By JR Valrey, The People’s Minister of Information
Yesterday Governor Gavin Newsom just announced a $2 billion plan to reopen schools by mid-February. The proposal will be submitted to the state legislature, and as an economic incentive for school districts that comply, additional funding of up to $450-$750 per student will be made available, if school districts commit to the re-opening timeline. The plan especially emphasizes getting students from kindergarten to sixth grade, in underserved districts disproportionately affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. The additional funds are expected to help schools adopt safety protocols such as testing sites, universal masking, and increased sanitation.
Kevine Boggess, a member of the oncoming San Francisco School Board, weighed in with his views on safety and re-opening the City’s schools during and after the global Covid 19 pandemic.
JR Valrey: What is your position on the students having to take a COVID vaccination in order to return to school?
Kevine Boggess: I think this is something that isn’t being talked about enough; I feel that it’s very important that families have options and don’t feel forced into taking a vaccine. I also feel that the school district has an increased responsibility to educate students, their families and the surrounding communities about the virus and the vaccine so everyone is able to make informed decisions.
JR Valrey: At this point, what does the districts’ plan to reopen schools contain? And what kind of timeline are we looking at? Will ’21-’22 be a shelter in place – school year too?
Kevine Boggess: We are hopeful that we will be able to start having students return to in-person learning during the spring of this school year (2020/2021), but this will be different from a full reopening of public schools. Full reopening is something the district is continuing to build towards, using a hybrid model of both in person and online learning.
JR Valrey: How have the students been responding academically, during the shelter in place, in comparison to last year?
Kevine Boggess: It has been really hard for students and their families emotionally and academically during shelter in place. I think the biggest difference for families this school year versus last school year is they have more experience with distance learning and have developed more strategies to be successful. But many families are still struggling, and a big part of the School Board’s work in the coming years will be to identify how to make up for the learning loss that happened during shelter in place.
JR Valrey: How is the district dealing with the students’ academic and tech problems across the City? Has this been successful?
Kevine Boggess: The district’s primary approach has been to give students the technology they need to be successful, whether that calls for Chromebooks or internet hotspots. But there are still families and students who haven’t been able to access these resources, or who live in parts of the city that don’t have access to the internet, even with a hotspot. I would say the district’s efforts haven’t been entirely successful because we haven’t provided every student with what they need, but I do want to recognize that the number of devices that have been given out, in such a short amount of time, is impressive.
JR Valrey: Is the plan to keep flunking children who are not skilled enough to pass the proficiency tests in this new academic environment? If not, what is the alternative?
Kevine Boggess: For the purposes of maintaining our academic integrity and standards it’s important that students meet the academic standards in order to pass a class. That said, given the emotional toll the pandemic is taking on students and their families, it’s critical that we’re giving students every opportunity to get access to the supports they need to do well during this time, and if they’re not able to pass a course, giving them ample opportunities to make up for that learning loss and maintain their current graduation timeline. We have to find a way to expand learning opportunities knowing that we’re going to have more students struggling than we normally would because we’re in a pandemic.
JR Valrey: How will the district deal with the mental health crisis that is being brought on by the ongoing pandemic and the shelter in place order?
Kevine Boggess: The district has been doing wellness checks on students and their families since the pandemic caused a shelter in place mandate, but this has been hard to maintain as regularly as needed, due to staffing limitations. Additionally we need to provide more access and availability to therapists and mental health support for students, and their families moving forward.
JR Valrey: How is the district dealing with the young students lack of exercise and lack of normal social interactions, which are key to elementary and adolescent development?
Kevine Boggess: Coming in as a new Board member I will be asking to learn more about the current exercise and PE requirements during distance learning. I would like to just lift up the importance of this question and state my commitment to giving families and students opportunities to have formal instruction for physical education and opportunity to participate in sports and activities that are still safe.
JR Valrey: How have school buildings in San Francisco been repurposed since shelter in place started?
Kevine Boggess: School buildings haven’t really been repurposed since shelter in place, but schools have been using their yards to provide meals to families. Moving forward I believe that we need to identify ways to utilize all school district property to support and aid COVID-19 relief and response efforts and make sure that families, students and community members are benefiting from the school district’s resources.
JR Valrey: How can people keep up with you online?
Kevine Boggess: They can find me at Blackmindsmatter on instagram.