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Most district teachers are vaxxed. Is that enough for parents?

Original post made on Aug 6, 2021

As summer winds down, local school districts are facing another academic year amid a pandemic. But this time, they have vaccines and a new set of state health protocols that aim to make this year look a lot more normal.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, August 6, 2021, 6:57 AM

Comments (32)

Posted by Clara Drivers
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2021 at 11:04 am

Clara Drivers is a registered user.

This is a good article that misses a couple of important points. First, the vast majority of parents, based on my knowledge as a parent of two kids in PAUSD and the surveys that have been conducted, are happy to send their kids back to school in person. Second, the COVID risks to children are exceedingly low. Our children are much more likely to die or have long term complications from a car accident than from catching COVID at school. Of the 64,206 people in California who have died from COVID through 8/4/21, 30 of them are children 17 and under. Last year, our district had a small number of positive cases despite elementary and middle schools being back in person and few people being vaccinated for much of the year. I applaud the district's efforts to reopen the schools and give our kids the chance to have as much of a normal school year as possible.

Posted by Infuriating!
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 6, 2021 at 11:10 am

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Posted by Carl Jones
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 6, 2021 at 11:27 am

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My personal view - everyone who works on a school campus, or in district offices, or visits campuses on any regular basis should be required to be vaccinated. If they have legitimate medical or religious reason, then they get tested daily and have modified or changed assignments. Vaccinations should NOT be a bargaining issue with the Unions (what a horrible concept!). We should NOT bargain with the health of our children.

Posted by Leo
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2021 at 12:14 pm

Leo is a registered user.

This isn't covered in the article, but we have made numerous attempts to reach the Superintendent and his office has literally stopped answering the phone and does not respond to voice messages. We are not asking for draconian measures, but PAUSD keeps pointing to the state's minimum masking/testing protocols when nothing stops them from requiring more.

We know that approximately 0% of elementary students will come to campus unvaccinated and without any mandated testing and the highly transmissible Delta variant, outbreaks are inevitable. Those who dismiss Covid as a "mere cold" for young kids should read up on the latest numbers of who's being admitted to ICUs as well as long-Covid symptoms in children. I do not wish those on anyone's children.

Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 6, 2021 at 1:14 pm

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I do feel that PAUSD is doing a great job. I applaud all they are doing to make attending in person the baseline and then having an alternate program for those who feel they do not want to send their children to in-person school. It appears to be quite an amazing situation given the circumstances.
I do wonder if there is a way to ask the parents of elementary school students (under 12 years old), if they have been vaccinated. I feel that is the biggest issue. The teachers and staff are vaccinated and it is vital that the children coming to school without the vaccination (due to it not being available) are not carrying the virus from their unvaccinated parents. In my opinion, those unvaccinated parents should seriously consider the at-home program for their children to minimize exposure.

Posted by Leo
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2021 at 2:07 pm

Leo is a registered user.

@cmarg PAUSD is merely following the minimal guidelines provided by state and county health authorities. A state law was passed on July 9, 2021 that mandated a remote curriculum for families with higher Covid risk and PAUSD essentially picked an outside vendor instead of providing district teaching resources.

This is not fair to those families, who will feel excluded from district athletics and the general school community. We hold out hope that the county recognizes the need for all-day masking and some mandated testing as the Delta-variant continues to spread in our community.

Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 6, 2021 at 2:23 pm

Samuel L is a registered user.

"PAUSD is merely following the minimal guidelines provided by state and county health authorities."

That's what they always do, the minimum required.

Posted by Facts please!
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 6, 2021 at 2:33 pm

Facts please! is a registered user.

Could you please do true journalism and also give as much voice to the many many parents who are supportive of the current PAUSD plan and don’t want to roll back to the previous protocols? I have two elementary school kids and I am thrilled they will only be wearing masks indoor. We have an 80% vaccination rate in Santa Clara county - what more do you want?? Let Mr. Norona take the DL version of the school year and leave others alone.

Posted by Local
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 6, 2021 at 2:52 pm

Local is a registered user.

Great job PAUSD - i want our kids to go back to school and back to normality. The mental impact of yet more social distancing, more mask mandates, and endless testing is not worth it. My kids were really depressed at home and their mental health is suffering. We need a balanced approach that understands that COVID is one of many challenges, not the only issue.

