News

Masks required outdoors at Palo Alto's K-8 public schools

Elementary and middle schoolers have to wear face coverings outside starting Monday

At Palo Alto Unified elementary and middle schools, like JL Stanford Middle School, pictured here, students will be required to wear masks outdoors as well as indoors under a new district mandate that starts on Aug. 23, 2021. Photo by Adam Pardee.

Palo Alto elementary and middle schoolers are going to once again have to wear face coverings at recess and lunch, under a new outdoor mask mandate the Palo Alto Unified School District announced Friday.

The requirement takes effect on Monday. High school students will continue to have the choice of whether to wear a mask outdoors, although the district encourages it. The state requires masks be worn indoors for all grade levels but leaves it optional outdoors.

Superintendent Don Austin estimated that over 80% of Palo Alto students are already choosing to wear a mask outdoors. However, having 100% of students mask up outdoors will make it easier to implement the state's protocols for responding to COVID-19 cases on campus. The requirement will simplify things, Austin said.

"It just seemed to make sense as contact tracing is much more challenging when you add the additional variable of masked or unmasked," Austin said.

Under the state's rules, unvaccinated students who come into close contact with someone that tests positive for COVID-19 can continue coming to school but only if certain criteria are met, including that both the unvaccinated student and the person who tested positive were wearing masks at all times during the exposure.

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"Now we know if you're on our campus and you're outside and within 6 feet of somebody, you're going to have a mask on," Austin said.

Students will only be allowed to take a break from masking outside if they are at least 6 feet away from everyone else.

According to Austin, the calculus is different at the high school level, where students are "largely" already vaccinated. Currently, anyone ages 12 and older is eligible to get the shot. Fully vaccinated students who get exposed to COVID-19 are allowed to remain on campus, so long as they have no symptoms, without school staff having to determine if masks were worn at the time of exposure.

Palo Alto's decision to require masks outside for elementary and middle schoolers follows in the footsteps of some local K-8 districts, including Mountain View Whisman and Los Altos.

Parents had also reached out to the district to encourage Palo Alto to require masks outdoors, Austin said, adding that, at a meeting on Friday, all the school principals supported the change.

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He acknowledged that some people may have trouble with the mandate, given many other outdoor activities don't require a face covering.

"For some people, they are struggling with the contradiction that you can walk through downtown Palo Alto and see people walking outdoors without a mask in no violation. You can see people eating indoors without a violation. And yet in schools you can't play kickball without a mask," Austin said.

However, in the end the district decided to move forward with the rule because it will simplify contact tracing protocols, was supported by principals and aligns with nearby districts, he said.

"If this helps us to keep our doors open for the great things we're seeing in classrooms, then it was worth it," Austin said.

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Masks required outdoors at Palo Alto's K-8 public schools

Elementary and middle schoolers have to wear face coverings outside starting Monday

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Aug 20, 2021, 4:12 pm

Palo Alto elementary and middle schoolers are going to once again have to wear face coverings at recess and lunch, under a new outdoor mask mandate the Palo Alto Unified School District announced Friday.

The requirement takes effect on Monday. High school students will continue to have the choice of whether to wear a mask outdoors, although the district encourages it. The state requires masks be worn indoors for all grade levels but leaves it optional outdoors.

Superintendent Don Austin estimated that over 80% of Palo Alto students are already choosing to wear a mask outdoors. However, having 100% of students mask up outdoors will make it easier to implement the state's protocols for responding to COVID-19 cases on campus. The requirement will simplify things, Austin said.

"It just seemed to make sense as contact tracing is much more challenging when you add the additional variable of masked or unmasked," Austin said.

Under the state's rules, unvaccinated students who come into close contact with someone that tests positive for COVID-19 can continue coming to school but only if certain criteria are met, including that both the unvaccinated student and the person who tested positive were wearing masks at all times during the exposure.

"Now we know if you're on our campus and you're outside and within 6 feet of somebody, you're going to have a mask on," Austin said.

Students will only be allowed to take a break from masking outside if they are at least 6 feet away from everyone else.

According to Austin, the calculus is different at the high school level, where students are "largely" already vaccinated. Currently, anyone ages 12 and older is eligible to get the shot. Fully vaccinated students who get exposed to COVID-19 are allowed to remain on campus, so long as they have no symptoms, without school staff having to determine if masks were worn at the time of exposure.

Palo Alto's decision to require masks outside for elementary and middle schoolers follows in the footsteps of some local K-8 districts, including Mountain View Whisman and Los Altos.

Parents had also reached out to the district to encourage Palo Alto to require masks outdoors, Austin said, adding that, at a meeting on Friday, all the school principals supported the change.

He acknowledged that some people may have trouble with the mandate, given many other outdoor activities don't require a face covering.

"For some people, they are struggling with the contradiction that you can walk through downtown Palo Alto and see people walking outdoors without a mask in no violation. You can see people eating indoors without a violation. And yet in schools you can't play kickball without a mask," Austin said.

However, in the end the district decided to move forward with the rule because it will simplify contact tracing protocols, was supported by principals and aligns with nearby districts, he said.

