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Under new plan, high schoolers could return to campuses for small group activities in January

Original post made on Dec 16, 2020

With Santa Clara County in the state's purple tier, Palo Alto Unified can no longer fully open its middle and high schools as planned, but the district is organizing alternatives for in-person activities.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, December 16, 2020, 8:44 AM

Comments (37)

Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 16, 2020 at 2:24 pm

Samuel L is a registered user.

Not mentioned in the article is that PAUSD approved the hiring of Trent Bahadursingh as Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources replacing Karen Hendricks Bahadursingh is getting paid $254K which is quite a hefty raise from his previous job where he made approximately $190K as a Deputy Superintendent at Palos Verdes Peninsula School District.

Yes, Bahadursingh worked under Don Austin from 2014 - 2018 at PVPSD.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 16, 2020 at 9:05 pm

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"Students who previously said they wanted to return for hybrid instruction will have priority for the small group activities, which could take place two days a week, staff said."

This sounds like an alternate version of the hybrid plan once again only available to a limited number of students.

All secondary students should have the opportunity to return in person at least 2 full days per week every week as soon as we are back in the Red Tier for 14 days. Cohorts for secondary are not a requirement of Santa Clara County.

Why does PAUSD drag its feet? Why aren't we installing cameras in secondary classrooms for streaming? Don't we want to make it easy for every student to be "Covid-19 safe" and stay home if they are exposed or taking any risks (like travel)? Why aren't we talking about voluntary testing sites on every site for students?


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 16, 2020 at 9:21 pm

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Ridiculous. What is with the insanely high salary while teachers are being let go and contract teachers are let go and there is a deficit happening at PAUSD?

Do we have a PAUSD board filled with "yes men" for Don Austin? He is certainly stacking PAUSD Churchill with people he knows he likes and works well with. People are leaving. Women re leaving and he is replacing them with men.


Posted by PAUSD, please use this time well
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 17, 2020 at 11:20 am

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I strongly agree with @Parent. We need to be setting up for safe hybrid learning asap. Santa Clara County will be in better shape by February, which leaves most of the semester the kids could be in school part-time. It is unconscionable for the district and teachers to insist on keeping the children in their bedrooms and on screens for the whole year, doing untold damage to children and families.

Voluntary little on-campus events is not comparable.


Posted by KM
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 17, 2020 at 8:04 pm

KM is a registered user.

If the high schools are being asked to accommodate as many students as safely possible WHY are the middle schools only looking to bring 6th graders back on campus in March? The school needs to serve ALL grade levels. This is beyond ridiculous. AND if the HS can bring groups back as early as late Jan. why can't the middle schools?





Posted by Parent
a resident of Ohlone School
on Dec 18, 2020 at 8:44 am

Parent is a registered user.

Seems like the district is doggedly attached to the “Covid cant spread in schools” narrative and is actively seeking media attention to advance this narrative.

Our all-school comms indicated only one positive case, but parents in the impacted classroom know there were actually two positive cases in the same classroom (different cohorts) roughly two weeks apart.

Same shared physical space, same exposed teacher.

They asked why this wasn’t being disclosed to the entire school unambiguously.

The response was HIPPA (though it would NOT violate HIPPA to communicate this) and that it didn’t happen on campus.

The virus does not stop shedding at 14 days in all cases. Even with the Thanksgiving break + quarantine, the district can’t know for certain it was not school-based transmission.

Even if not, communicate transparently. Let the community decide.

The real reason for non-transparency is fear it might possibly threaten the district’s desired narrative.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Ohlone School
on Dec 18, 2020 at 8:50 am

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Trent Bahadursingh’s hire is the real reason Austin’s contract was extended non-transparently, violating the 2-meeting rule, despite considerable objection, for 2 years.


Posted by Concerned
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2020 at 9:54 am

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Re-elected and newly elected School board just sworn in and I'm already loosing faith.
Blinders on.


Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2020 at 10:36 am

Parent is a registered user.

@Palo Alto Res, agreed.

If the 2-meeting rule were upheld it would’ve been the newly elected member voting (instead of MBC). There also would have been more chance for public comment/input.

Seems like Austin had already anointed his pick — and that pick made Austin’s extension a condition for moving up here.

Also, research Austin and allegations by teachers and the union in that previous district.

Since when did (progressive) Palo Alto become so anti-union?


Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 18, 2020 at 11:32 am

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We should not be focusing on reopening schools. Our focus at this time should be on keeping people safe.

It is going to be a long time before we can vaccinate many people. The current two vaccines have not been tested and approved for young people, and the current supplies are very short.

My daughter is a doctor at Stanford where she has been on the COVID response team. She has seen it all. She has been called in for a shot and is happily going. I don't know if you want to call her "fortunate" or not, she is currently being tested at least 3 times a week (more if something suspicious has happened).

Her two children are doing online instruction and they are doing well.


Posted by Parent of high schoolers
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2020 at 5:01 pm

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The planned on-campus activities better *not* be limited to the 10% of students who chose hybrid. More than 60% of students polled wanted a hybrid plan when asked in the early stages. Once the extremely limited plan was revealed, a huge swath of students did not choose it based on the merits of the plan (or lack thereof), not because they don't still have a grave need to be on campus.

The district should not penalize students who were unwilling to choose the lame hybrid plan.


Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2020 at 5:46 pm

Parent is a registered user.

@Parent of High Schoolers... and/or with more evidence emerging over time about just how much is still unknown of the long-term impacts of this lethal virus... the students understood better than their parents that selecting hybrid means pulling more teachers onto campus with an age-group known to spread. Maybe they are better than their parents at distinguishing need from want.


Posted by Californiamama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2020 at 7:16 pm

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Community spread has never been higher in our County. Secondary students transmit as efficiently as adults. And PAUSD is running a one-sided campaign about why students should flock back to classrooms this winter and spring. People are desperate for hope and normalcy.

Couldn't help but notice that community participation is now severely limited (very little discussion was allowed at the Board Meeting on Tuesday night, and those who were permitted to speak only were screened and submitted in advance). No doubt that the new Deputy Superintendent will be a compliant #2 (a product of cronyism). Did Don Austin always get his way through authoritarian rule?

While it looks like precautions are working at the elementary level, the district should remain cautious instead of bullish around the message of "no school spread." While the vaccine is coming to offer a layer of protection for teachers (good news) it's still not proven to prevent transmission. A lot to unfold still in the coming months. Why rush to the finish line? Last I checked, the pandemic is raging.


Posted by Puuuuuulease
a resident of Midtown
on Dec 18, 2020 at 8:43 pm

Puuuuuulease is a registered user.

@ "I do feel strongly that our ability to get secondary students on to campus — our efforts to do that are really critical," said board member Todd Collins.

How hypocritical. It was Todd, and the rest of the Board, who SLOW ROLLED secondary students (high school) getting back on campus until January (which now won't happen) even though SCC had approved a return to hybrid in SEPTEMBER! The secondary students, over 80% of them who wanted to be ON CAMPUS IN PERSON, could've been on campus in person four months ago. The Board made a HUGE and IRREPARABLE mistake caving to the teachers union and slow rolling the opening when it's been shown over and over and over again, with HARD DATA, that schools are not spreaders. The spread is more in the community than at schools (according to many many different sources, Brown Univ study, CA State Health Officer, SCC Cody, Fauci, every single epidemiologist and health expert, etc). And just now Todd thinks it's "critical to get secondary students on campus"??? I can't believe anyone on the Board has the nerve to say now, after all this wasted time, that it's critical to get high schoolers back on campus. Todd and the rest of the Board failed the high school students MISERABLY, destroyed their high school experience, even destroyed some lives, so please don't start acting like you all care now.