Posted by Local
a resident of Stanford
on Aug 6, 2021 at 2:55 pm

Local is a registered user.

Mr. Norona you are welcome to take your kids out of school but please do not disrupt my children's school. The last year has been horrible and they have been mentally destroyed. As a community we have to give some priority to mental health - don't forget before COVID the biggest issue was suicides.

Posted by Leo
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2021 at 3:53 pm

Leo is a registered user.

To those telling concerned parents to “take our kids out of school”, it would be nice if you considered that your unvaxxed kids are also also at risk. I do hope your child is not the one who gets seriously ill from the Delta variant.

Ignoring the pandemic will not necessarily bring it to an end. How many school board members have elementary school-age kids to worry about?

Posted by EYC
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2021 at 4:32 pm

EYC is a registered user.

We are excited the kids are going back to in-person schools. PAUSD's over 90% vaccinated % is so encouraging. In my opinion, the district has been doing their best to bring the kids back. They managed last school year's hybrid programs so well that there's not big outbreak. It's a big public school district, they can't make everyone happy.
Look at other public school districts like San Francisco, they only bought back their kids for a few days for the whole school year in order to qualify for the extra state funding-what a shame!

Posted by Forever Name
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2021 at 4:41 pm

Forever Name is a registered user.

[Portion removed.] The mistake PAUSD made was keeping secondary in distance almost all year last year! PAUSD are following all state mandates, as they should be.

This article missed the boat by not interviewing the VAST majority of parents who are thrilled their students will be back in school in person, and not wearing masks outside, like everyone will have been doing for six months already since school starts. A petition with 100+ signatures is honestly laughable. If a parent chooses to keep their child home from school doing distance learning, so be it. I feel it's a cruel choice to continue to isolate a student, when so much of the valuable learning happens in groups and social interactions. [Portion removed.]

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 6, 2021 at 6:19 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

One aspect that has not been touched on is what happens when a parent decides to keep a child home who has a runny nose? This of course has always been a tricky decision for parents. But now it is much more complicated and I expect most parents will err on the side of caution. Of course the school district may have already addressed this but now that I am out of the parent circle, it is something which should have been mentioned for others like me.

I can remember sending a child to school because of an important test or presentation with a runny nose mainly because the child wanted it. Sometimes getting these make up tests and presentations are almost impossible and staying out of school does affect the grade. Even in elementary school, there are important tests and presentations, class pictures, etc. which a child does not want to miss and there is no possibility of make ups for these. It is hard for an elementary child to not be in the class picture, or miss a special presentation by a guest parent talking about their exciting job at NASA, etc. So this is not just a middle and high school issue, but an issue that affects all students. In the past, these things often meant that if the child with the runny nose wanted to go to school the parent let them go.

So if a child misses a few days due to runny nose or even Covid at home systems for another family member, what is PAUSD going to do so that the child does not get left behind, misses important teaching, misses tests and misses other classroom activities. How will teaching be done for a child who is not really "sick" but has to stay home out of caution? Will there be any way of learning that new math concept or that historical explanation to those who have to stay home for everyone's safety?

Posted by East coast transplant
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 6, 2021 at 6:25 pm

East coast transplant is a registered user.

Like others said, this article is completely one-sided. I’m fairly confident that most PAUSD families are thrilled to get their kids back to “normal” school and feel it is safe. This is a vocal minority depicted here and it is certainly not fair to tell the vast majority of kids to mask outdoors, test regularly and socially distance in order to appease the few who are still scared despite a huge amount of evidence that kids rarely get seriously ill. Those who still have Covid concerns can join the online program or can tell their kids to mask 24/7 and stay apart from other kids at school. I’m thrilled with PAUSD plan for the year and hope they continue to relax any remaining restrictions as Delta dissipates.

Posted by Virginia Smedberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2021 at 1:42 am

Virginia Smedberg is a registered user.

