'Uncharted territory': How 10 local school districts are tackling the transition to distance learning | News | Palo Alto Online |


'Uncharted territory': How 10 local school districts are tackling the transition to distance learning

At Palo Alto Unified, district works to expand remote offerings as some students, parents express frustration

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Classrooms throughout the Midpeninsula are shifting to online learning while school is closed due to the coronavirus. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

On March 13, amid a cascade of districts announcing closures, Santa Clara County announced a mandatory three-week closure of all public schools. Many private schools had already planned to close, and as of Monday, the vast majority of children in California are not going to school for the time being.

On Tuesday, March 17, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that he anticipated schools would remain closed through the rest of the school year. While this news had not been made official as of Wednesday morning, March 18, it is putting school districts across the state on notice that the current closures could well last far longer than initially anticipated.

Newsom on Wednesday issued an executive order to waive, pending federal approval, this year's statewide standardized testing for California's more than 6 million public school students.

"This time is stressful enough for students, families and educators without the additional burden of annual testing," Newsom said. "This is an unprecedented time, and our main focus is on supporting the mental and socioemotional health of students, while continuing to provide educational opportunities such as distance learning."

Amidst constantly-changing mandates, in a matter of days school districts around the region have been tasked with switching their primary mode of learning for thousands of students, instructing teachers in how to use new platforms and ironing out plans to continue to serve their neediest students breakfast and lunch each weekday.

Here's what we know about what online learning will look like for students, from Mountain View to Palo Alto to Woodside.

Palo Alto Unified

In the first week of distance learning in the Palo Alto Unified School District, students and parents received online resources and assignments of varying degrees and levels, none of which is being graded at this time.

The alternative learning options are more straightforward for elementary and middle students than high schoolers, some of whom have said they are seeing wide variation in assignments from teacher to teacher. The district is reminding students and parents at all grades that none of what's being provided at the moment is meant to replicate full, in-person instruction — though given comments this week from Newsom that schools will likely not reopen this academic year, districts throughout the state will have to tackle that soon.

The district sent out on Monday common study guidelines for each grade level of elementary school with suggested daily reading, writing and math activities, as well as other resources for access to additional learning and enrichment opportunities. Most of the activities are designed for students to complete independently. Specialists will be checking in with elementary teachers to keep tabs on support of English language learner students, the district said.

Third graders, for example, should read for 25 to 30 minutes each day, practice writing in genres they've already been taught for about 20 minutes each day and math problems for 20 to 30 minutes per day. The district also provided online resources — including audiobooks, math games, art lessons, music and Khan Academy videos — for further engagement.

Secondary school students are being asked to complete about one hour of work per class for the week — a number that will increase next week. Teachers are being asked to post their "flexible learning options" on Schoology, the district’s online learning management system, and be available for remote office hours to work with students. The district has said that education specialists will provide support to secondary students on Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) through office hours on Schoology. Staff are working through how to support special-education students and are looking to the state for guidance on how to comply with complex legal requirements for special-education services during extended school closures.

Middle and high school English learner students who are enrolled in in-person support classes will have a flexible learning option posted in Schoology, the district said.

High school students said they've mostly received straightforward work, such as assigned reading, essays, worksheets and math problem sets. Some but not all teachers are using video conferencing via Zoom (which all teachers have access to). One JLS Middle School music teacher recorded herself singing sections of a song and sent it out to students in parts for them to sing along. A Palo Alto High School film composition teacher asked students to watch a movie with her on Zoom this Friday.

According to Superintendent Don Austin, more than 100 Palo Alto Unified teachers had used Zoom for lessons or to interact with students as of Tuesday. In an interview he said that he feels "confident" that all Palo Alto Unified students have internet access at home and will continue to check in with needy students while school is closed. Palo Alto Unified is a 1:1 district, meaning each student has access to a Chromebook laptop, which some families have been picking up from the schools this week, Austin said.

Eric Bloom, who teaches history, social science and AP macroeconomics at Palo Alto High, said teachers have not been asked to use Zoom for instruction, though more are starting to use it to meet with each other and familiarize themselves with the platform. The teachers that are using it for instruction now are doing it on their own initiative, he said. He's thought about what it would take to teach a virtual lesson and the expectations for students learning in that way.

"I'm not cynical in the sense that it's beyond the capacity but that's a whole lot of things to do at the same time when we're not supposed to be 6 feet from each other and (we are) working by ourselves at home," Bloom said. "Just like having more nurses and more masks, perhaps one of the things that our district should think about is, how can we facilitate distance learning? If that's a priority, let's start developing it."

Some students and parents have voiced concern about the lack of consistency in distance learning at this time, particularly for high school students.

"There does not seem to be any uniformity," Jade Chao, president of the Palo Alto Council of PTAs, told the school board on Tuesday evening. "We are also seeing unequal methods used by teachers" in homework, materials and communication with students.

Gunn High School senior Claire Cheng, the school's student board representative, said in an interview that high schoolers are largely being expected to "self-learn," as they already do in many courses, which leaves getting work done while school is closed to their discretion.

"I'm a relatively motivated student, so I will do things. I'm worried about those students who aren't as motivated to do this," she said. "What I'm more worried about is when class even resumes — everyone is hypothetically going to be at different stages, especially in math."

Other high schoolers said they were most motivated to stay on top of their Advanced Placement classes because of looming AP exams. Those tests remain scheduled for May 4–8 and 11–15 for schools that will be open, which remains a question mark. The College Board, however, is considering allowing students to take the tests at home. (The organization said it will release further information on this by Friday, March 20.)

Two critical exams for upperclassmen preparing to apply to college, the SAT and ACT, have been canceled or postponed. Questions about course completion and graduation requirements for high school seniors across the state remain unanswered. Newsom's office is open to taking legislative action to create waivers for minimum requirements for graduation, Kevin Gordon, president of Capitol Advisors Group, an education policy and advocacy group, told the Palo Alto school board on Tuesday.

The state has also waived instructional days and minute requirements due to the coronavirus, Gordon said.

The "general theme" of state guidance for K-12 schools at this time has been "do your best but the money's gonna flow," Gordon said.

At the Tuesday school board meeting, Austin said the district's teacher leaders are working now on planning the next phase of instruction for the secondary schools — one that "we can guarantee for students and that we have the capacity to handle."

In an interview, he said that the district is "on a good path" for remote instruction until spring break the first week of April but beyond that remains uncertain.

"If this extends much beyond that then we're going to have to really start considering different options," he said. "I don't think anyone knows what that will look like with certainty at this point."

