When Palo Alto Unified middle and high schools reopen this fall, students could be attending school in person twice a week and learning remotely three days a week.
School district staff presented a draft bell schedule for the secondary during Tuesday's school board meeting. Two groups of students would alternate coming to campus for seven-block periods Monday through Thursday, with each class meeting once a week in person. On Friday, all teachers would be on campuses while students learn from home. Students' work would be graded and attendance would be taken.
While not set in stone — and there is not yet a draft plan for elementary schools — the hybrid schedule provides a first glimpse at what Palo Alto schools might look like when they're allowed to reopen. It reflects a transition "out of crisis learning and into a new type of learning altogether," Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Sharon Ofek said at the May 12 board meeting.
The district is leaning toward starting the next school year as scheduled in August, Superintendent Don Austin said.
"While that's not a promise, it is a repositioning of a thought we had earlier that maybe delaying made sense," he said. "Absent some hard, concrete reason to push back we will likely stick with either our current date or at the latest, a couple weeks (later)."
District officials are meeting with the teachers union this Thursday, May 14, to discuss issues that will need to be negotiated if schools reopen in a blended learning model.
All summer school courses will be online, the district announced Tuesday, and will start later than usual, in July. The district pushed the start of summer school back to give students and families a break from screen time, Ofek said.
Elementary school students will have an additional 10 hours of remote access to tutors for summer school as well as an online social-emotional learning program (which will also be available to middle school students).
High school students will have access to a credit recovery program over the summer. High schoolers who have already signed up to take Living Skills and economics classes this summer will be able to take them online.
The district is also developing for the summer an online version of Extended School Year Services, specialized instruction for special education students, but holding out hope that some of it could be offered in person, Ofek said. Parents of special needs children voiced concerns during Tuesday's meeting that the district's current distance learning offerings are not meeting their children's needs or stipulations in their Individualized Education Plans. Special education staff are also "very concerned about some of the learning regression and the barriers to Zoom video conferences when it comes to having individualized instruction" for students, Ofek said.
Board President Todd Collins suggested the district consult with public health leaders to see if small classes of special-education students could safely meet in person over the summer.
"These kids are in many ways the hardest kids we have to teach and they struggle the hardest to learn and their parents struggle the hardest to teach them," he said.
The school district will be seeking public input on reopening plans during Austin's [go.pausd.org/backstage-webinar. weekly live webinar on Monday, May 18, at 5:30 p.m. People will be able to ask questions and give feedback in real time, as well as after the meeting.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.