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Palo Alto schools to remain closed through May 1

County health officials, superintendents agree on extended regional closures

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A woman walks past a marquee outside Greene Middle School in Palo Alto on March 18. School closures in six Bay Area counties, including Santa Clara County, have been extended through May 1 to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Hundreds of public schools in six Bay Area counties, including in Santa Clara County, will remain closed through May 1, county health officers and superintendents of schools have decided.

Palo Alto schools had been set to reopen after spring break in April, though that seemed increasingly unlikely as coronavirus cases continued to rise and Gov. Gavin Newsom indicated last week that campuses wouldn't likely reopen this academic year.

The new decision, which is not an official order from the county health departments but was agreed to by each county superintendent, affects schools in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and Alameda counties as well as the San Francisco Unified School District.

"The well-being of our students, families and communities is our primary concern. We will continue to take all necessary steps to prepare schools for reopening," said Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County Superintendent of Schools. "Meanwhile, it is absolutely crucial that we work together to slow the spread of COVID-19, by adhering to the shelter-in-place orders and continuing to support learning at home."

San Mateo County Superintendent of Schools Nancy Magee said that "working together to address a virus that respects no boundaries is the right approach."

Across the six counties, school facilities can remain open to staff "for the purposes of performing tasks deemed essential by the school district and county offices of education," the announcement reads. "Education will continue through flexible learning, meals will continue to be provided and, where possible, childcare may be arranged."

In Palo Alto Unified, plans were already underway to expand the district's distance learning in the event of a longer closure. Students and families will receive an update this Friday on educational offerings for after spring break, Superintendent Don Austin said.

Despite the new May 1 timeline, it will be "increasingly challenging," Austin said, for campuses to reopen at all this school year.

"We'd be down to a few weeks left before the scheduled end of school," he told the Weekly Wednesday. "Reopening will be much more difficult than closing."

Palo Alto schools move to credit/no credit grading system

On Wednesday afternoon, Palo Alto Unified announced that all middle and high school students will temporarily move to a credit/no credit grading system for this semester. Students will accumulate credits without positively or negatively impacting their grade point averages — of particular concern for college-bound seniors and juniors in Palo Alto.

"It does not negatively impact in any way our college-bound students and definitely protects students who are having a hard time accessing material, either through disability or devices," Austin said in an interview.

"It's going to lower the temperature" around grades during the school closures, he added.

Online schoolwork that has been provided so far to students during the closures has been optional and not been graded.

In a message to students and families, Austin said that "universities across the country have made it clear that students will not be penalized for missing traditional standardized tests or for posting credit/no credit transcripts for this semester."

Schools will be able to explain in students' official "School Profiles" to colleges and universities that this decision was made in response to the coronavirus pandemic, he wrote.

Harvard University, as one example, said that pass/fail grades will not disadvantage applicants in a recent message to high school juniors. Students who cannot submit Advanced Placement exams or SAT subject tests due to cancellations will also not be disadvantaged, Harvard said.

Palo Alto Unified's grading decision was made with input from principals, instructional leads, district administrators and in consultation with university admissions officials and Santa Clara County superintendents, Austin said.

Stanford University's Faculty Senate also decided this week -- via video conference, for the first time -- that all courses will be graded satisfactory/no credit for spring quarter, except for those offered by the Graduate School of Business, School of Law and the School of Medicine MD program (unless the schools opt in).

The decision was spurred by "the realization that in this extraordinary moment we find ourselves in, students are going to be doing their work in an environment that is going to be quite different for each of them, and for some populations it's going to be quite hard to navigate," said Sarah Church, team leader of Stanford's Academic Continuity Group and physics professor.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Donald says
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2020 at 12:31 pm

[Post removed.]

31 people like this
Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2020 at 12:36 pm

This was expected. Parents, please continue to help us teachers make sure students are completing activities and lessons we assign them.

9 people like this
Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2020 at 12:55 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]

40 people like this
Posted by district teacher
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2020 at 12:56 pm

I am not surprised and also not surprised that this is in the paper before it has been shared with teachers. At first I thought the article was Santa Clara-focused but then I saw the quote from Austin. Dude, communicate.

9 people like this
Posted by Marland Chancellor
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2020 at 1:01 pm

[Portion removed.] I am a primary care physician in Washington state, and will tell you that our healthcare system is tragically unprepared for the massive number of critically ill patients that we anticipate, and it will be worse if restrictions on social distancing (physical distancing is the preferred term) are relaxed too soon. We need to slow the rise in numbers of critically ill patients until infrastructure supply (hospital beds, ventilators, supplies) increases. Even if the fatality rate turns out to be close to that of influenza (and indications are that it is much higher), math tells us that the raw number of fatalities will be in the millions in the US alone. Healthcare workers care about numbers as much as business people, but when you are sick, the most important number is 1 (you).

1 person likes this
Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2020 at 1:06 pm

By the way I would highly recommend people read this op-ed by Thomas Friedman that was published recently in the New York TImes

Web Link

22 people like this
Posted by Staying Young Through Kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2020 at 1:08 pm

It is beyond disgraceful that this info was not updated on the PAUSD website in time with the announcement. They don't need a lot of info, just an announcement of the change and an announcement that more info will follow. If the PA Weekly can get it posted, so can the district.

In general, the way our district manages communication from the top down (to the teachers, students, and families), needs repair.

I do have a LOT OF PRAISE for the level of information and instruction we're getting from our elementary school! It is AMAZING! Both the principal and our teacher are doing an incredible job (zoom classes, breakout groups, reading AND math work online!). I'm beyond impressed with the elementary teachers in our district!