Ravenswood City School District

In the K-8 Ravenswood City School District, which has schools in East Palo Alto and east Menlo Park, elementary school students received take-home bags with books at their reading level, writing prompts, math exercises and login information for online learning programs. Middle schoolers will have access to online learning through the Summit Learning Platform. The Ravenswood Education Foundation worked with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative to obtain 300 Wi-Fi hotspots for families in need of internet access, prioritizing middle school students to make sure they can get onto Summit while the schools are closed.

While schools are closed temporarily, students and families in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto will still have access to free meals provided by the public school districts. Both districts are offering daily drive-through meals pickup at designated school sites. Students in Palo Alto Unified's Voluntary Transfer Program (VTP) who live in East Palo Alto can pick up meals at Ravenswood schools and do not have to go to Palo Alto pickup sites. Palo Alto Unified is also delivering meals to students who live in the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park.

Ravenswood is offering meals to any children 18 years and younger in East Palo Alto, regardless of whether they attend district schools, and is also offering home delivery for families who cannot make it to the schools.

Mountain View Los Altos High School District

The Mountain View Los Altos High School District is starting online learning on March 23, a full week after schools closed March 16.

The district is developing short- and long-term plans, said Superintendent Nellie Meyer when asked how the district might adapt to mandated closures through the end of the school year. "As we received this information just last night, we are working to assess what this means for MVLA," Meyer said in a March 18 email.

"We are in the process of creating expectations for students and staff at this time," said Dave Grissom, principal at Mountain View High School. "We are going through uncharted territory right now."

This week, Meyer said, "We hope that families have taken the time to rest, and take care of themselves and other loved ones. It's a very challenging time in our community and it's important to support each other as we navigate alternative learning methods and the restrictions imposed by the shelter in place mandates."

Meanwhile, teachers and administrators are busy developing flexible learning plans. Many teachers, she added, are parents themselves and must also keep their own children busy and engaged. "It's not easy but they are pulling it off and sharing tips with each other for telecommuting."

One Mountain View High School parent is sheltering in place with her son, who is currently a senior at the school.

Minako Walther, who teaches Japanese, said in an email Tuesday that she was planning her own online coursework because she hadn't seen specific instruction from the superintendent or principal about what would be required. Not all teachers at the school are trained in distance learning, but she added, "I believe that we can adapt."

One challenge is that some students do need extra assistance and reminders to do their work, she said. At this point, she's not certain whether to implement assessments and quizzes, and is planning to mainly teach through Google Classroom. Students will be able to submit handwriting and speaking assignments, as well as slides for research projects, but she expects students to lose out on the listening and conversational exercises that took place in her classroom.

The physical separation from her classroom and the students she works with will be hard. "In general, I love my job, (and) being able to meet with my students and classes. School is my happy place to be," she said. She's also worried that last week might have been the last chance to see some of her students who will be moving out of state at the end of the school year.

Her son, Jiro, a senior, is dealing with his own set of uncertainties.

He said he wasn't surprised that his school closed, which seemed overdue after the county banned large gatherings.

"I had always thought of finishing my last semester of high school like any other year does (doing senior events, being on campus and whatnot) but now everything seems up in the air," he said in an email. "While I am sad that my senior year basically came to a pause, I understand the severity of this issue and am glad that such measures have been taken."

Events he's looked forward to have now been canceled or are at risk of cancellation. Battle of the Classes, rallies and musicals are canceled; he's not sure if his last season on the badminton team will resume or not. Prom and graduation are up in the air, as is a senior trip to Montreal.

College and university closures are also raising uncertainty for Jiro about his future. He has been admitted to Stanford but the university's annual weekend for admitted students, an event that helps many prospective students decide where to attend college, has been called off. "With admit days/weekends being cancelled at institutions across the nation, it seems that this year students will have to make decisions through virtual tours and internet research instead," he said.

Los Altos School District

The Los Altos School District had been preparing for several weeks for potential school closures, and was set to start on its distance learning program Wednesday, March 18, according to Superintendent Jeff Baier.

Distance learning for students may have a different cadence, he said.

The district will be using Google Classroom as the backbone for its distance learning offerings, along with Google Meet, a business service the company is offering to schools that allows group videos to be recorded for later use.

Younger students will be expected to spend two or three hours per day watching videos and doing independent work, while older students will have class from four to six hours per day, according to Sandra McGonagle, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.

Case managers for students who have individualized education plans will be in contact with families to monitor student progress toward their goals and will work with general education teachers to work through accommodations needed for distance learning.

The district has surveyed families to see which don't have Wi-Fi at home, and the district has ordered hotspots that it expected to be delivered this week.

As for who's on campus, some functions still need to be completed at the district offices, but "it's more of a skeleton crew," Baier said.

"We are met with this crisis. We recognize that it's bigger than us – that it's a county, state, national and international crisis," said Baier. "We still believe strongly that we have a duty to educate the kids entrusted to us."

Bullis Charter School

Distance learning started March 17 at Bullis Charter School and seems to be going smoothly, according to Principal Cynthia Brictson. Students in kindergarten through second grade are using the Seesaw platform, while older students are using Google Classroom.

The school is using Zoom to have small group video conferencing and some one-on-one check-ins between students and teachers. The plan is for teachers in English language arts and math to each set up small group check-ins at least twice a week, so students get four check-ins weekly. For students in grades six and up, the district is running its regular schedule, having students join a different Zoom video conference classroom roughly every hour to take their core classes as well as drama, music, Mandarin, art and physical education.

The first day required working through some technical issues, but Brictson said students so far are engaged and families are grateful.

"The only response I have from parents is how well it's going," she said.

Mountain View Whisman School District

The Mountain View Whisman School District started distance learning Wednesday, March 18.

The district has put together grade-level packets for students accessible through the school website, which include reading logs, writing prompts, and information on how to access online instructional materials through Clever.com, i-Ready, Khan Academy or Zearn.

Paper copies of the grade-level packets were distributed Wednesday at schools from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and at the food truck that is distributing to-go lunches and breakfasts to children under 18 at Gabriela Mistral Elementary (505 Escuela Ave.) from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. For families without internet access, the district will provide Chromebooks with connection to Xfinity Wi-Fi, with priority for students at Castro, Mistral and Monta Loma schools.

In addition, the district posted a shared Google Drive with music and PE instruction, as well as "brain break" videos broken into several categories based on the student's grade level.

Access more information and the grade-level packets here.

San Mateo County

A San Mateo County health department order was issued on March 13, closing transitional kindergarten through 12th grade schools and requiring all schools to dismiss students from regular attendance from March 16 to April 3. It encouraged schools and school districts to implement at-home learning models if feasible.

The county notes that at-home learning might involve online content, paper packets, extended readings and research, at-home projects and other options.

