SF schools are closing
Parents walking home with their children will now have to contend with their charges having three weeks off. Photo by Lydia Chávez

San Francisco schools will be closed for three weeks starting Monday, a measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, San Francisco Unified School District officials announced this afternoon. 

Students, officials said, would likely return on April 6. 

“This is not business as usual. It is likely we will see many more COVID-19 cases in the coming weeks and months,” Superintendent Vincent Matthews told reporters at district headquarters. “This will require a measured and sustained response.”  

As Mission District parents were told of the news, their reactions ranged from resignation for those who have elderly aunts or cousins who can pitch in with childcare to despair for those on their own. 

“I work the night shift cleaning offices and it will be extremely difficult to sleep with the children at home,” said Lila Celes who has two children at Buena Vista Horace Mann. Already, Celes was worried about paying the rent because her own hours have been cut back as companies have encouraged employees to work from home. 

“There is the rent, the food, the kids, it is all very difficult,” she said. 

Matthews said that all school activities — including instruction, extracurricular activities, and childcare and health services — will close for the two weeks leading up to the one-week spring break period. Already today, news hit that all activities at public senior centers have been cut. 

But “we will be setting up ways to provide meals to the students who need them,” Matthews said. 

“Instead of doing reactive school-by-school closures,” he added. “We’re gonna focus the next three weeks on how we can provide essential support for our community in this new reality.” 

Officials said the time will be spent training staff on virus prevention measures, sanitizing schools, and restocking cleaning supplies. Moreover, Matthews said as access to Covid-19 testing increases “so will the number of confirmed cases.” 

Regina Ramirez, who was walking home her two nieces after school at Buena Vista Horace Mann, said that the family had already been talking about what they would do if classes were suspended. “They have their grandmother who can take care of them,” she said and others would “rotate in” to help out. 

Esmeralda, who was picking up her two young boys — one in 6th grade and another in 3rd grade at Buena Vista Horace Mann — said she would manage by staying home. Her son, Kevin,  also had an opinion: “It’s kind of good, but bad at the same time because it means the coronavirus has gotten so bad that they have to cancel classes.”

Claudia Franco, a daycare worker, said she had one daughter in a program at City College and another at Rooftop. “It’s going to be hard. If the daycare closes, I will be at home and if it doesn’t, I can take her,” she said pointing to her four-year-old.  

Karla Coronado’s two daughters attend Buena Vista Horace Mann. Luckily, she said, her daughters have an aunt who lives with them. 

At Cesar Chavez Elementary School Roque Baron was one of the lucky parents. He is currently a stay-at-home dad. “I don’t know about other parents who are not as fortunate as I am,” he said.

And there were plenty of those.

“What am I gonna do with my kids?”  Isabella Ampuero wondered. “It’s just me and my husband.” 

Ampuero works in a restaurant and said that maybe the restaurant would have to close down, too. 

“This is a mess,” she said.

Iata Savea, a parent, was unhappy with the closing, but understood the reasoning. “It makes sense though until they can get a hold on what is going on [but] it doesn’t seem like they’re handling it well,” she said. 

Savea said that his family had a scare a few weeks ago when his daughter got the flu. “It was only the flu, thank God,” said Savea. He has yet to find a babysitter but he also said that they have families around who might be able to help out.

Mauricio Coop, a nine-year-old student at Cesar Chavez Elementary School, has mixed feelings about it. I feel “happy because I don’t like school,” said Coop, but he remains concerned about the virus. “My people in Mexico might get it. My people there are really old.”

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SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews (right), Board of Education President Mark Sanchez, and Board of Education Vice President Gabriel Lopez, announce a three-week closure of San Francisco schools.

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Julian grew up in the East Bay and moved to San Francisco in 2014. Before joining Mission Local, he wrote for the East Bay Express, the SF Bay Guardian, and the San Francisco Business Times.

Founder/Executive Editor. I’ve been a Mission resident since 1998 and a professor emeritus at Berkeley’s J-school since 2019 when I retired. I got my start in newspapers at the Albuquerque Tribune in the city where I was born and raised. Like many local news outlets, The Tribune no longer exists. I left daily newspapers after working at The New York Times for the business, foreign and city desks. Lucky for all of us, it is still there.

As an old friend once pointed out, local has long been in my bones. My Master’s Project at Columbia, later published in New York Magazine, was on New York City’s experiment in community boards.

Right now I'm trying to figure out how you make that long-held interest in local news sustainable. The answer continues to elude me.

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  1. JE – thank your for the report on our Local Neighborhood.

    Conditions like we are living today, are specially taxing on non-white colar workers, you know, the people that clean offices at night & work in the kitchen of many restaurants their families can not afford to eat at. The situation can be lost at some people, so thank you for spotlighting it here.

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  2. I have been very worried about this situation. As a retired nurse (and a vulnerable senior) I understand the necessity of keeping kids home to keep the pandemic manageable, but I was also a waitress for 12 years and I know that if you don’t work you don’t have any money.
    Can’t the city set up an emergency fund to get minimal cash and boxes of food to these parents? They should not be fired if they can’t work (sounds like their employer would be happy if they didn’t have to pay them). The city will not allow evictions (they will have to pay back the rent after the crisis is over) but these families still have to eat.
    Paying a parent to stay home with their children for 3 weeks makes public health sense.

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  3. Would you rather your kids get sick and then get you sick and then you can’t work anyways. Please don’t support short sided stupidity. Everyone is going to be struggling and be financially impacted, the mission is no different. People need to be diligent.

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    1. You are wrong. The only acceptable narrative in ML or in the Mission, in general, is certain people’s suffering, the economic downfall is more important than yours. People everywhere willbe out of work, reduced hours, needing childcare, etc but the people in the MISSION matter more than you. Please remember that.

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      1. Dear sir or madam — 

        Maybe it escaped you, but “Mission Local” is a Mission-centric publication. Hence, stories like this are written from a Mission-centric point of view. Nowhere in this story is it in any way stated or insinuated that one group’s suffering is greater or more paramount than others’.

        With all due respect, be better. Don’t be a lout.


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