After months and months of delaying the reopening of San Francisco schools out of concerns for teachers' safety, the SF Unified School District has decided they won't be forcing teachers or staff to be vaccinated against COVID. Another win for "freedom"?
Many private companies and city governments, including San Francisco's, have announced vaccine mandates for employees in recent weeks, and urgency for such mandates has risen with the highly contagious Delta variant. But in a town hall meeting with parents on Tuesday, the school district said that employees will not be required to get vaccinated to be back in the classroom, but they will all be asked to submit their vaccination status.
Also, as the Chronicle reports, "The district will no longer require cohorts nor physical distancing, and classes will not automatically quarantine in case of exposure. School officials are not mandated to conduct daily screenings but can rely on the honor system of parents keeping children who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 at home."
Venture capitalist and frequent critic of SF government, Kim-Mai Cutler, unleashed her frustration on Twitter Wednesday, pointing to the fact that SF teachers and their union had been "demanding front-of-the-line access to vaccines" earlier this year while they delayed the reopening of classrooms.
And she points to a February opinion piece by Susan Solomon, president of United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), in which Solomon touted an agreement reached between the union and the district that would reopen classrooms once all teachers and staff were vaccinated. "We strongly believe that the vaccination requirement while in the red tier is the best way to keep students, their families, and all staff who work at schools safe, healthy and able to educate without further disruptions," Solomon wrote.
But the union changed their tune as of last week, with spokesperson Nathalie Hrizi telling the Chronicle that vaccine mandates are not appropriate until the FDA gives full approval to the vaccines. "UESF supports the requirement that workers either be vaccinated or be offered regular testing as a measure to keep workers, students and communities safe," Hrizi said. "We reject the idea that workers would face losing their jobs or other disciplinary actions for being unvaccinated — particularly in the midst of a continuing economic crisis."
Due to the Delta variant and widespread evidence that vaccinated people can both get sick from it and spread it to others regardless of their symptoms, it's surprising that SF Unified hasn't at least announced something similar to what the Los Angeles Unified School District is doing: requiring all students and staff to get tested weekly, regardless of vaccine status.
San Jose Unified is requiring all teachers and staff to be vaccinated or else submit to testing twice a week.
Also, SF Unified says it will be relying on the honor system when it comes to parents keeping kids home if they feel sick.
"We are using the best science and data to guide the reopening guidance," said Deputy Director of Public Health Dr. Naveena Bobba, per the Chronicle. "It really is the things we discussed — masking, vaccination, hand hygiene and really staying home when sick."
The first day of the school year in San Francisco is Monday, August 16.
Photo: Muhid Majnun