The San Francisco School Board announced Sunday it would delay plans to rename 44 schools and instead focus on reopening classrooms for in-person learning after receiving national backlash.
The board voted last month to change the schools’ names over their association with “dishonorable legacies,” including those named after Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.). The vote sparked outcry from critics, who questioned the priorities of board members who would use valuable meeting time to focus on changing the names of schools that have not been open for in-person instruction for nearly a year.
“I’m committed to making sure every student and family at SFUSD is supported through this process,” board president Gabriela López said in a tweet on Sunday. “I also acknowledge and take responsibility for mistakes made in the building renaming process. We need to slow down and provide more opportunities for community input — that cannot happen until AFTER our schools are back in person.”
I want to make sure as many people as possible can see my statement about the board’s focus on reopening our schools. pic.twitter.com/8aJvMdNNPT
— Madam President, Gabriela López (@lopez4schools) February 22, 2021
She said she will not comment on the renaming again until after schools are reopened.
“I know families are hurting,” she wrote. “I hear it from each and every parent I’ve spoken to. We’re in negotiations to get the work on returning to in-person learning done and I’m committed to working with city partners to get vaccinations, testing and other resources we need.”
Following the announcement, Seeyew Mo, executive director of Families for San Francisco, called on the board to repeal the renaming resolution and said next time that the school names are up for debate, the entire community should be involved.
The resolution sought to change the names of buildings named after historical figures who “engaged in the subjugation and enslavement of human beings; or who oppressed women, inhibiting societal progress; or whose actions led to genocide.”
Rationale for the name changes includes Washington’s slave ownership and Lincoln’s policies toward Native Americans. Feinstein was included over an allegation that she ordered the replacement of a Confederate flag outside City Hall during her time as San Francisco mayor in 1984, though that allegation is unproven and Feinstein eventually removed the flag.
San Francisco mayor London Breed last month criticized the board over its vote to rename schools while it has not formulated a plan for in-person learning.
“This is an important conversation to have, and one that we should involve our communities, our families, and our students,” Breed said in a statement. “What I cannot understand is why the School Board is advancing a plan to have all these schools renamed by April, when there isn’t a plan to have our kids back in the classroom by then.”
Breed added, “Our families are frustrated about a lack of a plan, and they are especially frustrated with the fact that the discussion of these plans weren’t even on the agenda for last night’s School Board meeting.”
While students in other cities such as New York have returned to in-person instruction and the Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance for schools to safely reopen, it is unclear when San Francisco students will be able to return to class.
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