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 18, 2020 at 9:19 pm

Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

"community participation is now severely limited (very little discussion was allowed at the Board Meeting on Tuesday night)"

Please don't spread misinformation. There are no limits on community participation.
The system is the same as they had pre-COVID - people fill out a comment card (Web Link ) and then can speak on any item. Time limits depending on the number of people per item, but no limits on number of people.


Posted by Californiamama
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 18, 2020 at 10:45 pm

Californiamama is a registered user.

- about limiting commentary ... this is an observation that there was less input/engagement on agenda items as in meetings past. Those who wished to address the Board on non-agendized items were allowed to speak in the Open Forum. At least two callers flagged the need to keep public discourse alive when commenting in the Open Forum.


Posted by Registered used
a resident of Community Center
on Dec 18, 2020 at 11:14 pm

Registered used is a registered user.

One caller complained to the board about “stifled speech,” as well.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 18, 2020 at 11:25 pm

Parent is a registered user.

What “HARD DATA?” Emily Oster’s?

We have not done enough widespread testing on asymptomatic school kids to actually know yet.

Hold on to your hat, @Puuuuuuuleeeeease. Europe’s reversing course, Chamber of Commerce pressure on county health officers will surface, CDC directive to reopen the schools for hidden agenda is leaking out.

What virus — ever — do kids not spread?

The lid will soon be blown on just how deeply politics sullied science on this.


Posted by Roy M
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2020 at 8:26 am

Roy M is a registered user.

I recently came across two interesting articles that I think explain a lot of why the debate in this country (and in Palo Alto) has gone that way it has.

The first is from the Atlantic comparing the US and the UK. The UK has had a worse outbreak than ours, yet they mostly kept schools open in part because of weaker teacher unions.

Web Link

The second is from Slate about the debate in Brookline, MA, a city and school district very similar to Palo Alto demographically and reputationally. This is a long article about a bitter debate in that community, but I'll quote the last line of the article here. See if you spot something familiar in the debate in that community.

Web Link

@Parent. Not sure what exactly you are talking about regarding hidden agenda. There is no question that closed schools hurt all kids. It is also increasing educational inequalities. It comes down to what tradeoffs are we willing to make. By the way, not all UK schools are closing. It varies by location. This article summarizes what is going on there given the new explosion of cases with the new variant.

Web Link


Posted by PAUSD, please use this time well
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 20, 2020 at 9:37 am

PAUSD, please use this time well is a registered user.

Roy: Keep in mind that we are just asking that schools open when the county is at a safe level (red or orange). (BTW, I want the schools open, not just a plan to be open. The plan should be done now.) The pandemic is doing untold damage to children and families. Someone who works in the administration told me that the teachers think everything is okay because this is a wealthy district. All I can say is that my kids have been seriously and maybe irrevocably damaged by the school closures and our family dynamics have worsened. Some of that is to be expected since this is a terrible event we are all living through. But it is not okay for teachers to profess denial about the role the school closures play in all this and to continue to refuse to open when the county says it's safe. They are doing a profound wrong to children and families in our district.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2020 at 10:04 am

Parent is a registered user.

@Roy here is a different perspective on the inequity narrative: Web Link

And no shortage of reports on science at CDC swaying to outside influence.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2020 at 10:13 am

Parent is a registered user.

*corrected link: Web Link


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2020 at 10:38 am

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

I just don't see PAUSD keeping up with the surrounding areas. If it were not for the parents being so involved and caring, PAUSD would be heading in the wrong direction since the new hires. PAUSD board under Todd Collin's leadership similar to Mitch leading the Senate, and under Don Austin as Superintendent has not been a leader in this pandemic.

Don Austin keeps saying how PAUSD is a leader in all of this pandemic. Since schools closed down March 2020, PAUSD has been sadly lagging behind many districts right adjacent to our city. Public school districts.

