Negotiations Between School District, Unions Over School Reopenings Resume

Unions representing San Francisco Unified School District employees said on Friday they’re resuming negotiations the district over returning to in-person learning but are continuing to demand increased safety measures.

The resumed negotiations come just days after City Attorney Dennis Herrera and Mayor London Breed announced earlier this week the city is seeking a court order to force the district to reopen 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 have already reopened.

Although the district initially planned to reopen schools in phases starting in January, those plans were put on hold in December after the district failed to reach a deal with labor unions over COVID-19 safety measures for educators and other staff in time.

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

The proposal calls for the return of in-person learning if the city moves to the red tier of the state’s COVID-19 tier-based system, under the condition that vaccines will be made available to all staff, or the return of in-person learning without vaccines in the orange tier.

The city, like much of the state, however, remains in the purple tier.

The proposal also calls for a series of core safety standards, required by the union under any tier. The standards include updated ventilation systems at schools; personal protective equipment; testing and contact tracing for both students and staff; small cohorts of students; and cleaning and disinfecting protocols.

“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,” said UESF President Susan Solomon.

“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,” she said.

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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