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State superintendent: Schools likely won't reopen this academic year

Original post made on Mar 31, 2020

In a letter to county superintendents across California on Tuesday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond signaled that public school students won't return to their campuses before the end of the school year.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, March 31, 2020, 5:56 PM

Comments (35)

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 31, 2020 at 6:52 pm

I think we can now let our high school students, seniors and even juniors, know they now have a wonderful opportunity to innovate and learn, discover a passion and be in charge of what they want to do. This is my message to them. You may not realise it, but you are lucky, living in a time such as this. You have the opportunity to learn so much more than your counterparts did even this time a year ago. You have time to be amazed by what interests you in the world and not by being locked into what you are told to study.

I wrote a comment on Jessica Zang's blog in the blog section. This generation is going to be defined by this pandemic and how they grow from it, much the same as those who were your age during WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, 9/11. All of those were times of war which divided the world. Now the world is united against a common enemy which can't be seen and is not human in nature. Now is the time for your generation to shine, to learn how to overcome, to be united, by your young age, to grow in a maturity level that those a few years ago have still not yet attained.

Education is not about As or Bs, or where you go for tertiary formal education. Read education is growing within yourself from all the things you encounter and learning how to deal with them.

The winners from this will not be those who go to the Ivy League colleges. The winners from this will be the ones who have helped others, who have found new ways of doing things, of learning how to overcome when the odds were stacked against them, who have learned compassion and empathy, have understood that privilege is much more about whether you have a bed to sleep in or food in your refrigerator or even the opportunity for a daily shower and clean clothes to wear.

Now is the time when positive differences can be made to your future without worrying too much about the normal since normal no longer exists. What an opportunity!

Remember some of the people who have made huge differences in the world never graduated college. Microsoft and Facebook were both founded by college drop outs. Apple was started by a couple of teens in a garage.

Use this time to change the world, by being different, not by following the accepted path. The accepted path may still work out for you, but just in case it doesn't, the world is still your oyster. Use it wisely.

Posted by Paly Senior parent
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2020 at 8:48 pm

This is not surprising, but as a parent to a senior at Paly this breaks my heart. I hope the district and the high school/s will do their best to facilitate a formal graduation ceremony - even if it has to come later in the summer. The loss of the senior experience including prom, sports (my child is on the Track team), their social interaction, graduation events and sharing in the transition after 4 years together - or in some cases all 12 years - is profound. I appreciate what the district and Paly have done to create continuity online. I'm sure it is very hard on the teachers and all of the staff as well. We all care about these seniors and never imagined this abrupt ending. It's imperative that the district and school/s find a way to give the seniors a positive occasion marking their achievement so that when they look back on this time it will be capped with something good. The virus, sadly, will always be a part of their story, but it doesn't have to be the whole story of the final semester of their senior year. They deserve at least that.

Posted by SAHM
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2020 at 2:57 am

HAALP! We have fallen into the 2am - 11am schedule! At least the kids are getting more sleep.

Posted by Me 2
a resident of Community Center
on Apr 1, 2020 at 3:07 am

Don’t I know it.

Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2020 at 8:53 am

@Resident and especially @SAHM
While I agree with your perspective @Resident, there are limits to what students and families are going to be able to achieve in a crisis in terms of transitioning to something that takes advantage of the freedom, and this is a crisis.

This essay written by a teacher, curriculum specialist and homeschool mom is probably the best advice I have seen, probably why it went viral.
Web Link
Homeschooling is not the same as crisis schooling, advice during the COVID-19 shut downs

This can become a positive turning point for the district but right now, this is crisis schooling, and people need to know that it’s going to be okay. I especially hope you will read it, @ SAHM, because it’s very affirming.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2020 at 9:18 am

It's going to go a lot longer than the summer. Maybe a year. It won't end until everyone is vaccinated.
Especially in the bay area, where families are affluent, travel, and are in contact with others who fly back and forth to their homelands or for work. People without immunity will continue to be infected, or go about their lives while still shedding virus to the community, and become silent carriers again.
Living near International Stanford, wealthy residents, and tech companies who fly back and forth, should keep this a hot bed until a vaccine is readily available at your local pharmacy. Home schooling is the only option.

Posted by SAHM
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2020 at 9:57 am

@Sharing: Unfortunately, you didn’t catch the humor in my posting. Usually “HAALP” is used in humor. And the second sentence is equally as facetious.