On the other hand, with just two exceptions from two truly engaged and caring teachers, what our kids are getting from Greene and PALY does not get a passing grade in my book.

15 people like this
Posted by Paly mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 25, 2020 at 1:10 pm

It's very sad news! I am trying to find any comfort for my teen. Friends, social life and afterschool activities are missed so much.

@Paly Teacher, not all the teachers are assigning works. My teen's 9th grade math teacher [portion removed] has been taking a "vacation" since school shut down. Nothing in schoology.

21 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2020 at 1:14 pm

I have no idea how things have been improving, but the likelihood of them not reopening for this school year has been hinted at by Newsom for some time.

If the school district hasn't upped their game on any of this then they are not doing their job. I'm not interested in what the Board says, but the actual preparations being done by those at Churchill whose job it is to work for PAUSD, get paid for working for PAUSD and should have spent the last couple of weeks putting practices into place for this eventuality.

If not, then what are they getting paid for?

2 people like this
Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 25, 2020 at 1:29 pm

This seems unnecessary given that the conditions on the ground are improving day by day in the Bay Area. We have 19 days until the previously scheduled school reopening. Wouldn’t it have been prudent to wait 1-2 more weeks before coming to a decision?

In any case, we need to know - what are the exact conditions that will lead to reopening of schools? Reopening can’t be based on panic or subjectivity, it must be based on science. E.g. reopen schools when there are fewer than 5 new cases per day in the county.

15 people like this
Posted by Paly Senior
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2020 at 1:55 pm

This situation is hard for everyone, and especially emotionally hard for seniors in high school. Everything we have been looking forward to is either cancelled or will likely be cancelled. At this point, the least the district can do is allow grades this quarter/ semester to be pass/fail. I have no motivation to complete busy work online when there is little to look forward to. Online school takes all the fun out of learning and adds stress and puts extra responsibility on students. The district should take it easy on seniors who have worked hard for four years. This is an unprecedented situation, and we should not be expected to continue on with online schoolwork as if nothing has changed. Students and families have enough to worry about without the added pressures.

30 people like this
Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2020 at 2:26 pm

@Paly Senior

It breaks my heart every time I think of what you and your classmates are missing out on. You're right. You worked hard for four years and this is the send off that you get.

I understand that it's hard to stay motivated. I find myself completely disoriented some days. But I ask that you try to complete the work that we assign you. Ideally, it's work that will help you when you go off to college. In addition, it gives you something valuable and productive to do for at least some of the time you have at home. The district and your teachers aren't giving you online work like nothing has changed. We are presenting material more slowly and semester grades are now Credit/No Credit (i.e., pass/fail). It's not easy, but as we finish our second week away from school and cooped up at home, I encourage you to stay active, both physically and mentally.

12 people like this
Posted by MiddleAged
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2020 at 2:59 pm

Allowing option for grades instead of Pass/Fail is ideal. Three teens I talked to are upset they can’t get grades - each for different reasons. IMO most teens won’t be engaged in distance learning if they don’t have the incentive of grades. I was a teacher before my 2nd career. We learned that #1 motivator for teens to learn is grades. (Yes, we want students to have an innate love for learning and study hard no matter what, but this is not the reality how

13 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2020 at 3:01 pm

The PAUSD tried to make decisions based on their reading of the political situation instead of the assessments from our scientists and medical experts.

We are still not there: not enough testing, not enough facilities for quaranteening and treating, and not enough attention to the science.

11 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2020 at 3:08 pm

Life throws things at us sometimes and we have to adapt.

My daughter (a Paly graduate) is an MD at Stanford now on the COVID response team. Some days she stands in the parking lot and triages people driving through. She has been working longer hours than she would like to work.

People are very stressed out and need to talk to someone. It is hard to be the person who has to absorb that stress and display good bedside manner as well as good medical skills.

Sometimes life throws things at you that you don't want. We all have to just keep going and doing our best.

32 people like this
Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2020 at 3:08 pm

rsmithjr: "The PAUSD tried to make decisions based on their reading of the political situation instead of the assessments from our scientists and medical experts."

What on Earth are you talking about? The County Health Officer, a physician, did not recommend school closures so PAUSD stayed open. When she said to close schools, PAUSD did.

13 people like this
Posted by Another Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2020 at 3:14 pm

@Paly Senior

I agree completely that there are new, difficult pressures on all of us, and that this is especially hard on high school seniors. I hope the new pass/fail grading feels a little more fair to you. It does to me. I also agree with my colleague and hope that you and your peers will try to keep active by engaging with the online content and your classmates, as well as getting enough fresh air, exercise, and sleep. Take care.

9 people like this
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2020 at 3:35 pm

@Paly Teacher,

The PAUSD announces on Thurs 3/12 that no school would close. On Friday morning 3/13, the county announced the closure of all schools in the county. As the weekly noted, this happened "less than 24 hours after Palo Alto school officials backed a plan to keep campuses open but offer limited online learning alternatives to students who choose to stay home."

I was reading about the situation all week nationally and internationally and was aghast when the PAUSD board voted to keep the schools open. When the county contravened this the very next day, I could only wonder if the PAUSD (board, Austin, the teachers union, whatever) was following what was going on at all.

Clearly they weren't in very good communication with county officials.

21 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 25, 2020 at 3:47 pm

@Paly Teacher(s), Please make sure to reach out to as many of your students as possible via email, but also video chat. Set up video groups with your classes. My child has had zero contact, outside of what is posted on Schoology, with teachers.

This is your time to show how much you care about the education of your students. If you simply post messages on Schoology, you can't expect the students to be very engaged.

