It’s a new school year with plenty of opportunities 

Monday was a big day. School opened and about 56,000 students poured into San Francisco Unified School District classrooms ready to start another year of learning.

I was lucky enough to be at some of these schools to see all the excitement up close. As I talked with students and staff about what they’re going to do this year, it dawned on me that the rest of San Francisco may not have heard about some of these great things yet.

Last week, I talked about how our classroom curriculum now emphasizes problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity more than ever. Today, I want to share a brief summary about some of the other great things happening in our schools this year.

Really good food — yes, really

A healthy diet is essential for success in school and in life. For school meals, we offer freshly prepared nutrient-rich foods that promote healthy growth and development. Breakfast is available every day and, at many schools, students can grab food on their way to their first class or even eat in the classroom.

Help with life’s challenges

Most students face personal challenges at school or at home at some point in their school career, and our school staff and community agencies are there to help. We have school nurses and social workers at least part time at every school. And all our high schools have Wellness Centers.

Going big with technology

Now, with support from Mayor Ed Lee, community organizations and businesses, more students than ever have access to the latest technology, including personal computing devices and online learning opportunities, to extend and reinforce what they learn in class.

Art in every classroom

We want children to have a well-rounded education and to be able to express themselves in a variety of ways. Teachers at all grade levels work with visiting artists and local arts institutions. Every fourth- and fifth-grade student participates in a music instrument program, and all middle and high schools offer daily classes in the visual and performing arts.

The whole family is invited

We welcome student’s families as a member of the SFUSD community. There are hundreds of opportunities for families to participate both at your school and districtwide. We know families try to make time for homework, attend parent teacher conferences and come to school events, but we also encourage them to become part of a governance group at school such as the School Site Council or the English Language Advisory Committee.

A safe and caring environment

But let’s face it: You can’t learn if you don’t feel safe. That’s why at the SFUSD, we help children learn to solve problems, empathize with others and conduct themselves with integrity. At every grade level, students practice skills that help them to get along with others and resolve conflicts peacefully. We use restorative practices to strengthen relationships and community building, provide meaningful ways for students to hold themselves accountable for their actions, and support students to take responsibility for making their school community a safe and nurturing environment. I’m so happy to welcome everyone back for another safe and joyful year of learning.

Richard A. Carranza is the superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District.

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