Posted by Sharing
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 1, 2020 at 10:34 am

Glad things are okay with you. Lots of people aren't okay, and they wouldn't understand how they could both let their kid sleep in AND get an even better education than they would have in school, to make the best of a situation no one chose.

I wanted to share a better link to that article, because I think after it went viral, another parent got the author to insert so many ads that you can't even read the thing anymore. Here's a link from a school that shared the original post:

Web Link
"You are NOT homeschooling. You are CRISIS schooling. There is a huge difference. You may choose to homeschool after this, but this is not what homeschooling looks like, not even remotely."
It's very affirming for families and kids who are faced with so much disruption and loss right now.

Posted by SAHM
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2020 at 1:06 pm

@Sharing: People need to stop freaking out over lack of learning now. All people really need to know is how to write (and most English teachers here and around the nation are failing to teach writing because correcting papers takes too much of their time so most do not assign papers), and they need to know simple calculations and how to solve simple math word problems. Many are not learning that anyway as evidenced by students attending private colleges when they take huge loans that will keep them in lifelong debt. All the other classes our students take are mostly irrelevant to everyday life. Learning study skills to prepare them for college is the most important learning. Taking a year off of school would have no negative effect on lack of knowledge. The only ones affected might be the advanced lanes of high school math.

People should be enjoying family time and learning what they want to learn, doing things that they don’t have time for during the school year, including developing social skills and getting more sleep.

Perhaps some will realize that Palo Alto is too expensive for them (those elite college grads who insist on living in Palo Alto despite being housepoor).

Posted by bemused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2020 at 4:19 pm

@Sharing, maybe you're not aware that some schools require students to be on their computers at given times to take part in zoom meetings. As long as the student is still enrolled in the school, as opposed to being disenrolled and homeschooled instead, they cannot sleep in until 11 without consequences.

Posted by SAHM
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 1, 2020 at 5:59 pm

@bemused: Zoom classes start next week, after Spring Break. Plus, participation depends on the student's grades. Since we are at P/NP now, a good student has leeway and the teachers cannot see if the student is really listening. Colleges are different, they have systems where the student is on camera, thus students wearing costumes, etc.

And if you are thinking that it's bogus that our students don't care about learning, it's because college applications and the teacher's union (no firing after two-year tenure is reached). There is no accountability for the teachers so they can be disorganized, rude, and unclear. My child has an English teacher who has posted critical information on Schoology at 9pm and expects the students to see it (quiz tomorrow, etc.). And the colleges? The top 3 UCs require 4.0-4.2 these days. How can a student enjoy school when the grades are so impactful? The teachers have too much power.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2020 at 6:23 pm

Stupid to require work when there is no instruction.

Stupid to put kids on zoom with no protections

Stupid virus.

Stupid to say parents should not contact district office. They are limiting communication and hence limiting service to families with bounce back emails

Paly has had No communication to seniors , just cancellations. Other schools are really making an effort and communicating . There is silence .

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of another community
on Apr 1, 2020 at 6:26 pm

Colleges are posting pass fail grades. They will understand . Still screenshot grades and feedback and keep some printed work samples.

Posted by bemused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2020 at 6:40 pm

@SAHM, my kids are probably going to go the community college to UC route. They already see the game is rigged. This is the path that makes the most sense to the (lower) middle class these days. Personally, I think active particpation at school should be optional for the rest of semester. Everyone gets a pass. Structure is provided for students who want it. Those who want to get something else out of this crappy situation have freedom to explore their own interests over the next few months. Even if it's just watching 20 million hours of youtube.

Posted by District teacher
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 1, 2020 at 7:47 pm

Zoom is an option, not a mandate. Trying to do synchronous learning in these circumstances is a waste of time and energy - trust me on this - I have been teaching for 20 years, including teaching kids using technology. We can go back to the "3 R's" for a month and no harm will be done. It's a bummer for the seniors who will miss prom and their walk across the stage and for the kids who were in the middle of their APs, but the colleges will accommodate this and we'll get through it.

This time should be put to the best possible advantage by students, their families, and the community as a whole, and NOT create more stress for families. Teachers have families too, as well as loved ones in vulnerable populations about whom they are deeply concerned. This is a completely unprecedented situation, so all bets are off. Remember that before all this is over, some members of our community will become very ill and some will undoubtedly die. That changes the equation for everyone. The best things we can do for each other are to stay home and stay healthy, try to stay positive, practice kindness on the daily, and remember that we are all in this together.

