News

Santa Clara County no longer requiring schools to wait 5 days to reopen after entering the red tier

Seventh, eighth graders and high schoolers could be back on campuses March 9

A view of classroom buildings at Gunn High School. Early surveys indicate that about half of high school students at Palo Alto Unified are interested in returning to campuses in person this spring. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

Santa Clara County public health leaders are no longer requiring schools to wait to reopen five days after the county has moved into the less restrictive red tier of COVID-19 cases, meaning local campuses could open sooner than expected.

Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Don Austin said at Tuesday's school board meeting that the county communicated the change to school district leaders earlier that day. County officials said that if public health conditions continue to improve, the county could qualify for the red tier as soon as next Wednesday, March 3, Austin said.

If that's the case, seventh through 12th graders could be back on campuses by Tuesday, March 9. Teachers would be asked to come back to their classrooms on March 4 and 5 to prepare, and Monday, March 8, remains an asynchronous day in the middle and high school schedules.

Under the district's plan, students who opt in will not be receiving direct instruction but rather attending Zoom classes in classrooms with small groups of peers and a teacher. Students will be divided into two groups and assigned two days a week to be on campus. They will likely be tested regularly for COVID-19, an expansion of the district's current testing scope that the board didn't oppose on Tuesday.

Early surveys indicate that about half of high school students are interested in returning in person, Austin said. The district is also giving them flexibility — if a student decides he or she no longer wants to be on campus, or wants to shift from being at home, they can do so. Some Palo Alto High School students indicated in a survey that they plan to see how the reopening goes the first week and then decide if they want to come back, Austin said.

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Santa Clara County also announced a new reopening "caveat" on Tuesday, Austin said. Once the county moves into the red tier, schools have a three-week window to reopen. If they don't open within those three weeks and the county returns to the purple tier, they can no longer resume in-person instruction. But schools that have reopened while in the red tier can stay open, he said.

"The rules are hard to follow and look like they conflict but that is the most accurate information we have today about our reopening and practically speaking, pretty much in alignment with the pace we were looking at for bringing students back," Austin said.

Sixth grade students, who are considered separate from the secondary schools under state guidelines, are still set to return for hybrid learning next Tuesday, March 2. Austin said all sixth grade classrooms have been properly prepared for health and safety precautions and are "ready to go."

Medha Atla, Paly's school board representative, said she went back to campus for the first time last week to be part of one of the district's new high school cohorts. When the district first asked students in the winter if they wanted to return for a possible hybrid learning model, she initially stuck with distance learning.

"But I just hit a point where I couldn't take it anymore. It's been a whole year" of remote learning, the high school senior said.

She's now in a cohort with five students who have their own group chat and are able to safely socialize during breaks and lunch — a breath of fresh air, she said, after learning in isolation from home for so long.

"It's not a lot but it's those little things that for me have made a big difference," Atla said.

San Mateo County moved to the red tier effective Wednesday, which means all schools can reopen fully for in-person instruction, but the decision is up to local or county officials.

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

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Santa Clara County no longer requiring schools to wait 5 days to reopen after entering the red tier

Seventh, eighth graders and high schoolers could be back on campuses March 9

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Feb 24, 2021, 9:22 am

Santa Clara County public health leaders are no longer requiring schools to wait to reopen five days after the county has moved into the less restrictive red tier of COVID-19 cases, meaning local campuses could open sooner than expected.

Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Don Austin said at Tuesday's school board meeting that the county communicated the change to school district leaders earlier that day. County officials said that if public health conditions continue to improve, the county could qualify for the red tier as soon as next Wednesday, March 3, Austin said.

If that's the case, seventh through 12th graders could be back on campuses by Tuesday, March 9. Teachers would be asked to come back to their classrooms on March 4 and 5 to prepare, and Monday, March 8, remains an asynchronous day in the middle and high school schedules.

Under the district's plan, students who opt in will not be receiving direct instruction but rather attending Zoom classes in classrooms with small groups of peers and a teacher. Students will be divided into two groups and assigned two days a week to be on campus. They will likely be tested regularly for COVID-19, an expansion of the district's current testing scope that the board didn't oppose on Tuesday.

Early surveys indicate that about half of high school students are interested in returning in person, Austin said. The district is also giving them flexibility — if a student decides he or she no longer wants to be on campus, or wants to shift from being at home, they can do so. Some Palo Alto High School students indicated in a survey that they plan to see how the reopening goes the first week and then decide if they want to come back, Austin said.

Santa Clara County also announced a new reopening "caveat" on Tuesday, Austin said. Once the county moves into the red tier, schools have a three-week window to reopen. If they don't open within those three weeks and the county returns to the purple tier, they can no longer resume in-person instruction. But schools that have reopened while in the red tier can stay open, he said.