I understand it is difficult, but as the adults and the educators, it falls on your shoulders to put in the extra effort. With no grades and no classes, it should free up plenty of time to do outreach to your students and find ways to interact and keep them engaged. I've seen many, many instances of people transitioning to video conferencing to do their job. This includes tv shows, fitness centers, etc... where it would not seem to translate as well. It doesn't, but it's better than nothing.

11 people like this
Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2020 at 4:04 pm

@Jim H

I have been hosting video office hours and lessons but I want to make it clear that it's not perfect and therefore please don't blame teachers who don't host Zoom sessions. A kid could say something inappropriate in chat or worse, do something inappropriate on video. Kicking such a student isn't always possible because I need to focus on lecturing and can't be distracted by checking video feeds and chat every few seconds. Just like online education in general, or even teaching for that matter, it's not as easy as it sounds.

I will agree with what I'm guessing you're thinking: many teachers are not doing anything to help their kids learn. That said, as you ask us to innovate, we ask you to remind your kids to learn and engage even when grades aren't on the line.

28 people like this
Posted by PALY parent
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 25, 2020 at 4:06 pm

My 3rd header has zoomed with her teacher for 10 minutes last week, 20 minutes this week — and basically, we are left on our own to homeschool.

I have no faith that they will get there act together and have regular, consistent classes like our neighboring communities are already doing.

This is disgraceful and shameful.

We are now looking at online, homeschool options which will cost us — but my husband and I both work full time and we are not equipped to homeschool with no guidance.

5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 25, 2020 at 4:21 pm

Replying to JR above: All available data shows that the situation is worsening, not improving. Please don't spread false information, especially during a situation where responding to correct information can save lives.

In summary:
* Today saw the highest number of new known cases (84 in one day)
* There are 459 known cases
* 137 people in our county are hospitalized
* 17 people in our county have died

Web Link (ignore the title - it's from 24 days ago but updated today)

Web Link

PS. I am optimistic that our collective social distancing and staying at home will have a great impact. Hopefully we will see that impact in 7-14 days, due to the long incubation period of CV.

29 people like this
Posted by Residen t
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2020 at 4:42 pm

Reading these comments, it is incredible that the District has not stepped up with procedures. They have had nearly 2 weeks now to set down some guidelines.

Why are class lessons (lecture style format) not being set up online for each class, each grade level, etc? Why isn't say a math lesson for all schools not being set up so that all classes in all schools so that each teacher does not have to repeat the same information to all students in various classes? Why isn't there communication between teachers so that they don't have to duplicate their efforts? If each class was being done corporately then the individual teachers can grade assigned work rather than have to repeat the same lesson 5 times?

I can't see why 21st century teaching methods are not being invoked here. Even with elementary ages, lesson plans and work can be done across the different classrooms in the different schools for the same grade levels. If the main student body can be treated as one last class, then the special ed students can have their individual needs met much easier by less busy/less stressed teachers.

This is not rocket science PAUSD, get your act together!

21 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 25, 2020 at 5:21 pm

Does anyone else remember the not-too-distant past, when one of the district's top priorities in response to this crisis was TO CANCEL THE CAASPP testings that hold them accountable (while insisting on keeping schools OPEN) rather than preparing for online, as everyone else did?

Seems like a long time ago now, doesn't it?!

No number of "Phases" in Dr. Austin's plan will change the paucity of education being currently provided by PAUSD in comparison to our neighbors, or the fact that they they have behaved like the Pig that built the House of Straw.

7 people like this
Posted by Parents of two PAUSD students
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 25, 2020 at 5:41 pm

[Post removed at request of poster.]

20 people like this
Posted by Jane Dewey
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 25, 2020 at 6:05 pm

[Post removed.]

7 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 25, 2020 at 6:29 pm

[Post removed.]

25 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 25, 2020 at 6:40 pm

I would advise to not let PAUSD play different interest groups off each other.

Strong kids are told it's the lobby of the "remedial" group that's to blame. They're told to fight them, not the mediocrity of PAUSD.

Weaker students, or those with special needs (IEP/504), are told it's the lobby of the "tiger parents" that's to blame. They're told to fight them, not the mediocrity of PAUSD.

Teachers are stuck in the middle, with kids 3 years ahead and other 2 years behind. Most do their best. Some don't, but that's life. They are trained to blame the parents once you're past elementary school.

We can all have our cake. It's not the fault of the Hindi group that the math kids are severely under-placed. It's not the fault of the parents of strong STEM kids that our dyslexia services are deplorable. It's not the fault of air conditioners that we have chronically overdue public records requests. And it's not the fault of teachers that they can't speak for fear of retaliation. Believe me on that last one!

In short, please don't this school district play us "groups" off each other. Come together to demand more for all.

11 people like this
Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 25, 2020 at 7:07 pm

@Parents of two PAUSD students

Your kids seem very talented. There are skip tests. They should take them. And they'll be well challenged when they get to high school. Or you're going to change your tune and say school is too hard.

@Jane Dewey


@Sally: "[Teachers] are trained to blame the parents once you're past elementary school." We don't blame parents for the diverse group of students we have. We embrace it as a feature of being a public school. I'm sorry your experiences have led you to such a sorrowful belief.

3 people like this
Posted by Parents of two PAUSD students
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 25, 2020 at 7:09 pm

OK, OK, I asked the moderator to delete my post (about school closure benefitting my kids).
That way all the sensitive people don't get offended. By the way, I think the PAUSD teachers are fantastic. They don't design CA's "Common Core" teaching stds for each grade level, so they cannot be blamed if that content may not be well-matched to Palo Alto's typical K-12 students

32 people like this
Posted by Winston C.
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Mar 25, 2020 at 7:47 pm

Seriously people. There are much bigger things going on. A month with your students at home is nothing compared to what other people all of the world are going through. Be grateful. This isn't easy on anyone. Many people won't even have jobs after this, meaning their kids will have less a chance to attend college. Good luck to you all. I won't be coming back to read the dribble in these comments any more.

