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Elementary schools to remain open but middle, high school reopening could be delayed

Palo Alto district is asking secondary families to still select learning choice now for second semester

Even under the reinstated purple tier of COVID-19 restrictions, elementary schools such as Fairmeadow Elementary School in Palo Alto will continue in-person education. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

As Santa Clara County moves into the state's most restrictive tier, Palo Alto's elementary schools will remain open but worsening coronavirus trends could mean the middle and high schools won't reopen in January as planned.

Schools that reopened when counties were in a less restrictive tier do not have to close, according to the state.

In a message to families and staff on Monday, Superintendent Don Austin emphasized that the local spike in cases is outside of Palo Alto and that the elementary schools are permitted to continue in-person instruction. In-person instruction for small groups of special education and struggling students at the secondary schools will also continue.

"We will follow California's localized solution to measure the spread of illness in our schools and determine when a school or district closure is required. Our elementary schools have demonstrated an ability to follow rules, maintain distancing, and operate within cohorts," he wrote.

Austin told the Weekly that he hasn't yet received any guidance from the county. If Santa Clara County doesn't move out of the purple tier before second semester begins, he will recommend that middle and high schoolers continue with distance learning — which will ultimately be subject to a vote by the school board.

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The district is still asking secondary school families to make their decision between distance learning or a hybrid in-person model for second semester by Wednesday, Nov. 18.

"I understand there will be many questions," Austin wrote in his message. "I will be in contact with the agencies who guide us and will provide updates throughout the week."

Opposition to reopening remains strong among teachers. Gunn High School's English, social studies and special education departments signed a Nov. 13 open letter to the board and Austin urging them to reconsider reopening, arguing the district's plan is "pedagogically unsound" and "does a disservice to our students and exacerbates inequity." Nearly 80 Palo Alto High School teachers and staff signed their own letter in support of the Gunn teachers.

Moving into the purple tier means cases are "widespread" and requires closing indoor dining as well as all indoor activities associated with gyms, museums, zoos and aquariums, places of worship and movie theaters. Shopping malls and all retail establishments must reduce to a maximum capacity of 25%.

Under state guidelines, if the county moves back into the red tier, secondary schools can open after two weeks.

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Elementary schools to remain open but middle, high school reopening could be delayed

Palo Alto district is asking secondary families to still select learning choice now for second semester

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Nov 16, 2020, 3:34 pm

As Santa Clara County moves into the state's most restrictive tier, Palo Alto's elementary schools will remain open but worsening coronavirus trends could mean the middle and high schools won't reopen in January as planned.

Schools that reopened when counties were in a less restrictive tier do not have to close, according to the state.

In a message to families and staff on Monday, Superintendent Don Austin emphasized that the local spike in cases is outside of Palo Alto and that the elementary schools are permitted to continue in-person instruction. In-person instruction for small groups of special education and struggling students at the secondary schools will also continue.

"We will follow California's localized solution to measure the spread of illness in our schools and determine when a school or district closure is required. Our elementary schools have demonstrated an ability to follow rules, maintain distancing, and operate within cohorts," he wrote.

Austin told the Weekly that he hasn't yet received any guidance from the county. If Santa Clara County doesn't move out of the purple tier before second semester begins, he will recommend that middle and high schoolers continue with distance learning — which will ultimately be subject to a vote by the school board.

The district is still asking secondary school families to make their decision between distance learning or a hybrid in-person model for second semester by Wednesday, Nov. 18.

"I understand there will be many questions," Austin wrote in his message. "I will be in contact with the agencies who guide us and will provide updates throughout the week."

Opposition to reopening remains strong among teachers. Gunn High School's English, social studies and special education departments signed a Nov. 13 open letter to the board and Austin urging them to reconsider reopening, arguing the district's plan is "pedagogically unsound" and "does a disservice to our students and exacerbates inequity." Nearly 80 Palo Alto High School teachers and staff signed their own letter in support of the Gunn teachers.

Moving into the purple tier means cases are "widespread" and requires closing indoor dining as well as all indoor activities associated with gyms, museums, zoos and aquariums, places of worship and movie theaters. Shopping malls and all retail establishments must reduce to a maximum capacity of 25%.

