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A New Shade of Green

By Sherry Listgarten

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About this blog: Climate change, despite its outsized impact on the planet, is still an abstract concept to many of us. That needs to change. My hope is that readers of this blog will develop a better understanding of how our climate is evolving a...  (More)

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No post this week due to distractions

Uploaded: Nov 1, 2020
Dear Readers: I have no climate post for you today. I am guessing that you have better things to pay attention to given the consequential(!) elections this week.

It is also the case that I’ve been distracted from our climate wins and woes by the Palo Alto Unified School District’s “Hybrid” in-class proposal for secondary schools. It promises to halve the instructional minutes for students who want some on-campus learning, while providing no simple backup for those who need to quarantine. (1) It’s taking me some time to understand how we got to a place where we think this is acceptable.

Hang in there for the election news and follow-ons. Fingers crossed for some planet-friendly wins!

Notes and References
1. PAUSD’s proposal for students who want some time on campus is for those students to have small in-person classes two days a week and to teach themselves the other two days a week. (The fifth day is either also self-taught or taught online, it hasn’t been decided.) This nets out to 75 minutes of instruction per class per week (or 105, depending on the fifth day). In a normal year, students have 220 instructional minutes per class per week. With today’s distance learning, PAUSD is providing students with about 80% of normal, namely 180 minutes of live (online) instruction per class per week. The “Hybrid” program would offer 34% of normal, or in best case 48% if the fifth day consists of online teaching.

A lack of instructional minutes is not the only problem with the “Hybrid” proposal. Children who may have been exposed to COVID have no easy way to stay up-to-speed while they quarantine at home. That is a safety problem. The less convenient it is for students to stay current with their classes while at home, the more likely they are to cut corners on quarantine. For example, will a student who came into contact with a COVID case quarantine for the full recommended duration of 14 days if they have no instruction for that period? This lack of continuity during quarantine makes the "Hybrid" classroom a more dangerous place for everyone. If you don't think this matters, read this.

Many private and charter schools handle this by live-streaming classes. Kids can attend half of the classes in-person, or all online, and get the same instruction either way. If a child may be sick, it is easy for them to quarantine at home and continue with their classes. However, our district has ruled out live-streaming because it is not as pedagogically effective as a 100% online or a 100% in-class experience. Classes with all students in one place work better than if they are in two places. Yet the severe “Hybrid” compromises this entails ensure that our district’s foremost option remains 100% online learning for the foreseeable future.

I believe our administration and our school board have a sincere interest in providing some on-campus time for our children. Our county and state are certainly encouraging it. Many teens, cooped up in their homes for months, are desperate for it. Families have worked hard to lower our local COVID rates so kids can go back to school. Yet PAUSD administrators and teachers have not been able to come up with an option to teach our kids a full (or 80%) measure while also fostering some in-person engagement on campus. Our district is left to promote a badly flawed “Hybrid” program with significant educational and safety compromises that few parents or teachers support.

Current Climate Data (September 2020)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

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Posted by Kathy, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Nov 2, 2020 at 10:12 am

Kathy is a registered user.

The PAUSD hybrid 'minus' plan seems intended to drive students to continue at home with distance learning. Note - the teachers' union prefers that teachers stay at home.

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 2, 2020 at 10:52 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

@Kathy, I am very concerned about PAUSD's "Hybrid" option, but I do not believe it was designed with some nefarious purpose in mind.

I do think that the district should think hard about whether it is an acceptable alternative and, if not, brainstorm with teachers and parents other ways to address the issues that we are seeing with full-distance learning, while maintaining the investments and progress that we have seen.

Posted by Staying Young Through Kids, a resident of Old Palo Alto,
on Nov 4, 2020 at 9:50 am

Staying Young Through Kids is a registered user.

@Sherry We're in the same boat re how to choose. More of a challenge is we have very high risk person in our home and 2 kids who need and can handle different things.

We do see in-person school sports and activities as a way to bring kids together with a fairly stable cohort and in a healthy fun way.

Still haven't made a decision though.

Very random segue here...any info on where or how to recycle Tetra Pak cartons locally? Does MV really offer it?

And, a suggestion for a future column (or the start of a class action suit). How can CA continue to collect a CRV "deposit" on cans and bottles while ignoring the mandate that recycling centers be conveniently located at stores in the community? I'm not even sure where someone could go within Palo Alto to get cash for cans these days! Under the law aren't retailers obligated to offer collection and CRV payout? I don't mind the 5 cents as a "tax" on items that can be recycled, just make it apply broadly (like with tech, tires, and car batteries). I'd support a small environmental tax on everything we buy based on recyclability and how much waste it (and it's packaging) creates. Our current "Owe Deposit, No Return" system on cans and bottles is a joke!

Posted by Sherry Listgarten, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Nov 4, 2020 at 10:47 am

Sherry Listgarten is a registered user.

Yes, Mountain View recycles tetrapaks. They got an "assist" from the Carton Council, an industry group that helped them to retrofit the SMaRT station to sort the cartons and identify markets.

Debi Sargent, a Solid Waste Contract Administrator for the city of Sunnyvale, says: "Mountain View brings their dual-stream recyclables to the SMaRT Station in Sunnyvale. We added tetrapaks (aka “cartons”) to the Mountain View and Sunnyvale curbside recycling programs in 2017 as we determined there were viable markets for these materials. The SMaRT Station operator received a modest grant from the Carton Council of North America (CCNA) to retrofit the dual-stream processing system to facilitate the capture of post-consumer cartons. Under the agreement with CCNA, CCNA is required to provide the SMaRT operator with contact information and locations of recycling facilities that CCNA warrants will accept and recycle these materials. During the period that these materials have been captured in the curbside programs, the SMaRT operator has received payment for these materials from “the market”."

Palo Alto's materials recovery facility (GreenWaste) hasn't done this.

Thanks for the suggestion about the CRV payment. As you suggest, maybe it's effectively become a tax rather than a rebate. Hmm.

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