The kids will be fine, if the adults model proper behavior. That's always been the case.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2020 at 2:31 pm

I have a child in elementary school and other than checking to ensure the children had access to internet access, there was very little guidance or instruction provided the past 3 weeks of school closure.

I understand the 1st week fo closure where PAUSD didn't provide anything.
I even understand the 2nd week fo closure where PAUSD didn't provide anything.
But by the 3rd week, I would think that PAUSD would have their act together enough to at least say, "listen to Khan academy lesson" or read book xyz.

My child is not even a primary grade. One more year and they are off to middle school.

This speaks to the leadership at the very top.
So as we enter spring break, this will be the 4th week of little to no guidance of academic work provided or guidance.
I don't even need zoom lessons. There is little guidance on what to read, what exercises to do. Crickets are chirping.
Over 3 weeks folks.

PAUSD leadership, get your act together. To shift the responsibility to each school and teacher and not provide guidance on how much work to provide, while using the poorest students as a scape goat excuse for not providing education for anyone is bad leadership.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2020 at 2:38 pm

One more point.

Don Austin - get off Twitter. Twitter and Youtube is not the medium parents use to get their information from!
Who reads twitter when we are so busy with homeschooling and working from home? Maybe Don has time to spend time on social media but some folks do not have time to troll social media to see if Don Austin is posting messages there!

Don Austin - you can push emails directly into our emails. Why are you not sending emails and posting on the PAUSD district website for people to read?

Who has time to sit down and listen to a long winded video on youtube?

Please use normal means of communication. I do not feel like checking your twitter account to see what vital information that should be provided to PAUSD parents. Why are you using Twitter which is not official PAUSD means of communication to communicate to PAUSD parents? It makes no sense.

Any essential and vital information needs to be pushed into our emails like all past former Superintendents did. We're not going to make twitter accounts, or become your twitter followers or go onto youtube to listen to your announcements.

Know your audience. We're middle aged parents with lives and children and jobs. Who goes onto youtube???

Honestly. We expect you to making sure our great teachers are supported and are fully up to speed on what to send to their students right now in the middle of a crisis. Not sitting in front of a camera, making social media announcements and posting it onto youtube.

Posted by SAHM
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 6, 2020 at 3:02 pm

@Resident: Thanks for reminding me, I need to finish watching the superindendent's video. I thought the exact same thing, why didn't he also send via email? I have Paly students but I recall the days with young ones and 12 minutes alone to watch a video does not exist unless late at night when too tired to watch.

Posted by Parochial
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2020 at 3:55 pm

I find this thread very interesting. Both my kids are in parochial school, one middle, one HS. On 3/12 they were both in class, that evening we received email that schools would be closed effective immediately but that we would begin distance learning. On 3/16 we were allowed back in school to get books, backpacks etc and by 3/17 my middle schooler had a daily schedule from 9-3 with ZOOM classes hourly, my HSer had a more flexible schedule but still fairly rigorous workload.

THREE DAYS. In three days our admin and teachers came together and developed distance learning plans and schedules, mastered Zoom, FlipGrid, StudySync and more. In THREE DAYS. Yes, the rollout had some bumps but considering everything it was damn impressive.

THIS is why we don’t do public school. THIS.

Posted by Public
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 6, 2020 at 4:07 pm

@Parochial wrote: "THIS is why we don’t do public school. THIS."

Really? The speed of transition to online learning (3 days vs. 2-3 weeks) during a once in 100 year pandemic event is your yardstick of what makes a school district good?

I'm glad you are happy with your experience, but that doesn't seem like big consideration. 13 years in K-12 x 36 weeks/year = 468 weeks of schooling, so 2-3 weeks of lower productivity is ~0.5%. That seems manageable. Take a deep breath.

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2020 at 4:08 pm

@District Teacher - Agreed. All we, as parents, are asking is that while you are staying at home and staying healthy that you put in an 8 hour day like the rest of us and help your students learn about the topics they normally would be learning had they been going to school at this time.
The message you are sending is not a good one. I have no idea what subject you teach, but to say that students can take out 25% of the year and it doesn't really matter says a lot about what is being taught.

At least you can admit that your workload has decreased drastically since school closed.

