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SF school district, unions resume negotiations over school reopening plans

Unions representing San Francisco Unified School District employees said on Friday they’re resuming negotiations with the district over returning to in-person learning, but demands to increase safety measures stand.

The resumed negotiations come just days after City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Mayor London Breed announced The City is seeking a court order to force the district to reopen public schools.

As the Covid-19 pandemic approaches nearly a year, parents and some city leaders have expressed frustration that public schools remain closed, while most of the city’s private and parochial schools are open.

The district initially planned phased reopening to begin in January, though those plans were put on hold in December when the district failed to reach a deal with labor unions over Covid-19 safety measures for educators and other staff.

The United Educators of San Francisco, Service Employees International Union Local 1021 and the United Administrators of San Francisco say they’re returning to the negotiations table with a comprehensive proposal.

The proposal calls for the return of in-person learning when The City moves to the red tier of the state’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, under the condition that vaccines are made available to all staff. Alternatively, unions propose in-person learning resumes without the vaccine stipulation once The City reaches the orange tier designation.

Like the vast majority of the state, San Francisco remains in the purple tier, which indicates widespread virus transmission.

The proposal also calls for a series of core safety standards that would be required by the union under any tier. Those standards include:

  • Updated campus ventilation systems
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Testing and contact tracing for both students and staff
  • Small cohorts of students
  • Cleaning and disinfecting protocols

UESF President Susan Solomon said:

“All of these safety standards and guidelines are closely aligned with what state and county officials recently released and these are the building blocks needed to ensure that the school community we serve can trust that the proper safety plans and precautions are in place for them and their children.”

She added:

“While this has been a very difficult year for our school and none of us chose crisis distance-learning, we reject the idea that this has been a wasted year. Students, their families, educators and support staff have all been working as hard as we can under extraordinarily difficult circumstances.”

In a statement, SFUSD Interim Director of Environmental Health and Asbestos Control and SEIU School District Chapter President Rafael Picazo said:

“Reopening schools without proper safety protocols is irresponsible and dangerous to all students, teachers and families and workers, and especially out communities.”

The unions represent educators, custodians, engineers, nutrition service workers, clerks, administrators and technology support workers, among others.

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