If it were not some amazing teachings stepping up their game and doing so much more than what PAUSD and Don Austin required, it would be much worse. The teachers have done an incredible job and the parents have had to also really step things up.

Just because one says PAUSD is a leader and the Board and Churchill Don Austin is a leader, doesn't make it so. PAUSD is lagging behind many of it's peer surrounding public districts in the Bay area. Teachers have suddenly passed away with little information from the Board. Teachers have abruptly left during the pandemic (either quit or retired) with little explanation from the Board. Apparently there have been suicides, but unlike in the past under the past Superintendents, Don Austin hides the suicides. We don't need to know who hurt themselves, but parent community should be informed if a student at PAUSD has hurt themselves. The lack of transparency is appalling with the current Superintendent.

Notice how Don Austin doesn't sign his name to emails sent to parents with bad news? He only signs his name to the emails when he has good news to share.

Politically savvy and a politician, Don Austin keeps claiming under him that PAUSD is a "leader in this pandemic"

Evidence of surrounding districts and schools doesn't say so. Parents are aware of this.


Posted by Palo Alto Res
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2020 at 10:48 am

Palo Alto Res is a registered user.

Notice when Don Austin sends out an email, perhaps a survey or some good news about elementary schools reopening, he signs his name.

When there is an email with bad news, he doesn't sign his name to the email.

Very purposeful behavior. At least with past Superintendents, even with informing the whole PAUSD parent community and keeping us abreast with the student suicides (cluster suicides), he would send out emails to the ENTIRE family of parents at PAUSD (elementary, middle and high school) even if it involved a high school student to keep all parents at PAUSD informed of what was happening.

At least parents were informed with the increasing rapidity of suicide emails from prior superintendent that cluster suicides were happening.

NOW under Don Austin, suddenly there is no email about whether there are suicides happening. Based on his emails, since he became superintendent, NO SUICIDES have happened given we are not receiving notices on this.

Seems like in a pandemic the mental health of students are just fine. The lack of information from Don Austin's office is so appalling... it says a lot about how he hides bad information and takes adulation for good news.

His twitter is something parents can not stand but he tweets information (more info) that should come to parents directly by email via twitter.

We had a President who would not be quiet and tweeted constantly noise. Now we have a superintendent who does the same. Parents are overloaded with information and we have to follow a Superintendent and his twitter account?

Appalling. Frustrating. Who needs this during a pandemic??
Maybe he should tweet about the student suicides there too.


Posted by Roy M
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 20, 2020 at 11:45 am

Roy M is a registered user.

@Parent. Thanks for the link to the article. I interpret her view to be that the real inequity is in the death rates of COVID among poor minorities vs others which I assume she blames on societal inequities. She also makes a point that the inequity in education is preexisting. The most interesting part to me was the polling data from the summer that minorities even more than whites wanted schools closed as I had not seen that before (oh I how love our useless media). I wonder what the data would look like if you did the polling today.

To me, it is still a matter of tradeoffs, and I still tend to be on the side of keeping schools open, though I would wait a couple of weeks after families get back from whatever they are doing during the holidays.

I still think you should read the Slate article on Brookline. You might also want to check out the comments to that author's Twitter post. Palo Alto is not alone in dealing with this.

Web Link


Posted by JS
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Dec 20, 2020 at 12:26 pm

JS is a registered user.

Austin’s extension, his buddy as his #2, Todd Collins as our local Mitch, and the lack of transparency and accountability in general from the Board needs to be called out and covered more.

Seems like re-elected incumbents took the election as a mandate for business as usual. But why? The significant majority of those who voted for them don’t have kids in the district, aren’t even following what happens at Churchill. Many likely just chose the three candidates endorsed by this paper — coincidentally the three who won.

So this paper also holds responsibility and needs to do a better job covering a leadership style so counter to the values of Palo Alto.