Posted by Parochial
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 6, 2020 at 4:34 pm

@Public, no it’s OK. I’ll take my adaptable, responsive, flexible school thank you. The value for us has been immeasurable.

Posted by Public
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 6, 2020 at 5:11 pm

@Parochial - different kids and families want/need different things from school, so it makes sense that private schools like yours exist - they serve a need.

Some parents just want someone to cater to their whims or desires - "I'm the customer, give me what I want!" Maybe you are one - you like "responsiveness," otherwise it is "not OK." That's fine, glad you found what you wanted.

For most people, the public schools, esp. in a place like Palo Alto, give them plenty of what they want and need. The teachers are great, the kids are stellar, there are lots of good course offerings, and tuition is free!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2020 at 6:29 pm


You write "The speed of transition to online learning (3 days vs. 2-3 weeks)"

Uhm. It was not 2 weeks. We are now entering 4 weeks of school closure and my child in elementary school (which in a year will go to middle school) has received zero guidance or teachings of any sort for the last 3 weeks.

So I think you mean 3 days versus 4 weeks. Let's be accurate and stop fudging our numbers. If you need to fudge numbers, it says that you do believe 4 weeks is too long a period to get an online program up and running.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 6, 2020 at 6:33 pm

@ Parochial

Please don't gloat. Yes this is the 4th week. And hopefully by week 5 PAUSD will get online learning done. But it's not about Public versus Private.

There are local Public districts around us who have online learning up and running. This is specific to our leadership.
Los Altos Unified School District is a public system and their elementary children are getting regular teachings weeks ago.

This is unique to PAUSD and leadership here, not public versus private.

Posted by Member
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 6, 2020 at 8:34 pm

Resident and parochial.

Funny. Pausd is bad but not because it is not a private school. .... soooo.. at least we have that going for us .

Teachers actually posting they have their kids to take care to parents that are also working and taking care of kids and also now having to manage their efucation with no help. I would say this is very unusual.

All we heard from any teacher was that she refuses to give a passing grade unless they get a 3.5 on so exams and there will be no teaching because the teacher has kids dont ya know....

Posted by District Teacher
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 7, 2020 at 8:11 am

@Samuel L: It's unfortunate that you think that I am not doing my job or sending a message that is "not a good one." I wish you and your family well. I understand that there is a lot of stress right now and it's a very difficult situation for everyone to deal with. Here's another way of looking at this, from a post that has gone viral:

"If they cancel the rest of the school year, students would miss 2.5 months of education. Many people are concerned about students falling behind because of this. Yes, they may fall behind when it comes to classroom education...
But what if...
What if instead of falling “behind", this group of kids are ADVANCED because of this? Hear me out.
What if they have more empathy, they enjoy family connection, they can be more creative and entertain themselves, they love to read, they love to express themselves in writing.
What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet.
What if they notice the birds and the dates the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower?
What if this generation are the ones to learn to cook, organize their space, do their laundry, and keep a well run home?
What if they learn to stretch a dollar and to live with less?
What if they learn to plan shopping trips and meals at home.
What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday?
What if they are the ones to place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, and health care workers and their supporting staff, just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place?
What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life to truly learn what really matters in this life?
What if they are AHEAD?
I borrowed this from a friend because I loved its thought. I believe this."

I wish you peace, and I hope you and your family stay healthy and well.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2020 at 8:45 am

@District Teacher

Thank you, thank you, for that post. It is what I truly believe. These children are growing up through such an unusual time that they cannot come through it unaffected. Those who grow up in unusual times are defined by them. That has to be acknowledged. These are not normal times.

How the children will fare are greatly dependent on how their parents fare, how their family life fares, how their days are spent, and what they learn about life. Academics are always of secondary importance to life lessons. They have a great opportunity for learning life lessons that will turn them into mature adults of the future. It is up to parents to stop being fearful of all that is lost, but instead accept the challenge of the times in how they help their children learn through this. You have said it so well, now is the time to learn, to grow, to thrive and to become better as a result, better than they would have been if school life had not been interrupted.

Posted by Inconsistent messaging
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 7, 2020 at 9:33 am

I agree that a few months of no school isn't going to kill anyone. And it has silver linings as well. Hard to argue that.