13 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 25, 2020 at 8:01 pm

@Paly teacher.
I'm not entirely sure using Zoom is asking teachers to "innovate". It's adapting.

Ever since my kids started middle school and especially in high school, we were told to back off and all the students advocate for themselves, work with their teachers and allow the teachers to be the ones who connect with the students.

But, now it seems as if many teachers have abandoned ship and the schools are now expecting the parents to do the teaching and checking up on the students.

If students are not doing the work, I expect the teachers to contact the student to start a conversation with them.

Hard for the students to stay motivated if they feel as if the teachers have no concern for the outcome.

Why is there so much disparity in the level of engagement from teachers? Why are they not all required to make the same level, or as close as possible, to engage their students?

This would be a good time for a performance-based pay scale/bonus system.

16 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2020 at 8:16 pm

Just wondering,

The way I look at the past 100 years I see five major events. There are many more very important events, and I don’t want to downplay them, but for the sake of what we are going through now.........

1. WW I and the Spanish flu.

2. The Depression

3. WW II

You might say the Cold War, Korean War and the 60’s belong here. I don’t think they make the top five. Six or Seven, sure.

4. The Great Recession.

5. What we are going through now.

Being pretty old and still having parents that were alive during the depression, I don’t totally get the criticism about the school systems, the city governments, the state and national governments and the general negativity. Folks are trying their best in a really difficult situation. A top five event in the past 100 years. I get national politics, but local efforts???

This might be the time to work together, have a little trust, and work for the good of the whole.

Just curious

Like this comment
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 25, 2020 at 9:00 pm

@Jane Dewey -- You might be interested to know that John Dewey didn't talk about removing parenting from education. In fact, one of the highest compliments he gave to educators was to compare it to that of a parent, albeit in a highly limited version.

Neither did he speak much of privilege in the modern sense... his famous quotation, often narrowly read but better read in proper context, criticizing the 'privilege' of narrow, union-guild type formations of would-be progressive educators.

9 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 25, 2020 at 10:15 pm

Read a biography. Work a bit on math. Draw practice or listen to music. Grow a garden. Bake. Talk to adults and play board games.

That’s all they need for school for now. .online learning will take them away from themselves. Be careful .

Colleges started zoom earlier and the hacks have been very disturbing and unsafe .

17 people like this
Posted by Educator
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 25, 2020 at 10:20 pm

To the PALY parent complaining about the lack of work from teachers.

As a local educator, I can tell you PAUSD is doing the best thing for students right now. Other districts have had their teachers immediately launch online learning, without any training or planning. I have many teacher friends in other districts who say they are totally unprepared and winging it, while their districts are patting themselves on the back for starting instruction immediately. PAUSD has provided enough learning resources to last until spring break, and in the meantime, teachers are being trained and given time to prepare the highest quality online instruction, which will be ready to go on April 13. If you want high quality education to continue, you have to give teachers time to prepare it.

7 people like this
Posted by Parents of two PAUSD students
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 25, 2020 at 10:36 pm

Adding this note on my previous posts (about PAUSD teaching content mismatch to typical PAUSD student capabilities).

My comments did not apply to the very competitive educational content of typical courses taught at PALY and GUNN (plus others such as Cupertino HS). These and other select Bay Area public high schools are top-100 in-nation on advanced course content, especially in the AP courses (combined with intense competitiveness among students)

However, the much slower pace of the PAUSD elementary school / middle school teaching content doesn't prepare kids for the intellectual shock of the face-paced content (and student competitiveness) of high schools like GUNN, PALY, Cupertino, etc.
So you have this massive imbalance between the high preparedness of kids of "Tiger Moms" (not meant to imply only Chinese families) entering high school having had extraordinary amounts of extra (outside of school) tutoring / evening home schooling vs. students whose parents totally relied upon PAUSD elementary schools / middle schools to prepare their kids for high school and college.

But those kids of "Tiger Mom" family are not "privileged" ; they were just were expected to work harder on more difficult content year-after-year, and they DID !

12 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2020 at 10:55 pm

Wow, your first post really hit the nail on the head for me. @Paly Teacher, I'm afraid I have never experienced the wonderful attitude you expressed, ours has been much closer to Sally's. To the point that sometimes it seems like some teachers unintentionally work to poison family relationships, they can get so negative about parents in general.

If students really feel they are languishing, there are other resources they can use to give their kids a good education. I read this and recoiled:

"IMO most teens won’t be engaged in distance learning if they don’t have the incentive of grades. I was a teacher before my 2nd career. We learned that #1 motivator for teens to learn is grades. "

This is just so sad. I think this poster is confusing doing homework with learning.

We became (at first, unwilling) homeschoolers for high school, and found exactly the opposite. Our teen has taken many courses online (from accredited programs), some that don't require any homework (it's there if you choose, and the program is designed so most kids want to do the homework), and no grades. My teen thrived on those, and did spectacularly well on (voluntarily taken, no prep) standardized tests on those subjects afterwards. And no, it's not because of an innate ability to be independent, that had to be learned, and the dependence on external direction that my teen recognized after leaving school had to be unlearned.

