With Palo Alto Unified's youngest students returning to school in phases this month, the school district is turning its focus to the more complex phase of reopening the middle and high schools early next year.
The school board will discuss on Tuesday the next steps for resuming in-person instruction at the secondary schools. This work has already begun, with all principals meeting for a planning day last week and a preliminary survey going out to students and families. Of the about 5,500 parents and students who have responded to the survey, 61% said they would choose a hybrid model with some in-person instruction and 39% would stick with distance learning.
Seventy-three percent of respondents said they believe livestreaming — which would allow students at home to watch live classes being taught in person — is a viable option for distance learning. The majority of respondents (81%) said they would prefer livestreaming to a third-party option for online learning.
The district also asked families to say what sources of information they would rely on to guide their final decision on whether to return to school in person. The top five responses, in order, were: doctor/health care professional, teacher, friend/neighbor, the school board and district communication.
A separate survey is set to go out to teachers on Tuesday, Oct. 27, followed by another survey to families on Thursday, Oct. 29.
The board will again discuss reopening of the middle and high schools on Nov. 10 and the district expects to open a window for families to choose between in-person or distance learning the next day. The middle and high schools are set to reopen in January, with priority going to sixth graders and high school seniors, though no dates have been set yet.
On Monday, meanwhile, 700 second and third grade students returned to their campuses for a hybrid model, joining about 700 students in the lower grades who went back to school earlier this month. By the week of Nov. 9, when fourth and fifth graders are set to return, the district projects it will have more than 2,000 elementary students back on campuses for hybrid learning.
The district has started offering COVID-19 testing to employees through Stanford Health Care. On the first day of testing last Wednesday, about 300 employees were tested, according to the district. The testing is available twice a month at various school campuses.
The district has not reported any COVID-19 cases among students or staff since reopening elementary schools for the hybrid model, according to an online dashboard that's updated weekly.
Palo Alto Unified has created an internal system for tracking employees' concerns or complaints about safety conditions at reopened schools using a single email address ([email protected]) that's routed through Chief Business Officer Carolyn Chow's email as the central point of contact, rather than large group emails that don't result in any action or response.
Tuesday's school board meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. View the full agenda here. The board is continuing to meet in person but the public can only participate virtually. The meeting will be broadcast on Cable TV Channel 28 and on midpenmedia.org. Those wishing to participate by Zoom can do so by going to pausd.zoom.us/j/97888498129 or dialing 669-900-6833 and using Meeting ID: 949 9734 6242.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.