Posted by Parent
a resident of Professorville
on Dec 20, 2020 at 2:45 pm

Parent is a registered user.

@Roy, had read the Slate article. Definite parallels. Big difference being the very large number of tech workers in Palo Alto with work-from-home privilege. They pushed loudest for reopening, for their own kids. But did so in the name of equity.

In our case “re-opening” is now limited on-campus days for any who want OR need.

Had it truly been about equity, why didn’t we minimize exposure risk by investing in improved distance learning and expanding five on-campus days for just those who needed it?

Agree with you on media failures. There has been very limited media coverage of last week’s rallies in Harlem and Chicago, for example. The message there being that the reopening debate has been led by White families speaking on behalf of “the vulnerable” — and the populations disproportionately dying from this virus.


Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 20, 2020 at 4:09 pm

Samuel L is a registered user.

@JS - I'm convinced PAW and PAUSD made some arrangement at some point after Austin came aboard to only publish positive articles concerning the district. If no one really knows what's going on, the incompetence can continue longer and by the time people realize what is really going on, there's a new board and the superintendent has moved on.


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 24, 2020 at 12:10 am

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

Schools should be closed. Teachers and school staff are not Covid Data Points. It’s unconscionable families are still demanding schools reopen during the pandemic. Your family is your responsibility and not the school’s responsibility. The school’s responsibility is to educate students not to parent them. There are no “trade offs” here. It’s life and death for school staff.

Web Link

@ Puleese your comment was full of misinformation. Austin and the school board wanted to open all schools and it was reported here on PA online. Austin’s sole purpose has been to prove that he can “take the hard route” and successfully get schools open during this pandemic. So blaming Austin or Todd Collins is ridiculous if you wanted schools to reopen. It was the health officers and state rules regarding the colored tiered system that kept the schools closed when it was decided that “High School students and Junior High School students spread Covid as much as adults.” Also, it wasn’t the decision of the teachers union. That’s always the convenient thing to blame everything on. You also have no hard data and those epidemiologists say the schools should be open as long as it’s safe for all. With almost all counties in California in purple, and with California now in a new deadly peak of the pandemic, it is not safe. Please stop the hysterics and post facts. Finally, if everything else during the pandemic is dangerous such as going to restaurants or gyms, but you believe that some how schools are a “bastion of safety” and a “bright spot in an other wise bleak pandemic,” you are fooling yourself.

I am very thankful no one, especially the great teachers union, is listening to the family epidemiologists. I said months ago in this comment section little kids spread Covid as much as high schools kids and it’s just that the data hasn’t been studied enough yet. It was all just an excuse to reopen. Even though schools do serve students in normal times, here is the hard data full of the real facts and figures. Follow the science!

Web Link


Posted by PAUSD, please use this time well
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 24, 2020 at 10:39 am

PAUSD, please use this time well is a registered user.

Go Biden! Web Link

Schools must open, no more excuses, when the county says it is safe to go back and the facilities meet county guidelines.

I know of at least one teacher who said she would not go back until the filter manufacturers would guarantee that no one would get COVID. That kind of obstructionism has to stop.


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 24, 2020 at 12:12 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

“Schools must open, no more excuses, when the county says it is safe to go back and the facilities meet county guidelines.”

There haven’t been excuses. All of California is in purple tier and if you think the red tier is so much safer you are fooling yourself. Biden’s goal is to try to open the schools safely. He will be providing federal funding, wants to combat Covid first, and wants teachers prioritized for vaccinations. Labeling teachers as obstructionists because you have one story, and in the bigger picture, for working online and not feeling safe to return, is just another convenient chance to blame the teachers for the raging pandemic. I won’t stand for it. When it’s safe, teachers will return. For the time being schools are closed. Biden gets sworn in on January 20. 100 days out from there would put you into late April/early May. Schools go off for summer in June. Schools will likely open the following school year safely. This is a lost year thanks to the public flaunting CDC guidelines and a lack of Federal leadership. Are people celebrating today and tomorrow with family members outside of their households this year? How many people just traveled when health experts pleaded with people not to. Would that also be the fault of the teachers? In the meantime, enjoy this golden opportunity for you to spend extra time with your immediate family. It can be very special. Please stay safe everyone!