The San Mateo County Office of Education posted on its website that educational institutions are exempt from the March 16 "shelter-at-home" order for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions, so teachers and administrators can continue to come on campuses. Facilities may be used by faculty and staff to manage at-home learning efforts, including technology support for students and staff.

Woodside Elementary School District

The Woodside Elementary School District began its distance learning program on March 18. Students were dismissed on March 16 and 17 to give teachers time to prepare distance-learning lessons.

"Daily check-ins will occur so that student progress is monitored," said Superintendent Steve Frank in a March 12 email to parents. "Our teachers and staff are dedicated to guaranteeing that learning continues."

For second through eighth grades, district teachers are using the Google Classroom platform, and for students in lower grades – transitional kindergarten through first grade – they are using Seesaw, a shared learning platform that is tailored to younger children, he said.

Menlo Park City School District

The board of the Menlo Park City School District, which has schools in Atherton and Menlo Park, plans to convene for a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, to discuss progress on the district's distance learning efforts, which began this week. District Public Information Officer Parke Treadway said officials will meet over video conference, which the public can view and participate online, given the shelter-in-place order.

The district is loaning students internet-enabled devices for distance learning if they need them, according to a March 13 email to parents. District officials are distributing iPads for kindergarten and first grade students and Chromebooks for grades two through five at each school's front office. Hillview Middle School students will continue using their assigned iPads.

Students who require temporary internet services in their homes to access the district's digital learning resources can reach out to the district's family engagement coordinator.

The district is using several online platforms for distance-learning instruction. For example, in kindergarten through fifth grade, teachers will use Seesaw to share video messages, as well as assignments with their students, a parent guide the district created for distance learning states. Students regularly post evidence of learning in Seesaw, and teachers share feedback with learners there as well.

Second through eighth grade teachers may also use Google Classroom to post lessons, facilitate online discussions and accept student assignment submissions.

Kindergarten through eighth grade teachers may opt to hold video chats over Google Hangout with students to give live instruction, host discussions and to continue to build social-emotional connections with students.

Portola Valley School District

Upper grade teachers in the Portola Valley School District will use Google Classroom to upload content – from podcasts to Khan Academy videos to online textbook assignments, said John Davenport, a social studies instructor who teaches seventh and eighth graders at Corte Madera School. Davenport planned to use Google Meet video conferencing to have live meetings with students as well, and said students will give a lecture to their peers through the platform.

Students in kindergarten through third grade can pick up and drop off assignments at Ormondale School, he said. Pickup and drop-off times are intentionally staggered so there aren't a lot of people together at one time, he noted.

Each student already has his or her own district-issued Chromebook, which they can use for distance learning, said Davenport.

He added that the transition to distance learning has been smooth. Teachers were given the afternoon of March 13, along with March 16 and 17, to prepare distance-learning materials.

"My sense of things from talking to other teachers (in the district) is everyone is fine with it (distance learning)," he said. "We're well situated with our access to technology. A lot of it has to do with how the administration handles the transition and they made it a lot easier on the teachers. … It's interesting to see how quickly, strongly and well this district has made this transition."

Sequoia Union High School District

The Sequoia Union High School District, which stretches from the southern border of San Mateo County to Belmont and serves nearly 10,000 students, began distance learning on March 16 through an online platform called Canvas, according to an email to district families on March 13.

Last week, the district surveyed students and handed out Chromebooks to students who said they didn't have devices they could work on at home, according to the district website. Mobile hotspots for internet access also became available to students on March 18.

Students with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) were contacted by their providers regarding how their plans will be implemented this week. The district didn't provide any further details on how these plans will be carried out with the move to distance learning.

Menlo College

Beginning March 18, all classes moved to online instruction at Menlo College in Atherton.

Bill Widmer, an Atherton City Council member and adjunct professor at the private school who is teaching two sections of operations and supply chain management this semester, said he is now familiarizing himself with Zoom, an online video conferencing service. He will lecture to students using Zoom at the same time and day as they met in person for classes before the shutdown, he said.

Classes will be recorded so students who might be in a different time zone can view them later too, he noted. His office hours will move to video calls.

"It's a change, but I think that it's an interesting approach," he said. "A number of universities are offering online classes, so it's an excellent learning opportunity for me. … There is a lot of anxiety in the community about the disease. No one seems to know the incubation period and people may not even know they have it and could spread it. At this point in time caution it is probably the best to slow it (the spread) down so we’re not overloading the hospitals."

Las Lomitas School District

The Las Lomitas Elementary School District was still developing a plan around distance learning as of Tuesday, March 17.

If you're a Palo Alto parent or student affected by the school closures, we want to hear from you. Send an email to education reporter Elena Kadvany at ekadvany@paweekly.com.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and Almanac here.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Kate Bradshaw and Angela Swartz write for the Mountain View Voice and The Almanac, respectively, the sister publications of PaloAltoOnline.com.

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28 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 18, 2020 at 8:01 pm

My 10th grader received a message from her English teacher indicating that “teachers have been told that we cannot teach via Zoom or any other online video format.” Perplexed because Don tweeted in the morning that teachers are using it successfully, Yolanda Conway then responded that teachers "are not required to use zoom but may use it for check-ins , recorded lessons and other options.”

Shounak Dharap on Palo Alto slack channel:more information will continue to come out to answer those specific questions, but I urge you to consider that because of this crisis, many students have found themselves in situations where they are now caregivers for younger children, subject to increasing community and family stresses, and unable to be in a position to be present at a specific time for a specific time. That's one of the reasons public school districts across the california have not actually been able to offer that type of direct instruction. In addition, if a district is offering that type of general instruction, they also have to provide specialized instruction for students with IEPs and 504s, and that is incredibly difficult to do on a standard online platform like Zoom. These, and others, are issues the district is working on.

38 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 18, 2020 at 8:04 pm

What about the 80% of the student body who do not have special needs? What about the members of the student body not being called on for child care?

39 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 18, 2020 at 9:28 pm

I am sharing these two articles from KQED's mindshift about unschooling, not because I'm trying to convince people to become unschoolers, but because I want everyone, including teachers, to know that your kids are going to be okay.

Web Link

Web Link

If you do nothing for the rest of the year but let them read and watch Ken Burns' documentaries, they will still be fine. For seniors, there are AP test prep books with plenty of time for even the most nervous to prepare. Without the burden of constant graded assignments, students are free to learn and better prepare for the test.

Again, I'm not suggesting people do nothing but watch Ken Burns documentaries, I'm just going to give you all the same advice that people gave us, and that is, don't focus on the negatives and how things are not what they were, move forward as if this were your choice. Embrace the imperfection and the potential freedom. For better of for worse, school is not in session and won't be for some time. Can the theatrical productions become radio plays? (Something my homeschool teen did.) If you do make decisions to evolve what you are doing, then give yourselves the grace not to impose constraints, like traditional grading or time constraints, that overlay burdens on this already unplanned circumstance that make achieving those goals impossible, or always comparing to what is now with what might have been in school.

