Join the UESF Campaign for Safe Air and Safe Sites!
by the San Francisco Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (SF MORE)
The Fight for Safety in our Schools
San Francisco County is experiencing an alarming rate of new COVID-19 cases driven by the highly contagious “Delta” variant, and as of August 14th, our 7-day average is nearly identical to January 1st, 2021, the previous height of the pandemic here in SF. Vaccines protect many people from the worst effects of COVID, but breakthrough infections can still lead to severe illness and hospitalization, and vaccinated people with the Delta variant can still infect the unvaccinated, including the very young and immunocompromised.
SFMORE welcomes our union leadership's call for a mobilization on August 31st with the understanding that such actions must be a first step towards stronger, direct action as a union. If we're to be successful in winning these demands from SFUSD, we will need to unite across our school sites in creative, collective, and democratic disruption. Private schools and wealthier public schools are able to fund purifiers from their own budgets or from among a community of wealthier parents. For the majority of public schools, decades of underfunding have left us with meager resources that barely keep our schools functioning, generating glaring gaps in services and staffing that perpetuate existing class and racial inequalities. Through unity and organization across our sites, we have the power to win what we need and strengthen our union in the process.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the organization whose guidelines SFUSD is supposed to follow, released a document titled Guidance for the Reopening of Schools from June 2020 emphasizing the importance of ventilation and filtration as a safety measure during the pandemic. Our Health and Safety MOU states that SFUSD will "try to the best of their ability and to the extent feasible", to meet these guidelines. As of now, SFUSD says that only classrooms with no windows will receive purifiers. For the rest of us, open windows or the existing ventilation systems—which the district says are functional with no evidence to prove it—are supposed to suffice. The District’s response to the problem of air purifiers is that its electrical system lacks the capacity to sustain the increase in energy usage. In a city at the center of global technological progress, it is unacceptable for SFUSD to leave our electrical systems in such a dysfunctional state. As we're all aware now, wildfire smoke is beginning to penetrate our city, creating a health hazard that quality air purifiers can help mitigate.
The material basis for district-funded air purifiers, weekly testing, adequate cleaning, and appropriate health guidelines exists; while the state of California is significantly increasing funding for k-14 schools starting this year, SFUSD “expects to receive $140 million in federal stimulus funding that will help welcome students back with increased academic and wellness support in the fall.” The district must prioritize creating the safest possible conditions in our school buildings to safeguard the health and wellness of our students, staff, and school communities. The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) set a precedent for this with their Memorandum of Understanding enforcing installation of MERV-13 air filters in their classrooms and required weekly testing of all staff and students (the MOU stipulates testing on a biweekly basis, but has been amended to weekly testing). Oakland Education Association (OEA) has similar stipulations in place regarding guaranteed HEPA filters.
SFMORE calls on our fellow union members, families, and students to participate in our union's mobilizations and to unite our school sites to fight together. We believe that a united movement of educators, families, and students can improve our safety and build a long-term movement in defense of public education and social justice. If you’re interested in participating in this campaign, please sign our Google form, which contains an invitation to a virtual organizing meeting on Thursday, September 2nd from 5-6:15pm