Posted by PAUSD, please use this time well
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Dec 24, 2020 at 12:51 pm

PAUSD, please use this time well is a registered user.

You are right, we cannot wait 100 days after Biden is sworn in. Schools need to reopen when it is safe to reopen and PAUSD needs to use this time, when schools are closed, to get ready.


Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 24, 2020 at 2:03 pm

Me 2 is a registered user.

"I am very thankful no one, especially the great teachers union, is listening to the family epidemiologists."

I guess there's no shame in being an astroturf shill for the union.

"There haven’t been excuses."

LOL

"wants teachers prioritized for vaccinations"

In front of whom? The front line workers like people who work at supermarkets who actually stayed on the job should be prioritized over people who don't want to go to their own classrooms.

Greedy.

Data doesn't support your assertions TVPA. Just lies, damn lies and statistics.


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 24, 2020 at 2:49 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

@ME2:

You and others come on PA online and blame the teachers and the teachers union and cry constantly about school closures, as if it is the working persons fault that schools are closed or that the working person should somehow risk their life and the lives of their families members to serve you. Indoor activities are currently not safe. Almost every county in California is now in the purple tier. Again, you can see my previous comments above for why it is NOT the fault of teachers. Then when Biden prioritizes teachers to get vaccinated for schools to open, you somehow have a problem with that too. You can’t have it both ways and that’s exactly the beauty of having a strong union. So who cares about your anti-union stance or that you consistently call me a schill? It means nothing. That’s exactly what unions do. They help ensure protections for workers and help ensure workplace safety. Sorry Me2, right now it’s not safe.

Also, NO, teachers aren’t jumping in front of frontline medical workers (group1A) for the vaccine. Nice try there! It looks like they have been placed in group 1B along with other essential workers. Sorry that the teachers weren’t brave enough for you or if you think they shouldn’t be prioritized, but it is not up to you and it really doesn’t matter what you think. The teachers worked, but just not in the manner of which you liked which is in person. Schools being open is a signal of normalcy in society. Right now things aren’t normal.

Please enlighten us with all this data you have. Is it the same “the virus isn’t spreading in the schools but in the community” nonsense you always post? Or the same thing you keep posting about machine testing sensitivity for Covid? I’ve already covered many times how school infections are taking place and the data is not being reported and all of this with a huge amount of safety precautions in place and a small percentage of students returning in person. But sure Me2, let’s open the floodgates.

We are currently in another peak of a dangerous pandemic. It’s really not a good look by you to once again act disgusted about schools being closed when approximately 3000+ of your fellow Americans are dying each day of Covid and another 200,000+ are being infected each day. Step back and take a look at the bigger picture. It’s actually sort of embarrassing of you to post it’s all “lies and statistics.” To me, it shows a lack of empathy for your fellow man. So, NO, it’s not all lies and statistics Me2. Those are real people passing away.

Finally, If teachers and the teacher’s union disgusts you so much, please consider private school or home schooling. No excuses Me2.

Happy Holidays Me2 and stay safe!


Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Dec 25, 2020 at 10:25 pm

Parent is a registered user.

@“PAUSD, please use this time wisely” a teacher wanting evidence her filter protects against Covid is not “obstructionism.” It’s a valid concern amidst a lethal pandemic and a virus with still-unknown long term effects.


Posted by parent
a resident of Ohlone School
on Dec 30, 2020 at 10:05 am

parent is a registered user.

@Samuel L, great points!


Posted by Parent
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 4, 2021 at 10:46 pm

Parent is a registered user.

Are we seriously sending elementary back out there on Thursday? Sheer madness.


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