Studies show that you can get kids to do things through bribes/carrots and sticks, but when you do, those kids are less likely to do those things (like homework) of their own accord when they are not being bribed or punished. To get motivated learners, you have to encourage their natural drive. Unfortunately what @MiddleAged described is what happens to kids from spending too long in the factory model of education and with traditional grades.

This is a good talk by Sal Kahn about teaching to mastery rather than test scores Web Link

I mean, think about it for a moment. You don't have to give grades to kids who play sports to make them want to play and do well. You don't have to give grades to kids in any extracurricular, including academic ones, to get them to work and do well. Some of those academic extracurriculars are equivalent to what's available in school, only often so much better. Yet they don't give grades.

No, you can't expect kids who are used to the factory model system to transition to freedom instantly, especially if the education available to them is the same as it was in school. But if there is a gap and your kids need something, there are great online resources at all levels for all kinds of kids. There are bad online resources, too -- talk to your friendly local homeschooler about what you are looking for, and chances are, they can help.

Here is a link to some tips for quarantine homeschool, which is different than actual homeschool:
Web Link

Starts with "Don't attempt to replicate school at home" and includes a link to about 20 pages of free resources, like a free Great Courses stream teaching everything you want to know about infectious diseases or how to cross stitch. It's a long but not even exhaustive list. One thing homeschoolers often face when they start is the sense of being overwhelmed by all the many resources available. They also advocate for approaching learning as fun and doesn't have to all happen at a desk. When you homeschool or you are in school, you're not spending 7 hours at instruction. Be kind to yourselves!

High school students can if they wish still sign up for community college courses which will be offered all online mid-April to end of June, and they will not only get credit, they get a GPA bump if that's what they need, and they get a whole year's credit for a quarter college class (which may be UC transferrable). Transferrable courses are aligned with UC courses, so they are a lot of work, fair warning. But they tend to be less time on classroom instruction, more time in personal learning, which could be what some students need.

I for one am really impressed by the district's enlightened attitude about P/NP this year. Good for them. I hope they can figure out a way forward, not just now, but on into the future, that will help everyone, those who really wish to double down on their studies and those who want to let up (yet still learn), to make the most of their own time and circumstances.

23 people like this
Posted by Take a breath
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2020 at 12:28 am

Ugh. Still with the chest thumping?

'My kids are so easy.'
A 1:1 or even 4:1 student:parent ratio of demographically identical kids is not any different than working with a 30:1 class of kids with diverse demographics, right? Consequences that a parent can dole out are no different than those of a teacher, right? All kids act exactly the same at school as they do at home, right?

'I can teach them anything.'
Without working knowledge of standards. Without any training. Without being held accountable. Want to see parents freak out? Let them know they will be receiving an observation with the threat of a support plan. If you don't know how that works, how much do you really know about teaching? Heck, there are probably some parents out there who would make great teachers if they'd get credentials and get trained, but why would they trade the free time they have or the pay they receive from their job to be a teacher?

'There's really no difference in teaching remotely.'
Yup. Teachers are used to parents listening in to every class and providing commentary. Kids will behave exactly the same. Body language is so easy to read from the chest up. You know if you say certain things in the background of a student's teleconference, the teacher may have to contact CPS about you? And not because they want to but they legally have to. At least when a kid pees their pants on a teleconference the teacher doesn't have to clean it up. It seems like not so long ago, the Silicon Valley elite, while responsible for crafting the technology to do so, were discouraging working remotely because of its many challenges but, of course, we should ignore the man behind the curtain.

'I've seen all sorts of unrelated fields adapt quickly.'
There's absolutely no difference in the type of learning you get from a gym instructor and a chemistry teacher, right? Their both credentialed and put in similar hours, right? I'm sure that prior to the pandemic, my gym instructor would go home and grade the day's planks and lunges from his clients whilst preparing in-depth study projects for them to perform on the history of conditioning ropes.

'Teachers should be doing everything as normal.'
Even if they're fighting illness, have kids of their own at home, taking care of other friends or family, were financially struggling before the pandemic and have lost the second job they were using to pay the bills? That seems a little tone deaf, don't you think?

'[Insert conspiracy theory about some union cabal plotting to take down the district]'
Umm... Whatever. This is just not the appropriate time for that. Maybe after the pandemic? Priorities.

PAUSD is like any district. There are helpful, supportive parents and there are parents who need to create speed bumps and pot holes to get satisfaction. There are parents who can 'push' and inspire change with respect, and there are parents who are self important, control freaks with no self reflection or ability to stay in their lane. To the adults in the room, the parents who throw preschooler-like tantrums have become through their own actions obstacles to endure. Not just to district staff, mind you, but to the other parents in the district as well.

At the same time, PAUSD is NOT like any district. You can't lean in too hard when criticizing PAUSD with "neighboring districts" without recognizing the limitations of those comparisons. Student family demographics, programs, district history, policies, funding, board members, bureaucracy, size, staff experience, union agreements, SpEd services, equity challenges ... Not. The. Same. If you are sooo bitter that the other district does things to your expectation of 'better', ask yourself:
1) Do I have resources or talents that I can _offer_ the district to move things toward the thing I want?
2) Can I be humble enough to accept that, for reasons I might not be equipped to understand, I may be rejected?
3) Can I be resilient enough to offer something else or simply let it go?
4) If it's still so critically important to me, can I at least find a way to voice my opinion without disrupting the educational experience for the other families in the district, OR find a way to move to that district that I prefer so much?

Take a moment to calm yourself down and take a socially-distanced breath. Recognize that many, many people care about students' success other than yourself and not just because they're paid to do so. Take some time to discipline yourself in patience and humility. Ask how you can help.