A lot of what sucks the motivation out of students is the rigid model of instruction, and you can't undo that effect overnight. But we can avoid making students feel bad for being less "rigorous" in their day-to-day "home" schooling, because it's just not necessary to their learning.

Local homeschoolers are seriously impacted by these changes, too, by the way. Only in many ways it's worse for them because they had to work to put together their own educations. The cancelled theater productions might be their performing with professional companies that homeschooling enabled, or with all-homeschool groups that were work for the students to independently pull together. Standardized tests are often the validation of their non-traditional work that outsiders understand, so losing the opportunity to take them (for people who choose to) is just as hard if not harder on them. Local homeschoolers I know are used to being out and about in the world for all kinds of things every day, if anything, they have far more freedom than kids who are in school all day, so being restricted is hard on them, too. And yet, they are also often more used to getting advanced instruction online, without grades, and sometimes with their own choice of platform or resources. (MIT courses are available for free online,by the way, and I know students who availed themselves, one a senior now at MIT, home because of the coronavirus.)

A constant refrain among the "homeschool" groups we are in is how can we help schools and brick-and-mortar schooled students get through this time with as many of the advantages of school brought home and as few of the unnecessary disadvantages of school brought home as possible? We can share resource lists, but that's not really all that helpful on its own. There is a whole rich ecosystem of independent educators out here who are happy to help with tons of experience educating students in a wide range of circumstances.

16 people like this
Posted by bikermom
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 18, 2020 at 9:39 pm

I have 3 elementary children and a bunch of material was thrown at me with 3 different suggested schedules. It's a lot to manage not to mention children don't behave as well for their parents so trying to get them to do their week is hard. I think the school district is going to have to prepare for students to be behind next year if we never go back. The material is not specific and this is hard. I'm a stay at home mom and am trying to simultaneously keep the household running so I can't even imagine what it's like for duel income households. We're are trying to do out best but it's stressful just sorting through all of the material. Yes I also remember one teacher saying the district didn't allow teachers to use zoom to communicate. I think PAUSD did a bad job of preparing us for this. They were yanking us back and forth and then all of a sudden a few hours before school ended the we all found out and including the teachers that school was out and they were frantically throwing materials at our kids. We're trying to make the most of things and doing our part in the quarentine. Just good luck everyone.

14 people like this
Posted by bikermom
a resident of Mayfield
on Mar 18, 2020 at 9:41 pm


thank you

8 people like this
Posted by sunnypa
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 18, 2020 at 10:11 pm

I am grateful for the effort of all teachers and administrators in the PAUSD community who are working hard to find alternative learning strategies for our children. That said, I urge PAUSD to weigh the benefits of the schools' closure against the harm and trauma done to students in various grades most impacted by this crisis. I have a senior at home who has worked very, very hard for 12 years and who was very much looking forward to graduation, graduation events, and prom.

Yes, we all have a social responsibility to flatten the curve, but let's not flatten our students' joy and happiness to graduate and celebrate their high school milestones before they embark on the next phase of their lives.

26 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2020 at 1:25 am

:-) I hope that helped.

Don't worry about the kids getting behind. Remember to be kind to yourself. Kids that age are natural learners. Get them outdoors as much as possible, within health guidelines of distancing from other people. The teachers were given no time to prepare for this, and neither were you. Let this be something other than trying to do school at home. As much as you can, give the kids enough structure if they need it but cut them (and yourself) some slack. Honestly, for kids younger than high school, it's really not going to matter much whether you do the worksheets or not. Except that giving them time to dream and plan can make such a difference down the road.

Ask the independent study programs at SJUSD or COIL (Fremont) or Ocean Grove how they do it. There is a schedule of meetings between students/parents and teachers or education specialists about every 3 weeks, and students bring work samples, and it's an amazing way to homeschool because students and parents get the guidance of experienced teachers (who understand independent education), you get district curricula if you want it (but can choose something else, subject to approval by the teacher who knows the standards), students can integrate their learning and substitute real-world learning experiences, and kids can work to mastery rather than to grades. And no one is making them have to do exactly this or that on every given day. Some kids do better if they can just do one thing at a time -- does it matter if they get in their learning by the end of the 3 weeks? Letting kids have more agency in their own educations is good for them and their independence.

The above is all state-approved under independent study laws, which our district has already adopted in its board regulations. All the district has to do is put together a framework so that everyone feels comfortable moving forward in a new way. It's not unprecedented - the SJUSD program is like 35 years old, put together by techie parents in the district. I know of a family that enrolled so they could travel around the world one year while keeping their kids schooled, and they loved it so much, they just kept going.

The kids will not be worse off, and they may have more time to play, have stress-free evenings, cook and do their chores, and even get to know their parents better. If you let go of feeling like you have to reproduce school at home, you free yourself to do something else that may end up even better. Or not. The point is, you turned into a homeschooler overnight through no choice of your own -- no matter what, even in the imperfections (and it's not going to be perfect), you're learning something about your kids and how they learn, how they see the world, and your kids are learning a lot just from adapting to a new situation and seeing learning as part of life. In many ways, this is the best of all worlds because you still have our wonderful teachers as part of this journey (if they are able to cut themselves some slack, too).

Let's hope the testing situation advances enough that our seniors can congregate to graduate together. But if not, we can find a way to make it something different -- and valuable/memorable in its own right.

8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2020 at 8:59 am

Posted by Sharing, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> Don't worry about the kids getting behind. Remember to be kind to yourself. Kids that age are natural learners.

They are natural learners of "stuff". All kinds of stuff. Sewing, identifying beetles, playing with mud, whatever. All good stuff. But, they are not natural learners of reading and especially writing (well), mathematics, reading and especially writing in foreign languages, etc. Kids will need a lot of help maintaining their momentum in the hard subjects.

>> Get them outdoors as much as possible, within health guidelines of distancing from other people.

I walk a lot and have seen kids out there. "Social distancing" is really difficult for kids, and, must be taught.

33 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2020 at 11:22 am

I would love for you to spend an afternoon with a group of unschooled families. Learning the “hard stuff” doesn’t have to be hard, in fact, children remember better by doing and when they have agency and joy in their learning.

When mine (an early, avid reader) was told to read in school, and keep track on logs for someone else’s benefit, reading stopped. Reading anything beyond required stopped from early elementary through high school (home school). At home, with no one trying to push a schedule, suddenly there was time and autonomy to read again for joy. And that child’s spelling and grammar, previously intractable, suddenly fixed itself with no lessons, because there was time and flexibility and inclination to read.

