value” listed on SFUSD’s website is that we are STUDENT CENTERED. 🙂 I hope we continue to put students needs first as we make our way forward.

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