You can't take control of the pandemic, you can't take control of the school district, but you can control yourself. If you're out there to maximize your benefit to the world, griping at the school district probably isn't going to help you meet your goal. This really is a time to support schools, teachers, students and basically each other. The graduating class needs innovators to help them make the rest of this school year special (in a good way) so maybe put your energy there instead of asking the district to take that on as well. That kind of stakeholder support is what the PAUSD community needs right now. If you can't or simply choose not to help the schools and, by extension, their students, then help someone else in need. You won't have to look far during the next couple of months.

If you need help coping, reach out. There are people who care about you out there too.

5 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2020 at 2:28 am

Take a breath

Hard to take a breath while watching kids who should get a break have loaded up homework that teachers and admin strongly suggest they complete the teacher that assigned an essay on Friday due Friday night and another due sat morning the day school closed should be reprimanded. She never stopped assigning work and never taught anything .half a dozen essays from feb have no feedback or grades she immediately posted pass fail grades and now gets a big breath and will never give feedback on essays my kids spent hours on.

There are schools where parents tell staff what is happening and things like this get fixed. This teacher at paly will continue to assign work and not check for understanding or teach.

Be careful when looking at any teaching platform and make sure your child has instruction feedback with practice and someone checking for understanding. Grades are not needed, but having them work to mastery with help along the way will give them a good process and foundation .

Assigning work and sending links us not teaching.

Admin that ignores parents hurts children.

7 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2020 at 8:50 am

Ugh, still with the factory-model of education narrow-mindedness, rigidity and bitterness? I'm sorry to answer your negativity in your own negative way there, I don't know how else to reach you. As for the long, passive-aggressive lecture with the poisonous resentment of parents in the last half of your post, who is that even directed to and how can you imagine anyone in the world would benefit from that? Are you a PAUSD administrator? It’s hard even imagine how else anyone could be that tone deaf. If that attitude affects your work, perhaps you should think of some other profession — if you are an admin, the district really IS lucky it hasn’t been sued more given that kind of attitude. (Ok, back to being more positive.)

You wrote (your paraphrase of what you misinterpreted from other posters? please take your own advice, and take a breath, learn some humility, and in your own words, ‘calm yourself down and take a socially-distanced breath'):
>'My kids are so easy'
>'I can teach them anything.’
>'There's really no difference in teaching remotely.'

NO one above is saying that, least of all me. I have in every post said virtually the opposite. Everything you have just said is through a tunnel-vision lens of someone who only knows one way of education. Homeschooling can be utterly transformative. I've heard it say, it changes the fabric of your existence. It's really true.

But leaving the physical building of school and going online in your home isn't the same thing as typical homeschooling. Very few homeschoolers actually teach their kids the way you are supposing. Parents usually become facilitators, especially for older kids. The whole point is for the students to take charge of their own learning, for life.

My teen has taken plenty of large classes as a homeschooler, especially college courses, in-person, AND online, btw. And at least there isn't admins there to deliberately humiliate them in front of others or a teacher to put the child in physical danger to put pressure on the parents over a 504, like putting your child in a closet until they do something that the child literally can't do well because of a district-willfully unrecognized learning disability (as happened to mine).

The whole point of trying to share is that my child WASN’T “easy" in school (if easy means compliant), was learning to be dependent on constant external direction while loathing it, and was literally being turned into someone who could not have coped with life. Homeschooling was transformative — but it wasn’t in any way shape or form like school at home, or even close to what you seem to think above. The process of homeschool was about facilitating for children to become independent and self-directed, a process, NOT assuming that they will be “easy” just because they’re outside the box. It IS, however, about honoring the child’s individual needs (which, no, is not impossible in school, it’s called an IEP and also, treating other people the way you would want to be treated, even little people.

It is also about assuming that children are better off becoming self-directed, joyful learners.

Because most of us who took that plunge have a completely different perspective on what kids are capable of, and the dangers of trying to reproduce brick-and-mortar (BM) school at home with the same expectations, a lot of homeschoolers I know have been trying to offer support to other families and teachers who are stressed by this sudden transition.

The recommendations of the Homeschool Association of CA for "quarantine homeschool"(which is very different than regular homeschool OR BM school, again, becoming a self-directed learner is a process, and it doesn’t happen just from leaving BM school, don’t hold yourself to either standard). These are only the tips, not the explanations and examples (except after the first tip).

For the full list: Web Link
1.Don’t attempt to replicate school at home
a) The world is normally our classroom, this is different
b) Let go of expectations, you don’t have 30 students, you are a facilitator of learning and your child’s parent, not a traditional “teacher”
c) It’s going to be messy, and that’s ok
d) Don’t worry about being “behind”, everyone’s in the same boat
2. Be gentle with yourself, your child, your partner, and your coworkers

3.Ask your children what they’d like to learn

4.Learning doesn’t only happen with a book at a desk

5.Be flexible

Your kids really are going to be fine. If they sleep in every day, they are telling you they weren’t getting enough sleep. The district has just given everyone a pass to do what they need, literally, with no grades. Focus on your relationships at home and this unprecedented chance to just spend some time together, or let the kids do what really interests them.

The advice we were given as initially unwilling homeschoolers was that it works best if you let go of why you left BM school, don’t try to reproduce BM school at home, and proceed as if homeschooling was your choice.

3 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2020 at 8:57 am

Well said. Thank you.

8 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2020 at 10:19 am

This debate shouldn't devolve into a battle between those who would let their children run feral, and those who believe in (or make their living from) the education-industrial factory model.

Give your kids more individualized support, both emotionally and intellectually. Find on-line programs with remote tutors and instant feedback. Spend more time with them. The current crisis may be a blessing in disguise.