For parents looking for ideas, here is one wonderful online educator (accredited) who has a list of suggestions for those stuck at home (again, typical homeschoolers are usually more out and about than kids in school).

Web Link

Check out their webinar today on family learning through tabletop games. It’s free but you have to register. Learning math fundamentals can be easier, faster, and retained better through games. My kid has taken several classes with them, not AP classes, no grades, students had complete control of what assignments they did or didn’t do—although typically they use college textbooks—and yet most of the students could take the AP exams with no prep and get 4s and 5s. They don’t promise anything, that’s the word from other parents whose kids loved the classes and recommended them. Mine had that experience. Learning does not have to be painful to be advanced. That goes for the “hard” stuff you mentioned.

You need teachers, you don’t need worksheets, you don’t have to make kids do so much of anything every day. My kid did. far more advanced learning from homeschool than in school, with more time to be autonomous. Our homeschool included many great teachers, many actual courses, we couldn’t have done it without them, but it also showed us that all that “rigor” was unnecessary and could even be counterproductive.

Kids are not in school now and they won’t be for months. There is no point in digging in on a perspective that is only going to make them feel inadequate and stressed. It’s just not necessary. When we embarked on homeschooling, we had the same worries about getting behind and the opposite happened. The important thing is to see the unique opportunities now and proceed as if it were a choice to get the best from it.

9 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2020 at 11:52 am

One of the things that is evident from all this is just how autonomous the different school districts are in practice.

This is definitely different from other countries where the leadership for this type of thing comes from the top. There is no guidance from the top regarding how elementary, secondary or third level education should interact with each other through this. Every "body" meaning educational body doing their own thing is not looking at the overall picture.

Perhaps every "body" should be talking to each other, getting guidance for each other and sharing their plans, their ideas and their practices.

14 people like this
Posted by Suporter of our Schools
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Mar 19, 2020 at 12:23 pm

I don't quite understand why PAUSD is providing such little content for middle school students and below. Other districts around us and around the country are providing 8:30-2:30 content with live classes and many assignments. I sure hope that we will be provided with something other than links that we have to guide our children through soon.

17 people like this
Posted by Joe Meyers
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2020 at 12:26 pm

At Eastside College Prep, a high school in East Palo Alto, the staff has worked long hours and done an excellent job of setting up distance learning. I have already attended classes on Monday and Wednesday (as an auditing tutor). People are adapting quickly and well. Bravo!

17 people like this
Posted by Community member
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Here’s the thing about PAUSD- many parents have sued the district in the past for a variety of reasons. This action has caused panic within the district on the ramifications of what is and isn’t allowed. If you’re reading this, please keep in mind that there are many teachers who want to connect with students via video conferencing but we are being told not to...for fear of being sued or as they have put it- for privacy reasons.

34 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2020 at 3:21 pm

@community member,

Baloney. That is just not. an. excuse. Who has been telling teachers not to communicate with students online? Did this come from cases in which we had predator teachers who subsequently went to jail/connected with students online? Are they using THAT as an excuse to intimidate teachers from doing their jobs in a crisis? Who among leadership is saying that? Please share.

31 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 19, 2020 at 3:28 pm

@Community member - what a nice try to blame PAUSD's failure to bring online learning to students on their parents and those who have sued PAUSD for breaking the law! Maybe PAUSD should just follow the law and serve its students! How about that?

Here are PAUSD's top administrators and the salaries of the 10 most highly paid for 2018 - (2019 will have been higher pay) --- all of which is public information, as they work for a public agency and are paid with our tax dollars. This information may be relevant as we parents wait to have PAUSD and its administrators provide our students with continued learning remotely.

PAUSD Employee Name PAUSD Job Title PAUSD Total Pay Year
Donald B Austin Superintendent $333,238.60 2018 full year salary level
Karen L Hendricks Asst.Superintendent-Human Reso $295,358.48 2018
Anne E Brown Asst To Superintendent -Dist. $233,712.30 2018
Sharon A Ofek Asst To Superintendent -Dist. $227,065.33 2018
Lisa K Hickey Director $221,755.53 2018
Yolanda P Conaway-Wood Assistant Superintendent Admin $219,098.56 2018
Kathleen E Laurence High School Ass'T. Principal $212,877.01 2018
Valerie F Royaltey-Quandt Middle/High School Principal $205,390.01 2018
Adam D Paulson Middle/High School Principal $202,892.57 2018

9 people like this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 19, 2020 at 3:59 pm

Zoom is not safe BUT.... It could be used just by the teachers to post and tape their lectures. Schoology is safer and already set up. Zoom can have just the teacher live and kids not on video and just on text. Anything else is risky.

Each teacher has posted when they are available and none are during the normal classes. None considered that each kid has multiple classes and they should keep the original schedule. Duh.

LAWSUITS:: Lawsuits for burns, guns in a lab set up by non credentialed teachers and without safety gear, sexual assaults on an insecure campus, grooming and having movie night with minors are things that we should thank other parents for filing and winning. The district deserved lawsuits. This should not prevent them from offering services every single other district already has up in place and up and running safely.

I would not want certain teachers to have access to my kids via video anytime they feel like scheduling it. Are you watching your childs screen 100 percent of the time? Who is? No one is on zoom. schoology they can track .

Taped lectures and email should suffice for 80 percent. There are special ed teachers that are getting their salary and they know their students and should be available the entire school day according to their contract to help them via schoology.

18 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 19, 2020 at 4:26 pm

Distance learning is terrific on so many levels. I hope that this crisis spurs the schools to finally allow course credit for online classes. It's the only realistic way to help kids of such varying abilities and interests to all achieve their individual potentials.

24 people like this
Posted by Don Austin Insults Schools
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 19, 2020 at 6:21 pm

Superintendent Don Austin feels the need to insult all schools doing a better job than he is at online learning. In his "plain talk" link on the PAUSD web site on school closure, he gives this response to why other schools already providing online instruction:

"I don't want to speak for other school districts. For the most part, districts have made press releases and issued promises. Implementation of promises may not match. Some districts have already pulled their online programs in a very short period of time. Some are claiming online learning while simply posting packets in PDF files. We aren't interested in chasing press releases from others. The PAUSD approach will be top tier within the next few weeks." Web Link

Let's break down your answer:
-For the most part districts have only issued press releases and promises
How do you know that? Can you provide a list of how you arrived at "for the most part?" And you have provided ??

-Implementation of promises may not match
It may not. Or it may. No need to imply other schools are "breaking promises" because you have not implemented anything yet. No need to demean those who've accomplished something.

