California Principal Says Note About Schools’ Status for Fall Was in Error

A San Francisco middle-school principal said she made an error in composing a newsletter that included a quote from the city’s school superintendent advising parents that schools wouldn’t be fully reopened by the fall.

“After going back through my notes, and following up with folks, I realized my error,” Aptos Middle School Principal Stacey Wyatt told The San Francisco Chronicle in an email. “I failed to separate my spring and fall updates and used Dr. [Vince] Matthews’s quote about spring semester [for the] fall.”

School district officials told the Chronicle that Matthews “absolutely” didn’t say that. Matthews had previously said that schools wouldn’t reopen in the spring but hadn’t said the same about the fall.

“What the superintendent has said in the past is that … it is unlikely we’ll be able to offer most middle and high school students the opportunity for in-person learning this school year,” Gentle Blythe, the district spokeswoman, told The Chronicle.

Whether San Francisco schools will fully reopen in the fall is unclear and depends on union labor agreements, public health guidelines, and vaccine availability.

“We are planning for all options: full-1,000 student return, hybrid, and distance learning,” Wyatt said. “The reality is, if safety guidelines require six feet of separation in August, we won’t be able to do that with all students at school. We would have to go to a hybrid model. There just isn’t enough space in any classroom or hallway to offer 6ft of separation to nearly 1,000 students.”

Schools can reopen safely if proper precautions are taken amid the pandemic, a federal health agency said in official guidance released on Feb. 12.

“Evidence suggests that many K–12 schools that have strictly implemented mitigation strategies have been able to safely open for in-person instruction and remain open,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a document outlining operational strategies for reopening.

The city of San Francisco on Feb. 18 asked a judge to order the immediate reopening of schools for in-person learning, alleging the continued closure violates children’s constitutional right to attend and is contributing to a mental health crisis.

Public schools in the California city have been closed for in-person learning for nearly a year, despite being allowed to resume such classes since fall 2020; officials say those in the education arena lack a viable reopening plan.

The continued closure is “catalyzing a mental health crisis among school-aged children,” according to an emergency motion filed by City Attorney Dennis Herrera, citing Dr. Jeanne Noble, director of COVID Response for the UCSF Emergency Department.