7 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2020 at 11:11 am

Thank you -- but I hope you're not conflating child-led learning and independence with "letting children run feral."

The period of time that homeschoolers advocate of transition from BM school to self-directed education called deschooling -- that gives me confidence that kids will be okay in this time no matter what families choose as best for them -- is not the same as letting kids run "feral".

That link above to the HSC quarantine advice also has a link to a working document of good online learning resources that is crowdsourced and already around 20pp long. Again, if that's daunting, ask your friendly neighborhood homeschooler for advice on whatever it is you're looking for. They've had experience curating those things for specific needs.

But I agree with you, this crisis has many potential silver linings. Be well!

5 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Mar 26, 2020 at 11:18 am

Play Senior,

This is a good time to put things in historical perspective. Every generation has its challenges. So far you have had it easy.

Think of the older Boomers, who are now often the object of OK Boomer taunts.

The older Boomers were killed and wounded in large numbers . Now they are bearing the brunt of the COVID-19.

In perspective, you don’t have it so bad. Please be grateful for what others are doing for you. Nobody likes a whiner.

21 people like this
Posted by A parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2020 at 12:07 pm

I am, similar to a lot of parents in the district, very unhappy with the
PAUSD's response to the crisis. By the time they promise actual interactive
online instruction, many weeks will have passed since school shutdown. How can
that be justified? Nobody understand why this takes so long. Some parents
report from other school districts in the country who were up and running
from day one. I wonder why PAUSD cannot do it.
Nobody expects perfect online learning to take place right away. But nobody really understands why this takes so long to get off the ground. It's ridiculous.
And detailed reasons aren't given by the administration, other than "phasing in"
and ramping up plans.
Meanwhile, the burden of keeping the kids learning is squarely put on (working)
parents. It's a big disappointment, especially considering this very expensive
district with stellar salaries paid to the top administrators. Stellar compensation
should go hand in hand with stellar student support. We are far far from it.
This sluggishness on part of the district will have a negative impact on students,
no doubt. They will be worse prepared for the next grade level.

32 people like this
Posted by Pausd overrated
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 26, 2020 at 12:30 pm

PAUSD has proven itself to be over rated with this pandemic. Neighboring districts are doing daily zoom instructions, why can't you? Does anyone really think it is a good idea to just list items to do with no instruction. I am highly grateful my kids don't go to Paly but it is a shame that this district can't pull themselves together. It looks downright lazy and inefficient. Sorry Juniors but this is a big bummer for you especially if you had good grades and now get a P.

13 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 26, 2020 at 12:47 pm

I have no problems with closing the schools for longer. I only object to finding out about the extended closure via the newspapers and media instead of first hearing about it from Don Austin our Superintendent and the school board.

Why did it happen this way? Seems like poor communication, which is a sign of poor leadership.

7 people like this
Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 26, 2020 at 12:55 pm

I am asking the school board to approve eliminating the Spring Break and end school a week earlier. I understand the Teachers' Union has to agree as well.
We cannot do anything during spring break. Resume school and let the kids out early. If you are inclined, please email the school board. Not sure how to reach the Teachers' union...

8 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 26, 2020 at 2:08 pm

[Post removed.]

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2020 at 4:22 pm

Anybody know how the private schools responded to this?

28 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2020 at 4:32 pm

My kids are in private schools.

The staffs of each school took a day off of teaching to start preparing their distance learning curriculum and technology, well ahead of the county-ordered shut-downs. They didn't miss a beat, and continued holding their regular classes during normal school hours over Zoom, since the beginning.

Why this would be more difficult for public schools, with vastly greater resources and economies of scale, is a mystery. Helps to be clear on who the customer is, I suppose. They appear to answer to the teachers' unions rather than the parents.

5 people like this
Posted by Educator
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 26, 2020 at 8:46 pm

Since it seems like people did not read my above comment:

I know a lot of teachers in neighboring districts. They have felt forced into moving to online instruction, which is an entirely different way of teaching, and a medium nobody is familiar with. They have expressed to me that their lessons are massive failures, and they have no time to prep anything because they're spending so much time troubleshooting how to use the new programs and doing the teaching. Everyone is frustrated.

PAUSD is smart. They are allowing teachers to have a few weeks to plan their curriculum so that after spring break, there will be comprehensive and well thought out curriculum that is suited to all learners. Palo Alto is not the only district taking this approach. Cupertino and Campbell are also doing it this way.

5 people like this
Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2020 at 9:07 pm

That sounds reasonable. So why can’t the district communicate their intentions with families about that, up front and often? Is your post an official statement? Why then be anonymous?

Things are not ideal and they won’t be even after spring break no matter what teachers do. Let families know what’s up so they can manage their situations to meet their needs. I think most people understand that things aren’t perfect.

This is a pretty controlling educational model. Give families permission to do what works to make the best of it, give students time of to do a project, etc. Just don’t leave them in limbo wondering what’s going to be expected of them later, and why some kids’ teachers are assigning homework and others aren’t. People understand if you communicate.

I do think it’s smart to try to make things work but there is such a thing as perfect being the enemy of good. Online education with a factory educational model overlay usually doesn’t leave anyone on either side of the screen very happy anyway. IMHO it’s probably better in these unprecedented times to focus on the relationship with students and their families.

28 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2020 at 9:27 pm

Can someone explain to me why it is so difficult to put in the extra effort and adapt to the new mode of teaching? How is lecturing on a video conference different than standing up in front of a class? Sure, there are limitations, everyone is adapting. Very few people can be as productive working from home without being able to work in ways you are comfortable with. I don't think anyone denies that. But, let's make the best of it. None of my child's teachers have done anything outside of post busy work type assignments on Schoology.

