San Francisco’s school board on Tuesday night has postponed a discussion about reopening classrooms and will instead deal with legal issues surrounding their decision to rename schools.
The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), which oversees the education of 57,000 California students, has kept its classrooms shut since the pandemic begun.
While other school districts in hard-hit cities such as New York have been open intermittently for months, San Francisco’s pupils have been stuck at home.
On Tuesday evening they were scheduled to discuss reopening, but removed the item from the agenda.
Parents, seen protesting on February 6, are enraged at the delays in reopening schools
Abraham Lincoln High School in San Francisco is among those which will be renamed
Instead they will discuss legal issues arising from their highly controversial January 26 decision to rename 44 schools, losing ‘offensive’ names such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Jill Tucker, education correspondent for The San Francisco Chronicle, tweeted: ‘The SFUSD school board vote on a tentative labor deal on health and safety reopening requirements has been delayed.
Gabriela Lopez, head of the SFUSD, has been criticized for prioritizing renaming schools over reopening classrooms
‘Instead, the board will be in closed session tonight over a legal issue, reportedly related to the renaming of 44 schools. It’s unclear why the board can’t do both.’
Laura Dudnick, a spokesman for SFUSD, confirmed to DailyMail.com that the planned debate had been canceled, but insisted it would not affect the reopening schedule.
‘The SF Board of Education moved its discussion about the tentative agreement on health and safety standards with labor unions to its regular meeting on February 23,’ she said.
‘The Board and SFUSD remain committed to reopening schools safely. Planning for in-person learning is a topic of discussion at every Board meeting.
‘We have every expectation that this agreement on health and safety standards will be ratified by the Board, and district staff are preparing accordingly.
‘Moving the meeting to February 23 does not result in any delay in planning for and preparing to reopen schools.’
Tensions have been mounting in the city as the schools remain closed, and parents worry about the mental and educational damage done to young people.
Parents of the 57,000 students in San Francisco system are demanding classrooms reopen
San Francisco has kept classrooms closed, angering parents while cities like New York reopen
On February 11 Dennis Herrera, the City Attorney, sued SFUSD to force them to reopen, as allowed by public health officials.
A hearing on the motion is set for March 22.
‘Distance learning is not the same thing as school, not even close,’ Herrera said.
‘We know that teachers are doing heroic work every day trying to keep kids engaged and learning. So are overburdened parents. Even with all of those tremendous efforts, almost a year of being isolated from classmates, friends and teachers is taking a terrifying toll on these kids.’
Herrera said that parents came to him with ‘heartbreaking accounts’ of their child’s development.
He added that mental health experts report severe mental health problems, with depression, anxiety, self-harming behavior and suicidal thoughts all on the rise.
‘And yet, public schools in San Francisco remain shut,’ he said.
‘It’s unconscionable, it’s unlawful and it must end.’
Dennis Herrera, the City Attorney, took legal action against the school board this month
Parents’ fury only increased when SFUSD focused its energy on renaming schools instead of reopening.
The School Names Advisory Committee met on Zoom to determine whether the name of schools in San Francisco are still relevant or appropriate, and make recommendations to the school board.
The committee used specific criteria like colonization, slavery, racism and genocide.
In late January Gabriela Lopez, president of the school board, explained: ‘We’re committed to undoing symbols of racism and white supremacy culture.’
The panel voted 6-1 late Tuesday to approve the plan, which calls for removing from schools names of those who ‘engaged in the subjugation and enslavement of human beings,’ ‘oppressed women,’ committed acts that ‘led to genocide,’ or who ‘otherwise significantly diminished the opportunities of those amongst us to the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’
Some of the decisions are now being questioned, after it emerged that there were no historians on the board and panel members relied on simple Google searches to research the names.
Sanchez Elementary was among the schools listed as needing their names changed, after the board incorrectly assumed that the school was named after a Spaniard, Jose Bernardo Sanchez, who in the early 1800s accompanied a military expedition against indigenous peoples.
Further research showed that it was named after the eighth mayor of San Francisco, Francisco Sanchez, who was born in San Jose and is buried at Mission Dolores.
London Breed, the mayor of San Francisco, was among those who questioned the board’s priorities.
She said she understood ‘the significance of the name of a school,’ but said there were more pressing issues.
‘What I cannot understand is why the School Board is advancing a plan to have all these schools renamed by April, when there isn’t a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then,’ she said at the time.
‘Our students are suffering, and we should be talking about getting them in classrooms, getting them mental health support, and getting them the resources they need in this challenging time.
‘Our families are frustrated about a lack of a plan, and they are especially frustrated with the fact that the discussion of these plans weren’t even on the agenda for last night’s School Board meeting.’