"If this helps us to keep our doors open for the great things we're seeing in classrooms, then it was worth it," Austin said.

Comments

BalancedParent
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Aug 20, 2021 at 5:16 pm
BalancedParent, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 5:16 pm

Two of our kids were exposed this week at school -- one in elementary and one in high school. Covid is circulating in our town and in our schools. Keep the masks on, and please get vaccinated if you are able to. PAUSD please offer on-site weekly testing!


PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2021 at 8:50 pm
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 8:50 pm

Question for Don Austin - do you personally wear a mask for more than 4 hours straight 5 days in a row? Estimating that 80% of PAUSD parents are part of the “pajama class” and have never done this. [Portion removed.]


PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2021 at 8:59 pm
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 8:59 pm
Jeremy Erman
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 20, 2021 at 11:08 pm
Jeremy Erman, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 20, 2021 at 11:08 pm

So what does this mean for choir and band classes? Choir can sing masked if they have to, but band musicians cannot, not without using masks with breathing holes that are illegal under the county's mandate. Is the district making an exemption for band? Or I guess every musician has to be six feet apart, outside.

The arts always seem to be the last thing any politicians and public officials think of during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, as Austin even acknowledges, anyone can eat indoors without a mask.


M. Kornicki
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 21, 2021 at 7:22 am
M. Kornicki, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 7:22 am

> Is the district making an exemption for band?

Maybe keep the school bands as all percussion units or a Taiko ensemble?


Come on!
Registered user
another community
on Aug 21, 2021 at 7:54 am
Come on!, another community
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 7:54 am

If we want kids to wear masks properly while indoors then they need a chance to take them off while outdoors.


Alan Dunning
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 21, 2021 at 8:42 am
Alan Dunning, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 8:42 am

- The arts always seem to be the last thing any politicians and public officials think of during the pandemic.

A low priority and rightfully so.

Besides, one can paint or sculpt wearing a face mask.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2021 at 8:52 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 8:52 am

I am not sure what it feels like to be masked up for 7 hours a day with just a short break to eat. For most of us adults we are not doing this, even while working lunch breaks, etc. can mean getting outside to take a break from the masks.

Children need to learn how to read facial expressions. It is not just a smile but also, sad faces, angry faces, scared faces, worried faces, etc.

I worry for this generation because there will soon be a time that for many children they do not remember what it was like to live a normal life.

This will be even worse for those children who have to stay at school in childcare for a couple more hours until their working parents pick them up.

Just my thoughts.


Pierce Dewar
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 21, 2021 at 9:51 am
Pierce Dewar, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 9:51 am

The key is to make face mask wearing fun for the kids. Then they will embrace the concept.

Perhaps an arts and crafts project where they can make personalized face masks via batik or tie-dying.


Jamie Decatur
Registered user
another community
on Aug 21, 2021 at 11:52 am
Jamie Decatur, another community
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 11:52 am

Get vaccinated, continue wearing a facemask (when in public), and avoid large social gatherings for the time being.

How simple is that?


Laura Cannon
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Aug 21, 2021 at 1:13 pm
Laura Cannon, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 1:13 pm

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Samuel L
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 21, 2021 at 1:16 pm
Samuel L, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Aug 21, 2021 at 1:16 pm

There's no way Austin would require high schoolers to wear masks outside, that could ruin his precious football season.

I like when he uses precise terms like "largely" and when he says "some people" he actually means himself.


Kellie Johanson
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2021 at 9:39 am
Kellie Johanson, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2021 at 9:39 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on Aug 22, 2021 at 8:01 pm
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2021 at 8:01 pm

This could make sense if there were any actual data supporting plus a considered determination that the benefits outweighed the costs. But, there *are no* data supporting it, just intuitions and the urge to minimize legal risk in case some parent goes ballistic about something.

So the result is that we have public school educators teaching and enforcing what amounts to superstition in the lower grades. Glad my kids went to private school.


Jeremy Erman
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 22, 2021 at 11:45 pm
Jeremy Erman, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 22, 2021 at 11:45 pm

It's important to remember, though, that this is being enacted at the elementary and middle school level because the vast majority of these students aren't eligible for the vaccine, while high school students are. Hopefully that will change in a few months.


Lyle Eckhardt
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2021 at 8:44 am
Lyle Eckhardt, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 8:44 am

>> There's no way Austin would require high schoolers to wear masks outside, that could ruin his precious football season.

^ And water polo season.


Forever Name
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 23, 2021 at 11:01 am
Forever Name, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 11:01 am
The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Aug 23, 2021 at 4:39 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Aug 23, 2021 at 4:39 pm

[Post removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 24, 2021 at 5:48 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 5:48 am
John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 24, 2021 at 9:16 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 9:16 am
John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 24, 2021 at 10:03 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 10:03 am
Walter Simon
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 24, 2021 at 10:18 am
Walter Simon, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 10:18 am

If there are no face masks required while participating in outdoor sports such as football, spitting out water on the sidelines, along with teammate congratulatory physical contact should not be allowed and punishable by a 15 yard penalty.