"The rules are hard to follow and look like they conflict but that is the most accurate information we have today about our reopening and practically speaking, pretty much in alignment with the pace we were looking at for bringing students back," Austin said.

Sixth grade students, who are considered separate from the secondary schools under state guidelines, are still set to return for hybrid learning next Tuesday, March 2. Austin said all sixth grade classrooms have been properly prepared for health and safety precautions and are "ready to go."

Medha Atla, Paly's school board representative, said she went back to campus for the first time last week to be part of one of the district's new high school cohorts. When the district first asked students in the winter if they wanted to return for a possible hybrid learning model, she initially stuck with distance learning.

"But I just hit a point where I couldn't take it anymore. It's been a whole year" of remote learning, the high school senior said.

She's now in a cohort with five students who have their own group chat and are able to safely socialize during breaks and lunch — a breath of fresh air, she said, after learning in isolation from home for so long.

"It's not a lot but it's those little things that for me have made a big difference," Atla said.

San Mateo County moved to the red tier effective Wednesday, which means all schools can reopen fully for in-person instruction, but the decision is up to local or county officials.

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

Comments

jr1
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Feb 24, 2021 at 11:52 am
jr1, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 11:52 am

I would still like to know all the statistics and decision-making regarding school closure for the last year. The State and County should provide all the information for all country residents to review.


Silver Linings
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2021 at 12:17 pm
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 12:17 pm

Feb 24 air quality

While I think it's ridiculous the school district didn’t set up a safe-social-contact-in-the-real-world capability for any who needed it during distance learning, I'm also concerned for the teachers and safety. I wish our society could reflect now on the wages of not doing the right thing until too late.

The air travel industry can say all they want that cabins filters remove viruses, but they're working against countless memories of flyers’, catching illnesses after being sardined for hours next to someone hacking up a lung or being unable to properly care for themselves (re: sleep, movement, unexpected last-minute changes in flight arrangements by the airlines, etc)

Same is true for teachers. They get sick in school & air quality issues like we have make occupants more susceptible to respiratory viruses going around. The district has overtly ignored complaints of teachers (“for years”) and parents over air quality problems in schools for so long, amid a culture of retaliation for complaints, they're likely dealing with a trust issue that no one will even articulate. The same teachers afraid to complain about their asthma on site pre-pandemic will have difficulty trusting the district has really done due diligence now.

I wish our schools (nationally) had taken the hiatus as an opportunity to rebuild/repair facilities, including air quality (only half of schools nationally pre-pandemic had an effective indoor air quality management plan, & that doesn't include those like ours who only thought they did). Scientific evidence supports reduced absenteeism and better student/staff performance/health for a host of reasons with better IAQ, not just lower viral transmission.

If teachers have to return & have concerns, NIOSH/OSHA has a program: if 3 employees from a school site complain, they can force a review. It’s not punitive, but can enable teachers to force the district to review/improve air quality for their safety, incl teacher input.


Silver Linings
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2021 at 12:20 pm
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 12:20 pm

RE above NIOSH program: anonymous teacher input


side splitting
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 24, 2021 at 1:08 pm
side splitting, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 1:08 pm

WHY cant the 7-12 teachers teach to the room instead of students being stuck on lap top while in the room??


Barron Park dad
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 24, 2021 at 2:51 pm
Barron Park dad, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 24, 2021 at 2:51 pm

Terrific news that our kids can go back. We can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Nothing in life is zero risk. It was March 13 last year that our schools were last in session. The science says it is sufficiently safe, so let's go!


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2021 at 12:56 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 27, 2021 at 12:56 am

Good news teachers and school staff. Barron Park Dad in the same comment nonetheless has stated that “nothing is zero risk” but also that the “science says it’s safe.” Well if it were truly safe there would actually be zero risk. Not letting the “perfect be the enemy of the good” could just mean a few sick or deceased staff members. But let’s go! It’s all about the kids after all.
Here is a great article about the current stress teachers are under.
Web Link
My favorite part of the article, besides all of the anecdotal evidence of infections happening at schools totally disproving the whole “the science says it’s safe”, and the lack of mask compliance and distancing by students, was this excerpt for anyone that has ever posted here in the comment section the ridiculous “the teachers are like grocery store workers” statement. Shame on all paloaltonians that posted that oversimplified and shallow take. It’s called the logical fallacy of false equivalence.
Key excerpt:
“Tell me why teachers can't go back in person when grocery store clerks have been working this whole time?” wrote Olsen, referring to a post she saw online. “Yet, there's no acknowledgement of the fact that grocery store clerks interact with customers for a fleeting moment behind a plexiglass shield, whereas we are in a small enclosed space for eight hours with kids who by nature, can't stay apart from each other.”
Show more respect for educators. School staff should be fully vaccinated before returning to in-person learning and thereby giving you a break from Junior. Finally, JR1 there are no stats for you nor does the county owe the residents anything to review. We are in the midst of a deadly pandemic and schools were closed. Schools were also closed during the 1918 pandemic. [Portion removed.]