What I don't understand though is why the school district keeps saying what a good job they are doing. Why not just say we are not going to have school because it's not such a bad idea to not have school? That is what District Teacher is saying, right? School can be missed for a while. It's a feature not a bug. The district could also say that the teachers want a break - that they have difficult problems to solve for special-ed and underprivileged - and perhaps also that they are hoping to use this time to close the gap some, or at least not make it worse, as they worry a lot of online teaching will do. So everyone gets a break.

But the district isn't saying that. The district is saying they are doing a great job of ... what? Having school? No. Teaching? No. Asking kids to take a break from school? Yes.

I wish the messaging were more consistent with actions, and with messengers (cf Austin vs teacher above).

Posted by Parochial
a resident of Mountain View
on Apr 7, 2020 at 10:58 am

@Public...I don’t “like” responsiveness, I expect it. And the fact that anyone in the public sector doesn’t expect their tax payer funded schools do so as well is scary.

@Resident, I’m not gloating by any means, I am just stating fact that this is exactly why our family has taken a big hit in $ for schooling but feel it has been worth it.

@District Teacher....our teachers have families and kids too and yet they are managing to continue to teach. And yes, I agree with your “what if’s” to an extent, this can be an opportunity, but why at the expense of continued education? Here’s An excerpt something interesting I saw recently and I am thankful our school was able to achieve this.:

Just by showing up, by checking in, by caring enough to do this freaking IMPOSSIBLE job - you've already taught them the only things I really wanted them to get out of school.
You've taught them that people are flexible - they adapt to new things.
You've taught them that people will show up for them even when it's hard.
You've taught them that communities work together for the greater good.
You've taught them the world is a good place. That even when circumstance are scary, people are good.

Posted by Another District Teacher
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 7, 2020 at 12:30 pm

Our teacher leggs were CUT OFF when these unmandated FLOS started. We look like lazy idiots now. When we try to reel some of these kids back in we will look like Nazi online regulators. Just recently new and more LEGAL Zoom guidelines were pushed AFTER THREE WEEKS.

Posted by Another District Teacher
a resident of College Terrace
on Apr 7, 2020 at 12:37 pm

And the reason why District Teacher from above post can have such a KUMBAYA moment with the hippie post is because they WATCHED TWO THIRDS OF THEIR CLASSES NOT PARTICIPATE BECAUSE SCHOOL WAS NOT MANDATORY FOR THREE WEEKS!

Posted by Parent
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 7, 2020 at 12:53 pm

Teacher. You are getting paid . Other people getting paid should not have to do the job you are paid for.

Sending links and assignments is not teaching.

Most other schools do not have to beg for what you are paid for. Parents who are not teachers are not evil or tiger parents for wanting paly to follow ca public school Ed code and directives.

Why do you think you should be paid. Do you clean your house and then pay house cleaners? Fix your own car.. pay the mechanic? You should read the little hen for your lesson today

Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 7, 2020 at 2:27 pm

@District Teacher,
Can I ask what subject you teach? I don't think my child will fall behind after missing a quarter of school. Not really the point.

Students are being asked to do schoolwork or risk not getting credit for a class. However, there hasn't been anything to state how that is decided. Some teachers seem to be putting in a decent effort to stay connected and educate their students. However, none of the students that I have talked to have had that experience. As a result they feel they're in a state of limbo. They're not doing any work so they're afraid they won't pass, yet their teachers aren't communicating anything with them.

It's great that you see the deeper benefits of this break from school. However, you also didn't confirm or deny that your workload has significantly decreased. At the same time, you're receiving 100% pay, which I feel is generous of the district, and given the circumstances, appropriate. Once again, all that I ask, as a parent, is that from 8:15 - 3:30 M-F you are working with your students and on lesson plans. Is that too much to ask?

I'm curious as to why teachers have essentially been given a pass when there are thousands that would like to work, but can't and aren't getting paid. The district acts as if the teachers are unable to be flexible and pivot to a new paradigm as everyone else in the world has been asked to do. Imagine if everyone who has been asked to work from home told their employers that it's too hard, so they're just going to do the bare minimum required.

Posted by RalphJStinson
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 28, 2020 at 1:36 am

I know that remote education will continue for several more months. Teachers cannot control the sources for solving tests and creative tasks. I know that students will protect dissertational works with Skype or Zoom. Students try to use such resources Web Link to find relevant information because libraries do not work and practical reviews need to be written very quickly. I doubt it can be controlled

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