San Francisco to sue its school district to prompt plan for getting students back to school

San Francisco's Board of Education met for hours last week to discuss renaming empty school buildings

San Francisco public schools have been closed for in-person learning entirely since March. This week, city officials announced that they will be pursuing legal action against its own Board of Education to motivate the district to reopen schools as quickly as possible.

"There’s nothing like a lawsuit to focus the mind and force things to come to a head," said city attorney Dennis Herrera on Wednesday.

Herrera's injunction will seek to mandate the Board of Education, which operates separately from city hall, to expedite a plan for reopening. 

The rate of private school enrollment in San Francisco is among the highest in the nation, which has further underscored a sort of class divide as 15,000 private school students attend in person classes, while 54,000 students have been learning online for close to a year.

The data in San Francisco aligns with the data virtually everywhere else, which is to say, that there has been very little in-school transmission of the novel virus at schools that holding in person classes. 

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County, a wealthy suburban enclave of San Francisco, 90% of schools have resumed in person learning, resulting in just nine reported cases of in-school transmission of the virus. 

"If you look at the scientific consensus it’s that schools can reopen safely — for teachers, staff and students — with proper precautions," said Herrera. 

Parents of San Francisco public school students grew especially angry last week when the Board of Education opted to rename several empty schools instead of focusing on a plan to effectively educate their children. Among others, the Board voted to expunge the names of Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln from school buildings. 

Mayor London Breed grew frustrated with the Board, telling the members "Let’s bring the same urgency and focus on getting our kids back in the classroom, and then we can have that longer conversation about the future of school names."