-Some districts have already pulled their online programs in a very short period of time.
And some districts have not. And some schools have not, and are teaching on line effectively. Why not mention then?
Exactly who are the "some" you are slamming. Why did they pull them? Could you learn something from them, instead of slamming them?

-Some are claiming online learning while simply posting packets in PDF files.
Schools provide a mix of instructional format, combining live video conferences, some homework in PDF, recorded U tube instructional videos, online and phone office hours, GoogleChat, etc. Instructors make that determination by examining what is the most appropriate way to deliver instruction to their students.
Who are you accusing? Entire school districts and all of their teachers? If so, how did you determine their instructional decisions provides no learning, and are not effective?

-We aren't interested in chasing press releases from others. The PAUSD approach will be top tier within the next few weeks.
Very glad to hear it, but there is no need to insult everyone and demean the motives of schools who effectively forecast a potential problem and prepared a solution sooner than you did. They worked more effectively than you to deliver, that's all. They are not all "chasing press releases". No word of your "chasing tweets".
It is wonderful to know your opinion,that PAUSD will be "top tier" in "the next few weeks". That is your opinion. We all hope it comes true. There is reason to worry given your condescending responses and lack of preparation after you were invited to be the first district to provide online learning.

This type of language is unnecessary coming from the Superintendent of a large, well funded school district. It sounds very much like the tactics of special education tricksters and their lawyers.

You have millions of dollars and all the resources imaginable at your disposal. You, your cabinet, and all your teachers are being paid full salary to prepare. How much per hour is this costing?

You were not prepared. Others were. They are better leaders. Despite this, you are being left to fix this and not being blamed. You have the support of the State, County, the Board of Education, parents and taxpayers. Demeaning others with insults and threats and attempts to generate fear of how bad it could be if not done your way will not fix this.

19 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 19, 2020 at 7:03 pm

I think there is a certain message that he thinks the schools should not have closed and they are still smarter than everyone. He would have to admit he was very wrong, unprepared and with pants down. Instead he is acting like he is in control and knows exactly what he is doing. He can not pull staff together so has to act like he does not want to.

They were very wrong in sending the Gunn band to New York and the middle school to Disneyland a week or so ago too. Posting any trophies would out of line.There is NO way kids should have gone against directive of health dept.

There is NO way they can have no plan for instruction for the last few chapters of each book. They could just assign work in the book and correct it all on schoology. Instead they are coming up with new programs that may or may not get accreditation. The books are already accredited and that is what they need to be using now to be safe and work needs to be posted and kept. Kahn academy is not accredited, nor is Bozeman or any quizlets. USE THE BOOKS!!! Easy, simple solution. POst it all on schoology. Teacher can be teaching via schoology or zoom to deliver lectures and available on email during their exact class time. So simple.

20 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 19, 2020 at 10:48 pm

You want a lawsuit? Have a student log into a Zoom meeting, screenshot a fellow student in meeting, and pass it around social media. All it takes is ONE. Can't think it can happen? I give it a week.

38 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2020 at 1:20 am

Who is telling you that you must use Zoom, with cameras on? You do know that no one has to have the camera on if they don't want to. Does the district really have so little familiarity with online instruction?

Online instruction for K-12 is not new, and there is no big threat of lawsuits related to them. The way they handle privacy is as varied as the number of programs out there. There are educational professional organizations for online instruction, there are fully accredited online only educational providers -- it's nothing new. Our district doesn't have to invent the wheel. My teen has taken many online courses and not one has faced lawsuits over privacy violations. There are many different platforms, and often students have control of their level of privacy online.

If you stop and think about it, you have to admit that similar opportunities exist on campus already, including in locker rooms, bathrooms, etc. Yes, people can abuse each other, they can commit crimes, and schools do have a responsibility to do something. All that is true, but it's also true that the school's job is to educate students, and many other districts have transitioned already without problems. Many students already take online courses without any problems.

Are you really a teacher? What is it that you aren't getting from the district leadership by way of support that you are so consumed by concerns about lawsuits (when there really have been very few relative to due circumstances) and so seemingly unable to prioritize the students who need you to be problem-solving and doing your best for them right now?

21 people like this
Posted by Parent of 2
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 20, 2020 at 2:39 am

Thank you teachers and PAUSD for working so hard through this transition. It isn't easy for any of us. We've heard multiple times from our two kids' teachers this week (4th and 7th grades), answering questions and getting ready for next week.

Why some people want to bash to district I don't understand. In the last 10 days, WHO declared a global pandemic, the entire state is "sheltered-in-place," 98% of all schools shut down, the Governor said there will probably be no "real" school the rest of this school year - and someone writes a long post here complaining about how the superintendent writes an email?? Get a little perspective.

We can tear things down or we can support each other. As I think about my own kids, I see a lot more benefit from mutual support than backbiting. There will be plenty of time later to grade everyone's performance.

8 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2020 at 6:20 am

My child attends El Carmelo Elementary 5th grade. There is no clear instruction or structure how PAUSD addressed distance learning issue. We have received a bunch of vague advise like that child should read 30 min a day and do math. What math? The teacher told not to do anything going forward because they will be bored when they come back to school. My child refuses to do anything at home saying that nothing is required because the teacher said so. Friday kids were told they can take their school computers home. Thats pretty much all support we were given. That sounds like a joke, given all taxes we are paying to the district. My child friends from LAUSD and SF have had one week of learning already. PAUSD wants us to use private tutors. How the district deals with crisis is a great indicative how it operates usually.

11 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2020 at 11:52 am

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Midtown

>> My child attends El Carmelo Elementary 5th grade. There is no clear instruction or structure how PAUSD addressed distance learning issue. We have received a bunch of vague advise like that child should read 30 min a day and do math. What math? The teacher told not to do anything going forward because they will be bored when they come back to school.

Wow. That's the way it worked in 1959. I can't believe that there are still teachers out there who adhere to the old lockstep militaristic education model.

My advice is that this is a good time for your young student to work on things that really interest your child but that there wasn't enough time for during the regular grind. That could be reading some appropriate adult novel(s), practicing the piano, drawing, or doing 100 situps and pushups every hour. Or studying microbiology. For some students, that could be mathematics, if that is really interesting to them. What really interests your fifth grader? Socializing with other kids? Well, what *else* interests them?

11 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 20, 2020 at 12:30 pm

It is stunning to me how PAUSD has dropped the ball. The instruction Menlo Park and Los Altos are providing at this point for elementary schoolers (my son is in 4th grade) is superb, including teachers reviewing and commenting on work done during the day. We got a vague email and some links. What exactly is that supposed to mean? And no, I will not un-school my child, have him watch random videos or stare at a bug all day. Math is a cumulative subject that requires constant learning, finding interesting grade-level reading for science is hard, providing/supervising/editing reading/writing assignments takes hours. We both have careers. I am spending hours every day and night on this. And I have a wonderfully engaged kid that actually likes learning (for now!).

