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In response to the prolonged closure of San Francisco public schools, Mayor London Breed recently announced a $25 million philanthropic investment to fund free summer programs for students.

The initiative, called TogetherSF, aims to engage students who have fallen behind academically and emotionally since schools first closed back in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic and were replaced with virtual learning.

In particular, students most at-risk of falling behind include those from low-income families, English Language Learner students, and Latino, Pacific Islander and Black students.

Free summer programs, both in-person and online, will be made possible through a $25 million philanthropic gift from Crankstart Foundation, according to the mayor’s office.

“Our children have truly suffered during this pandemic, and we need to do everything we can to make up for lost time,” Breed said in a statement, saying the summer program “will support their mental health, their academic needs, and just get them to be back together with other children again.”

“Our children have truly suffered during this pandemic, and we need to do everything we can to make up for lost time.”

Mayor London Breed

TogetherSF will consist of academic in-person learning facilitated by the city’s Department of Children, Youth and Families; in-person summer camp overseen by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department; virtual learning run by public and private organizations; and independent learning with books provided by the San Francisco Public Library.

TogetherSF is made possible through a partnership between the city, San Francisco Unified School District and several community organizations.

San Francisco Unified School District leaders and the Board of Education have been working to approve labor agreements with unions and upgrade schools’ ventilation systems while schools have been closed. Dozens of elementary schools have begun reopening in phases this month for in-person learning, while the school board this week voted unanimously to commit to return all public school students to in-person learning this August.

But parent groups and city leaders have criticized the district and school board, saying they aren’t moving fast enough — to the detriment of students.

The new philanthropic funding for the program comes after supervisors Matt Haney, Hillary Ronen, Myrna Melgar and Connie Chan proposed free summer programming for students.

“This year has taught us that the public school system plays many essential roles in our society and we must nurture, prioritize, and adequately fund it if our kids are to get the education they deserve,” Ronen said.