Private and parochial schools in San Francisco have reopened their doors to in-person classes amid a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the country.
The city has successfully tamped down COVID-19 infections after experiencing an uptick of cases during the summertime. San Francisco’s coronavirus infections are near their lowest levels since the pandemic began nine months ago.
While restaurants and movie theaters have reopened at 25% capacity, public schools remained firmly close, even as private and parochial schools have resumed in-class instructions. The school district is unlikely to reopen classes in this calendar year.
The district’s decision to stay closed has angered parents, local health experts, and Mayor London Breed. It has also created a debate on how best to safely reopen and educate low-income and minority students—40% of whom were Asian, 27% Latino, and 7% Black, The New York Times reported.
San Francisco’s district administrators also drew flak last month after telling the principals of a third of the city’s 125 public schools to brainstorm new names for their schools. The move came in the wake of months of protests for racial equity across the nation.
The list included schools named after George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein due to their connections to slavery, genocide, and mistreatment of Native Americans.
While the school board would have to vote on any recommended name changes, each school included in the list is expected to submit an alternative name by Dec. 18, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Board President Mark Sanchez confirmed the request sent to 44 schools, even as children struggle to cope with distance learning.
“I don’t think there is ever going to be a time when people are ready for this,” Sanchez said. “Predictably people are going to be upset no matter when we do this.”
The request for name changes was not well-received among principals and families, who questioned whether it should be a priority when children cannot physically attend school. Mayor Breed also called the decision “offensive” and called out the district administrators for not having a definitive plan for safely reopening classes.
“I had had it, honestly. From my perspective, they weren’t providing clarity about one of the most important things to kids and families in this city,” Breed said.
“The achievement gap is growing, and there are kids who live in poverty who are falling behind,” he continued.
San Francisco has created a system of community hubs for students from low-income families. The hubs, which have a capacity of 1,723, can be used by students to engage in distance learning.
The city currently has an average of 4.7 daily new cases for every 100,000 people. The coronavirus positivity rate is also at an average of 0.89% for the week ending Oct. 22, despite a surge of cases in California state.
Health experts say many children who are out of school have displayed significant mental and physical problems. This included depressions, anxiety, and suicidals thoughts. At least 16% of children who were treated at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland said they had suicidal thoughts.
The news comes as more than 61,000 children across the United States tested positive for the novel coronavirus last week, bringing the total tally to 853,635 children this year. The percentage of pediatric cases seen a steady rise since mid-April.
“This is a stark reminder of the impact this pandemic is having on everyone — including our children and adolescents,” said Dr. Sally Goza, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Children accounted for 3.5% of current coronavirus hospitalization. As of Thursday, 121 have died, NBC News reported.