San Francisco is suing its own school district as it tries to speed a planned return to in-person public school classes.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed the lawsuit, with support from Democrat Mayor London Breed, against the San Francisco Board of Education and the city’s school district.
In an online news conference on Wednesday, Herrera said education officials have failed to formulate a plan to get the city’s 54,000 students back to in-person learning as quickly as possible.
The officials have put forth an ambiguous proposal that amounts to “a plan to make a plan,” he told reporters, giving them “an ‘F.'”
“The city is suing for a single cause of action at this point, violation of a ministerial duty, which covers when a government official or in this case, officials fail to perform their official duties. … Getting kids back in school needs to be the only priority of school district leadership,” he added, appearing to reference officials’ recent effort to rename schools.
The 55-page suit asks the court to order officials to put into place a viable plan to reopen schools safely.
Schools in San Francisco have been allowed to reopen since September 2020 and the overwhelming majority of private and parochial schools have welcomed students back since then. With almost 16,000 students attending classes again, fewer than five cases of in-school transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus have been reported. The virus causes COVID-19.
The San Francisco Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez said in a statement that “we have been working with the City and we’re going to get farther by continuing to work together rather than playing politics.” San Francisco Superintendent Vincent Matthews added: “We are working to get our school buildings open as quickly as possible. This is a frivolous lawsuit. It appears that the City Attorney has not read through our plans or joined the hours of open meetings we have had on the topic of safely returning to in-person learning. It is simply untrue that the Board and district have no plan to reopen schools.”
Breed acknowledged worries from teachers about the safety of teaching again in person but noted that the city has spent $15 million investing in mitigation measures. “The legitimate concerns of some of our teachers can’t stand in the way of starting to get some of our kids back in the classroom,” she told reporters.
Data clearly show that students, especially low-income students, have suffered from online learning and health issues are piling up, including eating disorders and depression, the mayor said.
A recent school board meeting in which the San Francisco Board of Education approved a proposal to rename 44 schools that are named after allegedly problematic people—including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.)—drew criticism from the public, who repeatedly wondered why the focus wasn’t on reopening schools. Officials defended themselves, saying a previous meeting was entirely about the reopening issue.
In a Jan. 25 presentation, school officials said they’ve obtained 100 percent of the personal protective equipment they need to safely reopen and assessed the working condition of 15,000 windows across 1,600-plus classrooms.
The sites will be ready for students between March 22 and April 19, officials said.