And being an indoor sport, basketball players should be required to wear face masks while competing or on the sidelines and the same goes for close contact sports like wrestling

Baseball and track could get waivers because the spacing requirements are built-in...except when runners are on base which should trigger a face mask mandate by the umpire if an infielder is holding the runner on.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 24, 2021 at 10:38 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 10:38 am
Seth Rogers
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Aug 24, 2021 at 12:30 pm
Seth Rogers, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 12:30 pm

Red state mentality + Friday Night Lights mentality + anti-vax/anti-face mask mentality = a public health concern in regards to curtailing the Delta variant.

Sports is merely entertainment, no different than a stage production or movie except that they keep score.

We gave away our 2021 49er and Giants season tickets...much more enjoyable to watch the games at home.

No more traffic, parking, drunkard fans, and exit crowds to deal with.

Ignoramus football mentalities are best reserved for places like Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida where Covid public safety measures take a back seat to common sense.

@John B. Sails...I lettered in three high school sports (football, basketball, and baseball).


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 24, 2021 at 1:33 pm
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 1:33 pm
Emma Jackson
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Aug 24, 2021 at 2:15 pm
Emma Jackson, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Aug 24, 2021 at 2:15 pm

Play on! And in the event a player falls ill (or is injured), there will always be another player to hopefully step in and fill the position.

That is life (aka reality).


Palo Alto Res
Registered user
Downtown North
on Aug 25, 2021 at 10:46 am
Palo Alto Res, Downtown North
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2021 at 10:46 am

Just curious why so many comments are being removed? Could it be they are negative Don Austin comments? He always says "PAUSD is the 'leader' in the pandemic" when reality is he only follows Los Altos and Mountain View and Menlo School Districts. We are larger yet he has failed to be brave and be a leader in any of this.
What has happened is he has encouraged early retirement of teachers (many of whom are excellent teachers) from PAUSD, led to turnover of staff during a time when students need stability. I've heard Paly senior students can't get AP courses they need or want. Class sizes are larger.
But you know, the one thing that ran smoothly and continued even while students in elementary and secondary schools didn't return till a week after Spring break once schools closed down? It was the football team.
Actions speak louder than words. Priorities.


Art Fetters
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 25, 2021 at 11:20 am
Art Fetters, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 25, 2021 at 11:20 am

Football (on any level) is not a sound substitution for a good education...judging by the countless illiterates playing college and NFL football


Paul Bellamy
Registered user
Atherton
on Aug 26, 2021 at 7:20 am
Paul Bellamy, Atherton
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2021 at 7:20 am

"...the countless illiterates playing college and NFL football"

That is why so many of them are bankrupt or homeless after their playing careers are over.

It starts with college recruitment via substandard academic athletic scholarship criteria and then a fast jump into the NFL prior to graduating.

Some of the dumbest football players are wide receivers and defensive linemen who can be plugged instantly into just about any pro format if they have the talent.

Most MLB and NBA aren't too bright either but the pay is great!


Emily Johnston
Registered user
Portola Valley
on Aug 26, 2021 at 9:03 am
Emily Johnston, Portola Valley
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2021 at 9:03 am

Many professional sports teams are requiring full vaccinations + the mandatory wearing of face masks.

High school sports should be no different as the participants are minors.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 26, 2021 at 10:27 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2021 at 10:27 am

[Post removed due to repetitive posting.]


Judith Perry
Registered user
Barron Park
on Aug 26, 2021 at 1:42 pm
Judith Perry, Barron Park
Registered user
on Aug 26, 2021 at 1:42 pm

Prep football is not as important as preparatory academics and public health measures to ensure the safety of our school-aged children.

This is obviously a 180 mentality in countless red states who worship football and disavow the dangers of the coronavirus variants and large gatherings.

Just ask the folks in Sturgess, SD after the
700,000 pseudo Hells Angels departed.


Blaine Alston
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Aug 27, 2021 at 11:39 am
Blaine Alston, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Aug 27, 2021 at 11:39 am

Football is just recreational entertainment (for those so inclined or compulsive gamblers).

In the larger realm of things it is just another outside activity that some non-participants (aka spectators) seem to make a big deal out of.

Fottball (and other sports genres) will not save the world or make it a better place.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 28, 2021 at 6:32 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 28, 2021 at 6:32 am
Ari Fleischman
Registered user
Atherton
on Aug 28, 2021 at 9:54 am
Ari Fleischman, Atherton
Registered user
on Aug 28, 2021 at 9:54 am

"Fottball [sic] (and other sports genres) will not save the world or make it a better place."

They won't save the world but any form of entertainment can take our minds off other things.

And speaking of "lardbuckets" most of them are armchair QBs with a six-pack of beer and a basket of buffalo wings...their version of being athletic.


John B. Sails
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 28, 2021 at 11:15 am
John B. Sails, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 28, 2021 at 11:15 am

Right you are, Mr. Fleishchman!

This is an important distinction I think, as I see more and more people of all ages and abilities out speed walking and jogging around Shoreline/Baylands and the Satellite at Stanford. These are people who realize how to beat Covid rather than the maximum lock-down advocates from their basements.


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