What is he doing? I shelled our for a commercial math program (Beast Academy) that we previously used to supplement. He also watches videos on math concepts. He spends an hour reading a popular science book and then writing answers to essay questions that I provide. He reads fiction (his choice but our recommendations) for an hour. He reads three articles on Washington Post and tells us what he has learned. Oh, PAUSD, thanks for the link to an online typing course, I guess, he does that for 15 mins a day. No, that is not a complete curriculum, as arts/social science/music I just don't have energy for.

29 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2020 at 2:16 pm

Here is a wonderful article from a homeschool parent to all the parents who found themselves at home with their kids all of a sudden with school closures:
Web Link
You Are Not Your Child’s Teacher

You are their parent. You don’t need to panic about educating your child during quarantine.

"The entire world is standing still. Your child is not falling behind. ... nearly every child in the world experienced the same learning hiatus. … The greater risk to our children, and ourselves, is the stress we are adding to all our lives by believing that parents have to take on the full weight of education. The lesson to be learned from home-schoolers (and teachers) is that what kids need goes far beyond classroom instructional time. A typical homeschool schedule for elementary school kids only has about two to three hours a day. The balance of each day is filled with exploration, reading, household tasks, and learning to manage boredom.” (Remember that homeschoolers tend to outperform school peers on standardized tests, irrespective of parents’ educational level.)

Here’s one of some articles and interviews recently with Jamie Heston, a board member of CA Homeschool Assn, and experienced homeschool parent:

Web Link

“The Homeschool Association of California really recommends that parents don't try to replicate school at home,” ...“This is a really unusual time. This is a crisis and we need to be gentle with ourselves and with our children.”

27 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2020 at 2:32 pm

I support what you are doing for your kid, but I don’t support dismissing unschooling or parents giving themselves and their kids some slack right now. Watching “random” videos can be a Great Courses college class in World Geography (or a Ken Burns doc), if it interests your kids, I wouldn’t dismiss that either. As @anon just pointed out, now is a good time for kids to do things that really interest them. As someone who pulled a stressed, underperforming kid out of PAUSD and just let that kid take responsibility for their own high school education, which was scary in exactly the same let-go way (same kid became a Regent Scholar, which would never have happened for said kid in PAUSD), I promise you, kids can be completely okay or even excel without the “rigors” of school.

I’m not trying to debate homeschooling versus school, I’m trying to share that since regular school isn’t an option right now, from my homeschool to all of you, it’s really going to be okay. Please do what you need to support your children, spend time with them, teach them how to cook and build things if you want, or learn math by playing games (if appropriate), there’s no need to reproduce school at home or make others feel stressed if they can’t.

My links about unschooling are not to promote unschooling, they are to point out that even in that free extreme of homeschooling, kids turn out fine, including when it comes to college and "rigorous" pursuits. There is just no need to hold either the teachers or the parents or the children in this moment in time to a standard of school. There is no need to make anyone feel like they are falling behind, the kids will be fine. They really will.

There is no conflict with kids being natural learners and learning the three R's (or even multivariable calculus, as we found), many homeschoolers discover that kids are far able to do that stuff better when they have more freedom.

7 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 20, 2020 at 7:27 pm

So many families have never had free time or had to be with just themselves. Should be fun. Try to do something you have never had time for like learning jump rope tricks frisbee dance moves. The book you never finished.

5 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 21, 2020 at 10:09 am

I really do not need to read homeschooling propaganda right now.. it may work for you, but I happen to think it should mostly be illegal. And right now, I’m looking at the school district to take the lead, which they are not. I appreciate the message of letting kids be free and explore, and they are getting plenty of that. Thanks

15 people like this
Posted by PAMom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2020 at 11:04 am

Funny, I think factory style public schooling should be illegal, and I am not a homeschool mom.

17 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2020 at 2:26 pm

What is it that you think homeschooling is, and why do you think it should be illegal? From what you described, it doesn’t sound like your kid has any chance to be free and explore. That is your choice, and if your kid is happy, I don’t judge that.

As I have already posted, there is no way people can really homeschool just because they can’t go to school. Most homeschoolers recommend a period of adjustment to freedom that they call deschooling (which is not the same thing as unschooling), in which parents overtly don’t require kids to do anything, one month for every year of traditional school. We didn’t do it, but realized why it’s so essential as time passed.

The point being, plenty of kids do that, and they go on to Harvard and other Ivies, or just college, and grad school, and/or have successful lives and careers. You really do not have to reproduce schools at home, with the exceptions of seniors, the kids will be fine. It doesn’t mean PAUSD should drop the ball (please, btw, share the typing app), or that if they are giving kids a break, they shouldn’t be clear about it. It just means, the kids can do whatever you think is best as a parent for them in this time of crisis, and they will be fine, even if it goes for months. Rather than stewing in anger at the district, make the best of it. Your children will remember that lesson long after they have forgotten everything they got from doing worksheets. The kids will be fine.

6 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Hoover School
on Mar 21, 2020 at 2:42 pm

During this crisis, we really see the lacking of capability on the PAUSD and crisis management. How about teacher record video classes everyday as if they are in the classroom and send them to parents?

14 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2020 at 3:33 pm

Thank you. If only it were easier to communicate why. If only our district ere willing to loosen their controlling nature and encourage freedom. The best of all worlds from my perspective is having both the freedom, positivity, and student independence of homeschooling and the support of being in our district. Other districts around the Bay area can do this, why can’t we? The Hoover students have a high school equivalent, but Ohlone do not.

15 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 21, 2020 at 6:14 pm

I have homeschooled and done pausd . Homeschooling takes much less effort . Pausd is lock step rubric driven and each kids is treated as a list to be checked off. They only learn how to please some teacher year to year and can not learn how to become adults who can manage themselves or become leaders or thinkers. Pausd kids are good at being very submissive and letting others tell them what to do. Good followers.

3 people like this
Posted by AP
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2020 at 11:56 pm

It is amazing how PAUSD has to always complicate learning. As previously stated, students have books. Why can't the teachers assign chapters each week.

I am sure the teachers union is blocking any king of new requirements of their teachers, like how to use zoom or any other online teaching tool, since it is not currently specified in their contract..

8 people like this
Posted by BP
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 21, 2020 at 11:57 pm

It is amazing how PAUSD has to always complicate learning. As previously stated, students have books. Why can't the teachers assign chapters each week.

