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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

When will SFUSD Return In Person?

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

Many parents would like to send their children back for in-person learning. Some need childcare so that they can work, and others worry about social emotional and academic issues. To help parents assess the situation, I wrote this article to summarize the many data sources on the topic.

Update: SFUSD - UESF (teachers union) negotiation updates SFUSD - UESF (teachers union) negotiation updates with graphics comparing the positions.

The CDC has issued new guidance on reopening schools, and a graph of where San Francisco is for the CDC COVID categories vs. CA COVID categories.


What does the agreement between the teachers union and SFUSD require for schools to reopen for in person learning?

SFUSD and the SF teacher’s union (UESF) came to agreement about the return to in person learning. Key aspects of the arrangement of the arrangement are summarized on the UESF website:

  • San Francisco COVID status be red if in-person staff are vaccinated, or orange if vaccinations are not available.

  • Socially distanced, masked cohorts.

  • Regular testing of students and staff.

  • Ventilation upgrades and inspections.

For more details, you can read the SFUSD press release, and UESF shared the full draft MOU.


COVID19 Rates and Staff Vaccinations

According to the agreement, San Francisco must be in the red for 14 days if on-site school staff are vaccinated, or orange if not. Vaccinations will be available for onsite school staff beginning February 24th. Pfizer/BionTech and Moderna require two shots, 21 or 28 days apart, and are effective approximately 2 weeks after the second shot, so up to six weeks for immunity. J&J’s vaccine is a single dose, with immunity effective 28-days afterwards, and will be reviewed by the FDA on February 26th.

A friend created this graph that converts SF COVID rates to the state adjusted formula. Currently, we are solidly in the purple range. According to the CA state system, in order to move down to red or orange, our adjusted rate must be 4-7 to be red, or 1-3.9 to be orange. As of 2/10, we are at 11 cases per 100,000 residents. This article from the San Francisco Chronicle provides a great assessment of the current state of COVID in San Francisco and the Bay Area.


Socially Distanced Cohorts

What does it mean to have socially distanced cohorts? One common approach is smaller class sizes. In the SFUSD presentation on Feb 9th at the Board of Education, they showed one kid at desks or tables that typically fit two kids, and distance between kids. This would imply half or less capacity vs the traditional 22 kids in TK-3rd grade and 33 kids in 4th-12th grade. To make this work, for spring 2021, SFUSD currently plans for TK - 2nd graders to choose either hybrid learning of two days a week in person, with three days a week of distance learning, or parents may choose to five days of distance learning. It is not yet clear how long those two days a week would be. At the board meeting, the presenters discussed "full days," whereas some have mentioned half days. For updates and further discussion on this matter, I recommend the Facebook group, Decreasing the Distance.

SFUSD has not publicly shared a plan for fall 2021. One datapoint, for older kids, Pfizer/BionTech’s mRNA vaccine is approved for kids at least 16 years old and has fully enrolled their 12 - 15 year old study. For younger kids, no studies have started yet, but some are optimistic.

Kids who are currently at Out of School Time learning centers (i.e., paid centers offering distance learning support and activities the remaining time) would need to decide whether to accept partial weeks from kids who attend school in person, but SF DPH does allow a combination of school and one OST (but not two OSTs). For your background reading, guidelines for schools and guidelines for OST programs.


Other Requirements

SF DPH must inspect and approve each school site. You can check the status of different schools with this map. The first elementary schools have made substantial progress, while middle and high schools have not yet started.

SF DPH, as well as the agreement, require testing of teachers and students. The original deal between SFUSD and Curative to test was cancelled after data arose that their testing was less accurate for asymptomatic patients. At the May 9th School Board meeting, members discussed equesting federal, state or city funds and assistance for testing. The district sent out a new RFP for testing.


Need more help?

Vicky consults with families to help select public and private schools in San Francisco in an environment of non-judgment. Her own children have attended both public and private schools, and she believes that each has unique benefits. Email to learn more about her services.



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