San Francisco public school closures extended until May

San Francisco public school closures extended until May

The city has a list of ways to access internet at a low cost, so kids can study at home. | Photo: Mayor’s Office of Housing + Community Development

By Teresa Hammerl - Published on March 25, 2020.

On Wednesday, the San Francisco Unified School District announced that schools will remain closed through May 1 to slow the spread of COVID-19.

The expanded closure will also span five other Bay Area counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Clara.

The closures' previous end date was set for April 3, but had already been exceeded by those counties' shelter-in-place orders, which currently run through April 7. The state of California has also initiated a stay-at-home order with no set end date.

SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews said in a statement that the safety and wellness of students, school personnel, and the community are the district's highest priority right now. 

"Families need to continue to shelter in place across the region in order to minimize the spread of COVID-19 to the greatest extent possible," he said.

Earlier this week, Mayor London Breed also closed San Francisco playgrounds to ensure people follow the stay-at-home guidelines. 

With schools closed, the city has been scrambling to address the needs of parents who do essential work, like healthcare professionals, first responders and grocery clerks. 

SFUSD has been providing free meals to all children 18 and younger during the school closure (regardless of enrollment), and hospital staff, public health workers and first responders are eligible for emergency childcare.

Charitable organizations are also ramping up options for low-income parents. As we reported earlier this week, the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center is now offering emergency childcare and a preschool program. 

"When Governor Newsom said that schools will likely close until the fall, we prepared for that," executive director Nestor Fernandez said via phone. "I am not surprised."

He said the extended closure will impact low-income parents hardest, as many have already used up their vacation time and can't go to work without care. His organization just started its preschool program today, after adjusting its usual classroom setup to allow proper social distancing and cleaning.

SF Rec & Park is also providing services at its recreation centers. But with the Department of Public Health limiting the number of children and youth in care facilities to 12 or fewer, resources will be thin. 

Winnie, a San Francisco-based marketplace for childcare, has compiled a list of childcare facilities with openings throughout the city.

"Most parents will likely find this [situation] very challenging, but the ones who are struggling the most are those who cannot work remotely," said CEO Sara Mauskopf. "Nurses, doctors, grocery store employees, and other essential workers rely on childcare to do their job."

She notes that it's particularly hard to find childcare for kids under the age of five, whose parents currently have to apply for the Emergency Child Care Program for Young Children if they want to use the city services.

"We've heard from parents who are essential workers that they have days, or weeks at best, of vacation time, left," she said. "They need to quickly see and vet their available options."