Amid a substantial setback, the head of the San Francisco Board of Education said this week that the board was suspending plans to purge the district of school names he said were linked to racism, sexism. or slavery until he reopened schools for in-person learning. .
Gabriela López, chairman of the board, said in A declaration on Twitter Sunday that the reopening “will be our only goal until our children and youth are back to school.” School name change board meetings are canceled “for now” and “we will not be taking valuable time off our board agenda to discuss it further as we need to prioritize reopening She said.
“I want us to focus our time and actions where they matter most,” López added. “On the safety of our children and on their safe return to school.”
The council’s renaming effort had been criticized by some parents, students and elected officials for its goals and timeline. The board began this work in 2018 and planned to rename the schools by April. San Francisco public schools have focused on distance learning for almost a year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Local private schools and public schools in other cities have already started offering in-person options.
In a 6: 1 vote last month, the school board decided to rename 44 of its 121 schools because it said the schools were named after historical figures who meet the following criteria: “engaged in the subjugation and slavery of human beings. beings; or who oppressed women, inhibiting societal progress; or whose actions led to genocide; or that has significantly reduced the chances of those of us having the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. “
Among the schools targeted for a name change were those named after Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Senator Dianne Feinstein.
Washington and Jefferson owned slaves. Lincoln has been criticized for his response to the so-called Minnesota Uprising, in which more than 300 Native Americans were sentenced to death by a military court after being accused of attacking white settlers in 1862.
Ms Feinstein was on the list because a vandalized Confederate flag outside City Hall was replaced while she was mayor of San Francisco.
“I recognize and take responsibility that mistakes were made in the name change process,” Ms. López said in her statement on Sunday.
Ms López also said in the statement that the council will revamp its name change process to make it “a more deliberative process” and include input from historians from local universities.
She did not say when the name change process would restart, but said in her statement that “this is the last time I will publicly comment on the name change until the schools reopen.”
The council’s vote in January to rename the 44 schools was criticized by some as inappropriate amid the coronavirus pandemic and uncertainty over when students might return to class.
Earlier this month, the city made the dramatic decision to sue its own school district to force it to reopen schools. City officials cited testimonials from doctors and parents about the emotional effects of distance learning on students.
The latest on how the pandemic is reshaping education.
The mayor of London Breed had also criticized the timing of the council’s actions on school names.
“What I don’t understand is why the school board is coming up with a plan to have all of these schools renamed by April, when there is no plan for our kids to come back to class. here there, ”she said in a statement last month.
Sunday, Mrs. Breed retweeted an article from the San Francisco Chronicle with the headline: “San Francisco has the lowest coronavirus case rate of any major US city.” Its schools are among the last to reopen. She added, “We should safely reopen public schools.”
Ms Breed’s office did not immediately respond to an email message on Tuesday.
Yukina Grady, a senior at Abraham Lincoln High School, welcomed the council’s announcement to suspend the name change process. “The school name change is important, but in terms of timing it just wasn’t ideal,” she said in an interview on Tuesday. “In some ways, it was a bit performative.”
It is not clear when students can return to school in San Francisco. Ms López’s statement did not outline a timeline and she did not immediately respond to an email message on Tuesday evening.
Ms Grady said she looks forward to returning to class, but plans to embark on a particular school day in a few months.
“If I could just graduate on stage, walk on stage and have a real degree with the people I’ve been in school with for four years, I think that would be good,” she said. .
“Even though we weren’t able to spend our last year together,” she added, “we can still say a final goodbye.”