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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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News + PoliticsEducationSFUSD starts fraught project of considering school closures

SFUSD starts fraught project of considering school closures

Superintendent announces draft criteria for which schools will shut or be consolidated as the number of students keeps dropping.

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The San Francisco Unified School District has officially shared considerations for school closures, launching a careful timeline for community input sure to be fraught with anxiety. 

During an online presentation, district officials Thursday debuted the first draft of criteria options they would use to determine which schools to close or merge, which include: historical inequities, school and program access, attendance, academic performance, school discipline, enrollment, family demand, building condition and use, cost per student, and teacher turnover. 

This SFUSD slide suggests a lot of closures.

Superintendent Matt Wayne stressed that no schools would close during the 2024-2025 school year, but that changes determined this year would take effect the following year.  

The district expects a $420 million deficit by the 2025-2026 school year without major action. SFUSD has just under 50,000 students across 132 schools.

“Our resources are simply stretched too thin,” Wayne said during a webinar on Thursday evening. “No one wants to think about their school or any school closing its doors. The status quo is not working for our schools.”

SFUSD expects to lose more students, which means less state funding. The student count stood at about 53,000 students during the 2017-2018 school year and is projected to drop to 44,000 students by the 2032-2033 school year, the presentation showed. Wayne attributes the drop to population loss and cost of living in San Francisco and California, plus fewer births.

Teacher and labor shortages continue, which this year meant starting the school year with 21 percent of classrooms without teachers. The district also estimates it needs $6 billion to upgrade all its school buildings, Wayne added.

Families and other stakeholders have until April 7 to provide feedback on the draft criteria, which will be used to update the list of school closure considerations before the next town hall. The district will go through another round of community input on the latest criteria until May 6. It will then go to the school board in June for feedback. 

Before officials make closure recommendations public in the fall, Stanford University researchers will analyze equity impacts. 

In September or October, the big moment arrives: Wayne will present the list of schools proposed for mergers or closures. In December, the school board will vote on the recommendations.  

Attendee responses, which weren’t available for viewing in the webinar chat, read aloud by Wayne included questions around central office spending and the over 200 pink slips for staff despite shortages. Though Wayne said they’re working to retain everybody as they rework the budget, but that notices must be given for potential layoffs early in the year due to state requirements.

As for central office spending, a city audit last year found that the median of administration spending from peer districts stood at 18% while SFUSD’s central office spending hovered at 25 poercent of its budget during the 2020-2021 school year. 

Since then, Wayne said, cuts have brought the district down to 22 percent of spending on central office and will be less than 20 percent next year. The teacher’s union last month issued its own report, questioning administrative bloat and taking a closer look at the enrollment center staffing. 

Take the survey here until April 7. For more information on school closure planning, follow the district’s landing page.  

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