San Francisco Public Schools To Close For Three Weeks

 San Francisco’s Buena Vista Horace Mann Elementary School
Photo credit Jeffrey Scaub/KCBS

The San Francisco Unified School District will shut down the public school system for three weeks starting Monday, March 16 in response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

The sweeping move is an attempt to protect 54,000 students and more staff in 133 schools from the rapidly spreading virus. 

“All school buildings, activities for students including school day instruction and extracurricular activities, childcare, before and after school services, health services, enrichment are cancelled,” said Superintendent Vincent Matthews at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

The three-week closure of California's seventh largest school district includes a previously scheduled spring break and applies primarily to students, who are expected to return to school April 6. 

“Staff will be working part of this time and using the time to prepare and train on how to educate and support community health during this epidemic,” the district said in a statement.

Officials are advising families to keep students at home and minimize social contact as much as possible in order to reduce exposure and avoid spreading the virus.

“Children have not been shown to be a high-risk group for serious illness from this virus. However, they can transmit the virus to those most vulnerable. Public health officials recommend that families make arrangements for childcare during closure that avoid leaving children with elderly people who are more vulnerable to the impact of the virus,” said the district’s statement.

The district says it is working with city officials to ensure that families still receive necessary services that schools ordinarily provide, such as free meals for students from low-income families.

“This will be hard and a huge challenge for ALL families, but of course we are especially concerned about families who cannot take time off of work, do not have other child care options, and students who rely on school for food and so much more,” said San Francisco Supervisor Matt Haney. “The city will have to step up.”

SF public schools will be closed for two weeks, starting on Monday.I am in touch with the school district, families, teachers and staff, and city departments about how we can support students, staff and families during this time.

— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) March 12, 2020

The announcement comes after an hours-long emergency meeting of the school board Thursday, one day after officials said they were working to keep schools open. Officials made the decision to close Lakeshore Elementary earlier in the week after four students and their adult family members developed a respiratory illness. Those patients are undergoing testing for COVID-19.