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2021 at 1:43 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 27, 2021 at 1:43 pm

"Show more respect for educators."

Goes both ways.

"School staff should be fully vaccinated before returning to in-person learning and thereby giving you a break from Junior."

Talk about lack of respect. For parents, kids and science.

Hate to break it to you, but for low income students, it could be their only hot meal or safe environment for them. As much as you would like to make school the ivory tower of learning, public schools are very much a social program that enables the working and middle class to have a job and contribute to society.

So yes, it's always been a kind of daycare.

And it's been that way for decades. Long before you were born.

And if you don't like that aspect of being a public teacher, then you can go ahead and quit your job. Doesn't seem like you want to do it anyway.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 27, 2021 at 2:32 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 27, 2021 at 2:32 pm

Your science never actually discusses the nuances of ventilation and air quality in the classroom for a disease that is potentially spread in aerosolized form. Your take is always “the children’s mental health is suffering so run back into a potentially deadly work environment and save the day teachers!” How much would a child’s mental health suffer if they brought home a potentially deadly disease that kills their parents?
The latest CDC guidelines, are being used across the US as a sort of weapon to force teachers and students back into deadly classrooms as the pandemic rages out of control. A review of the guidelines’ references indicates many of the selected studies are of limited significance and use biased surveys done in a specific school over a limited time frame. Many provide no concrete context or understanding of how the coronavirus passes through children and schools in the community settings. The guidelines highlight studies conducted early in the pandemic, when schools globally were closed as an initial response to containing the spread, deriving conclusions that are no longer valid. They have uncritically accepted claims made in studies that children were not vectors at home, while ignoring the cautionary remarks made by their authors that their findings might be flawed as children rarely present with symptoms.
Finally, what you described is exactly the problem. Schools are now being used as a sort of band aid for society. Maybe not have a bunch of kids if you can’t truly afford it. Maybe don’t expect teachers to parent your children. Teaching has been pushed so far away from educating due to several factors including lack of family structure. Why are the schools their only “safe environment?” It’s sad. The ultimate disrespect is the parents and commenters such as yourself who are demanding teachers risk their lives during a dangerous pandemic to work in person but would likely not work in person themselves. Again, teachers should be fully vaccinated.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 27, 2021 at 4:18 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 27, 2021 at 4:18 pm

Public schools have always been and always will be a social program.

Band aid for society?

Yes, so is welfare and Medicare. So is minimum wage.

Get over it.

If you don't like the entirety of your job, do us a favor and leave the public teaching profession and go to some coddled private school where you don't have to worry about it.


Anon Anony
Registered user
another community
on Feb 28, 2021 at 11:15 am
Anon Anony, another community
Registered user
on Feb 28, 2021 at 11:15 am

VoPA. Vaccines are now widely available for teachers and people at risk. Go get a vaccine and get back in the classroom.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Feb 28, 2021 at 3:13 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Feb 28, 2021 at 3:13 pm

It's time for the teachers to return to the classroom. Enough is enough. There is inherent risk in every day living, and there is no such thing as "zero risk." Every time you walk out your door you're at risk. We risk getting killed on the freeway, but it doesn't stop us from driving on one. We risk high crime areas to enjoy a ballgame, but it doesn't stop us from going. Parents risk something bad happening to their kids when they let them walk to school, but most parents still let them. The list goes on.

Teachers in private schools and public schools in other states are teaching. It's the California teachers union that is behind all this. They're thinking about their members, and ignoring the kids and the parents. [Portion removed.]


Anon Anony
Registered user
another community
on Feb 28, 2021 at 4:00 pm
Anon Anony, another community
Registered user
on Feb 28, 2021 at 4:00 pm
Clarification
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Mar 1, 2021 at 7:27 pm
Clarification, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Mar 1, 2021 at 7:27 pm

Has anyone clamoring about equity actually checked how kids from EPA are getting to school? Because my students are telling me the nearest bus/shuttle pickup is at least a mile from their house. I'll measure the community and district's sincerity about equity when they actually follow through on it...my guess is these kids will be left hanging just as they always have been around here. What's particularly insulting is thinking about privileged parents using "equity" as a rallying cry one day and then go right back to looking out for #1 at the expense of the students they used to arm-twist the district.


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