I think this will show that much of PAUSD success has nothing to do with the quality of the teachers or the administrators. PAUSD success come from the students and the parents that support the students and the school. For a district that boasts about its innovation and dedicated staff the weaknesses are being blatantly exposed.

Don Austin has essentially disappeared and stated that he's leaving it up to the sites. Can't wait to hear the next board meeting where they all talk about how forward-thinking they are and how hard the teachers have been working. The charade seems to have been working for so long, and I'm sure they'll manage to take credit that isn't theirs and blame others for mistakes that are.

9 people like this
Posted by Insider/Outsider
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 26, 2020 at 9:44 pm

@Just curious
Your comments are spot on!

We are living in an unprecedented time yet many comments reflect a narcissism, sense of entitlement, and complete lack of humanity for the children who may be experiencing emotional trauma, as well as all the adults (including teachers and their families).

Adults - what matters the most is your response during these times - your kids watch you and I would guess, want you to be human beings!

16 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 26, 2020 at 10:01 pm

Don Austin - if schools reopened on May 1, why couldn't school stay open into the summer to make sure students made up their education for the year? Teachers and staff are being fully paid for not delivering the education owed. Why not just keep paying teachers for a bit longer to make sure students actually get their education?

Or should I be asking the teacher's union instead?

14 people like this
Posted by Ask the union
a resident of Barron Park School
on Mar 26, 2020 at 10:34 pm

This is the beginning of the end of Don Austin, you should definitely ask Teri Baldwin and the teachers.

8 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 26, 2020 at 11:14 pm

It's amazing that Pausd has refused to offer its HS students grades or completing course curriculums when UC Scout is available for free right now and would accomplish both.

What possible reason does PAUSD have for not offering it? Maybe the teachers'union prefers to discount online learning?

32 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 26, 2020 at 11:21 pm

I also found Austin's comment about it being harder to reopen the schools than closing them. Sounds like he's looking for reasons not to reopen. How is it any more difficult than coming back from winter or spring break?

4 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2020 at 11:31 pm

The email from Paulson at paly was so strange. He is so naive about zoom. Trusting that students parents and teachers and predators will all behave and follow the long list with no one watching or enforcing rules is a risk I am not allowing my kid to take .la times had an article about zoom hacks and it is pretty shocking that anyone can join in. They had racist comments porn sites and outside viewers. These are outside people because zoom is not secure and not meant for teens.

7 people like this
Posted by Bon
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 27, 2020 at 7:56 am

@family friendly, maybe it’s easier when you don’t have to teach to a diverse population that includes students with IEPs. Private school families are so naive. They truly think they are living in the real world.

5 people like this
Posted by Staying Young Through Kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2020 at 5:36 pm

@Independent I agree we should always expect great things from our leaders, but I do sense there is an effort to get things going. Perhaps too much thought and planning has gone into it, but we're heading in a good direction. Everyone seems to expect the faster, "ready, fire, aim" response. PAUSD, for all it's faults, has taken a careful approach and I believe plan is a good one. However, I'm not sure why we're not moving to Phase III this coming Monday.

You speak of outrageous salaries, and I don't agree with you at all. The salaries are probably too low, with that I also believe the expectations need to be much higher. Dr. Austin seems to see that too. I'd expect to see people improve or see them move on.

One cost I haven't seen discussed is the potential need to pay our teachers for the use of their home office space and home internet connectivity.

It's one thing to choose to work from home as a private sector worker, it's another thing for a public employee to be forced to use their personal resources to service the public.

5 people like this
Posted by Family Friendly
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 27, 2020 at 6:34 pm

“It's one thing to choose to work from home as a private sector worker, it's another thing for a public employee to be forced to use their personal resources to service the public.”

How? How is that different? We’re all collecting the same salary as before. Our employers, whether they be shareholders or taxpayers, are right to expect us to be as productive as possible while working from home. The public deserves to get their money’s worth.

21 people like this
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 27, 2020 at 7:07 pm

Samuel L says "Can someone explain to me why it is so difficult to put in the extra effort and adapt to the new mode of teaching? How is lecturing on a video conference different than standing up in front of a class?"

Yep. A helicopter is just a car with rotors. Spanish is just English with different words. Surgery is just cutting up meat. Why aren't we all Spanish speaking helicopter pilot surgeons?

10 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 27, 2020 at 10:59 pm

@Staying young through kids
I just listed the salaries w o making any comment. You called them outrageous.

And wouldn't want anyone to be forced to use their home setup. Teachers can just come back to school and use the WiFi there. Maybe record some lectures on video there for our students. Sounds good.

Didn't the teachers'union demand that teachers work from home anyway during this time?

Staff and administrators are being fully paid, while delivering much less instruction to our students. Would be great if staff came back to school and worked from there. Good suggestion.

12 people like this
Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 28, 2020 at 12:12 am


First, you didn’t list salaries except for Dr. Austin. You listed total compensation. Big difference.

Second, the idea of work from home is to do exactly that. How on Earth do you think it makes sense to even suggest teachers return to their workplaces? We’re staying home so that we don’t get each other sick and so that we can leave any virions there to decay and deactivate. It seems like you’re taking issue with teachers not giving enough instruction. Stick with that, not with some ridiculous suggestion. Just wow.

As an aside, thank you to the commenters who decide to wade in this muck of negativity and cynicism to support us teachers who are doing our best to teach kids while worrying about our families.

3 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Mar 28, 2020 at 8:02 am

[Post removed.]

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