I am sure the teachers union is blocking any king of new requirements of their teachers, like how to use zoom or any other online teaching tool, since it is not currently specified in their contract.

13 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2020 at 10:26 am

Since you have not replied to explain your views on what you think homeschooling is, I feel I should point out to people that many people I know homeschool through PUBLIC programs.

Students in such programs work with public school teachers and can even take classes and extracurriculars at the high school. The reason the state supports this is that it tends to be cheaper and get far better outcomes for many students failed by the traditional model, while keeping students in a public program.

If a student wanted to take more advanced or diverse coursework not offered at high school, was engaged in an intense activity (like professional sports or acting), had any job and wanted more flexibility with their schedule, if they felt Middle College was still too constrained, or wanted to transfer to college as a junior after high school — many more reasons — they could enroll in a district homeschool program and take college courses through dual enrollment, still take a course or two at the high school, and get independent study credit for online courses, or academic projects that take a lot of time that would otherwise be considered extracurricular. (Rules may have changed around dual enrollment credit — in that case, students can take the CHSPE, yet return to high school without penalty.) In that case, the student would have so much more control of their schedule, they could do more, having access to courses not offered at high school (and under circumstances that allow them more discretion with how they do their work), while still leading a balanced life.

Stanford Online High School, by the way, now ranked as a top high school in the country, is typically done via homeschooling.

What I think should be illegal is for school districts to fail so many students, especially those who are gifted and/or have special needs, and make families choose between being retaliated against and their children being harmed, or taking on the cost of giving the child the education they should have gotten in school. (Oh, wait…)

One teacher I met who has worked both in traditional public school and an independent study homeschool through a public district like I described above, told me once, “I don’t know why every district doesn’t do this.”

For some people, especially those whose children are profoundly gifted and/or have special needs, or who want/need to unschool, such programs are too constrained to meet their needs. Again, they turn out fine. In unschooling, there is an overrepresentation of students who end up in creative careers, which makes sense as research has shown that public school teachers say they support creativity, but in reality, they support compliance and punish creativity, because in practice they don’t really know how to recognize creativity much less support it.

As for our district, your post and others seem to reflect an odd lack of transparent and good faith communication between parents/community and the district leadership that ostensibly serves the community. I hope this is not happening to everyone.

That was one of the things we most cherished about homeschooling with a school district — the close, trusting, working relationship with teaching professionals. If a problem arose, a class we crafted together was cancelled for some reason, or an unusual opportunity came up, we worked as partners to support student autonomy and the best education and balanced life for the student.

Again, my sharing before this didn't delve into homeschooling much at all, just to share that it's really hard to appreciate the box we were in from school until we got out of the box -- homeschooling isn't necessarily one thing, but the underlying principle for most is giving students more autonomy. Hand in hand with that is the observation that students can get off the treadmill and still be fine, even excel from just being in charge of their own time.

1 person likes this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 22, 2020 at 4:31 pm

I think it is privacy rights and the sad fact zoom is not secure. They have schology and teachers can tape lectures and respond in schoology . Also they must use an approved curriculum for accreditation

4 people like this
Posted by Former PAUSD Teacher
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 24, 2020 at 11:21 pm

Many comments submitted in this thread displays genuine panic in regards to teaching and learning during these difficult times. I get it, scary times.

However, I strongly disagree with the notion that students in our community are going to fall immeasurably behind due to this interruption in their regular learning routines. And, that communicating these ideas to kids is dangerous to their long term health, confidence, and well-being.

It is times like these, these unpredictable times where schedules and routines are upended that we rely on the abilities and resilience of kids and the adults around them to think in different and dynamic ways to solve problems. This is what every teacher in Palo Alto is doing right now.

Distance learning is great for facts and rudimentary skills, unfortunately, it will never, and can never replace the dynamic back and forth interactions of the classroom.

I had the privilege of teaching in PAUSD for over 30 years. My heartfelt message is that your kids are going to be OK. I had, and I know all my colleagues have, the utmost confidence in them, why don't you?

1 person likes this
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 25, 2020 at 11:44 am

former teacher

well things may have changed. Teachers do not answer emails and the principal never responds. They say work is optional and then strongly suggest doing it. They will not count any work for 2 weeks for any grade.
Teachers now have posted when they will be available, but they are not and the principal does not respond. Those times were scheduled at their whim and not during regular class times so there are conflicts. Papers from last quarter were never graded.

I am not worried about "learning" but the admin has left juniors and seniors on the edge of a cliff waiting to see if they have grades, accrredited classes or if thier grades were lower than they liked in march, if the work they are assigning and telling them do will count. It is nonsense and a horrible way to treat kids.

They needed to have a plan and be clear. Instead, NO PLAN, and now they are contradicting their own superintendents rules that work is optional. The message, Do the work, we will not grade it, but do it is INSANE.

Every problem in the district is put on the kids shoulders and this one too. Instead of making it simple, they made it complicated for no reason.

7 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2020 at 12:07 am

To the district, all I can say is: the district needs to communicate with people, and keep communicating. There is no dress rehearsal for this, just do your best, but let people know what's going on for once.

I wish I could shake them and help them see that they never prevented any lawsuits by all the plotting, kneejerk defensive actions and subterfuge, they unknowingly waved red flags and piled on even more evidence than parents already had that could have been so used against them and did more things that unnecessarily hurt kids, and people sat on their hands and didn't sue for reasons that had nothing to do with them. Get out there and communicate! Put the kids first. Treat people the way you would want to be treated in a crisis. Some people will criticize. Often, you will deserve it. Whether you do or don't,trust has to be earned, but you're not going to get there by digging in on the old ruts. Just keep district families in the loop. This is a crisis, and they need to know what to expect. Nobody needs you to be perfect, they need you to communicate.

7 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 30, 2020 at 12:15 am

@Former PAUSD Teacher

So true! Well said. Except for the second to last paragraph, which I would love to show you isn't always true, I hope people hear your wise and loving message.

Along those lines, something I wish I could have expressed as eloquently as this:

This is THE best article I’ve seen, from a longtime public school teacher AND homeschool mom (combined 25 years), and a former curriculum specialist for her district with an advanced degree.

Web Link

Homeschooling is NOT the Same as Crisis Schooling: advice during coronavirus COVID -19 shut downs

“...You are NOT homeschooling. You are CRISIS schooling. There is a huge difference….”

It explains the difference in a loving and kind way that honors all teachers, parents, and kids, and expresses why it’s truly going to be okay.

Blessings to you all! We will get through this!

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The 34th Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult and Teen categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by April 10, 2020. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category. Sponsored by Kepler's Books, Linden Tree Books and Bell's Books.

Contest Details