Under state guidelines, if the county moves back into the red tier, secondary schools can open after two weeks.

Comments

Shwonder Sharikov
Registered user
Barron Park
on Nov 16, 2020 at 5:27 pm
Shwonder Sharikov, Barron Park
Registered user
on Nov 16, 2020 at 5:27 pm
34 people like this

At least French Laundry and Newsom’s kids private schools are open. 3rd world level of hypocrisy.


PAUSD Teacher
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Nov 18, 2020 at 10:12 am
PAUSD Teacher, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 10:12 am
25 people like this

@Shwonder Sharikov, how does your snarky comment help anybody? Does it inform all of the parents, teachers, and students who are struggling of anything? Does it help to elevate our discourse and come together to beat this virus? Fine if you don't like Newsom, but stop spreading hate and negativity and try to become part of the solution. It is so much easier to complain and be petulant than it is to be responsible!


Russ
Registered user
Barron Park
on Nov 18, 2020 at 2:24 pm
Russ, Barron Park
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 2:24 pm
5 people like this

I'm wondering if there are other ways to spend a semester:
-Ask companies to expand their internship programs. Create a district internship program. Give credits to the students who join. We're all overworked and we need help.
-Encourage kids to form teams and try to solve open problems (after all, the region is home of the "Traitorous eight"). Teachers (and parents) can do "adult" supervision. The request for startups on Ycombinator says "If we can fix education, we can eventually do everything else on this list." I would say, if we can further improve education, we can do a lot more.
-Make older students teach a class. You don't know the subject well enough until you've taught it. I'm impressed how teachers can keep their students glued to their seats (unlike a lot of my coworkers and especially the bosses; most of my meetings are boring, and I often start zoom and take a nap).
-Allow credit for remote classes taken at universities. Small groups to share/explain what was learned.
-College prep only for juniors. No other classes.
-Allow the semester off and study in the summer/catch up next year
-Portability between schools (even across districts, it's distance learning after all; I've always wanted to see how they do things at Cupertino)
- For the younger kids, allow them to skip the year (my kids started at the age of 6; they will do equally well if they start at 7).

For me, the fall was a great tutorial in homeschooling. I know I can do it again for the next calamity, whenever it comes (I hope not so soon!). I also appreciate a lot more the hard work that goes into teaching.


Alvin
Registered user
Professorville
on Nov 18, 2020 at 10:42 pm
Alvin, Professorville
Registered user
on Nov 18, 2020 at 10:42 pm
9 people like this

Not sure how reopening exacerbates inequity, per the teachers open letter? If anything, distance learning harms those at the bottom the worst, with less access to latest technology, lack of in-person help from parents who can work from home and on-line tutoring. Poorer kids do not have these luxuries. Their living situation may be lead than ideal for learning. For K-5 kids, it's even worse.

At any rate, I've given up trying to argue facts and talk sense with Palo Altans. I hope nothing but the worse for this town and its public schools. They can stay shut forever. Hopefully more parents will abandon the public system completely for other options. Why send your kids to a school where they are not welcome by a majority of teachers? The hell with them, I say. Try alternative home-schooling, private schools, or move to another state where the schools are open and masks and distancing are not required. The ship is sinking.

Finally, to @PAUSD Teacher. The first comment was not just snarky. It shows the hypocrisy of our political leaders forcing schools to close for the rest of us but not the private school his privileged kids attend. That private school has top cover from Newsom to stay open for his children. Double standards. The same for that restaurant incident. Restaurants and other small businesses, prevented from allowing indoor dining, are struggling to survive, but Newsom and his large maskless party can wine and dine inside at one of the most priciest restaurants in N. California. Rules for thee but not for me. What does Newsom, Pelosi (maskless in salon that wasn't supposed to be open), and Feinstein (maskless in airport) know that us gullible idiots don't?


Angry
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Nov 19, 2020 at 9:15 am
Angry, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Nov 19, 2020 at 9:15 am
6 people like this

I agree, it's bad and unfair. I am especially upset with PAUSD teachers for poisoning the Hybrid option by lobbying against it in class. That is unacceptable. Pols are starting to get pissed as well, finally. Web Link


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