Bystander makes some very good points; if the district has discussed these issues and made plans, they haven't publicized them to my knowledge. As a member of the community I'd like to know the answers.
Also, based on the very recent data from Provincetown's events about the transmissability of the delta variant by vaxed as well as unvaxed people, my personal inclination is to mask and distance all the time among groups of "strangers" (non-household), just because I accept my potential responsibility for passing it to someone else if I were to become an unknowing, asymptomatic carrier. I wish I would hear more of that viewpoint - accepting ones personal responsibility for being a potential carrier - in these discussions. The kids and the teachers deserve to be in school in person (the teachers didn't enjoy the zooming any more than the kids), but we adults - all of us in the community - need to ensure it's as safe as possible.
Sure it's a nuisance to mask (tho I'm enjoying collecting interesting masks), but a small nuisance compared to being, or especially getting someone else, sick.

Posted by Diana
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 7, 2021 at 4:06 am

Diana is a registered user.

I am thrilled about the balance that the PAUSD has been able to strike with the current solution. I will always be grateful for the courage of the district during the past school year, where they pushed to continue to operate in person as much as possible during the pandemic, specially in the elementary schools. I am also tired of hearing the loud dissenting voices getting the limelight, so wanted to add my voice of support for the current plan.

I also appreciate the flexibility of not mandating masks outdoors, although with the current delta surge I would hope that students would chose to wear them anyway, and I think this will likely be the case in our community.

My only concern is that ALL elementary school teachers should have proof of vaccination to teach during Fall and Winter, until vaccines are available to children under 12. Legally the district's hands are tied here, but parents can put pressure on this, i.e. I expect to know the vaccination status of my kid's teacher, one way or another, that is just common sense and my duty as a parent to protect my child

Posted by CalAveLocal
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 7, 2021 at 8:14 am

CalAveLocal is a registered user.

We all want our kids to go back to school, but we also want them to stay healthy and not spread the virus to others.
I think a huge issue is with the lack of transparency on the school district's part; and many of the parents who have been with the district for a while have issues believing what they are hearing.
80-90% of teachers are vaccinated, they say - but based on what? There is no requirement for proof of vaccination. And district has been treating parents on a "need to know" basis for too long - and it believes parents don't need to know.
It is much easier to continue at least some of the last year's protocols in elementary schools where none of the kids are vaccinated. Look at what is happening in FL right now, with the number of kids getting hospitalized. We want to avoid that.
Also, it is, seriously, past time to add Covid19 vaccine to the list of already required vaccinations for school attendance for kids past the age of 12.

Posted by Local
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 7, 2021 at 12:44 pm

Local is a registered user.

It is unfortunate that some rich palo alto parents advocate for kids being pulled out of school due to COVID concerns. These rich parents can afford home tutoring. But for the rest having schools closed down is hugely costly as they don't have the $$$ to provide additional home schooling.

Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2021 at 5:24 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

1. All K-12 staff across the U.S. should be fully vaccinated and the same goes for medical/fire/police.
2. All the assumptions here about “the Covid risks for children being low” and “Covid data point this and that” for kids can be thrown out with the Delta.
3.PAUSD made no mistakes last year by not opening middle & HS. They appropriately followed public health guidance. You thinking they “made a mistake” is only your opinion. Also, the always “evil Union” wasn’t the cause of school closures. Yesterday is history and tomorrow is a mystery. Time to move forward. Schools are opening.
4. In a twist of irony for the “Open The Schools!” crowd, the shoe is almost completely on the other foot this year. Teachers are vaccinated and well protected. Anyone unvaccinated is at a higher risk of infection even if “you think” children aren’t. Families making the decision to send their children to school are assessing their own risk tolerances. The delta is serious. The CDC reported even vaccinated people can transmit the Delta, and this group will include school staff.
5. Although, all staff should be vaccinated, this constant promotion of it, is a subtle pre-emptive blame game that if “kids get infected it’s because of staff.” Wrong. Children can be carriers and spread infection also. Are all eligible family members vaccinated? It’s a community. Ironically, many had no problem throwing unvaccinated staff in last year and now are demanding staff be vaccinated in worry about their own unvaccinated children. It further illustrates the lack of caring for staff last year.
6. The Weekly is under no obligation to promote “Back To School” stories that align with your opinion that “it’s safe and we can’t wait to go back” because you opine this take on Back To School story is only about a small minority. Maybe when kids go back The Weekly will cover the “triumphant return” then.
7. Just as you want your kids back in school, these parents do not. It’s their decision, not yours.

Posted by NYC
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 7, 2021 at 8:28 pm

NYC is a registered user.

Do these parents that are stressing about sending their kids back to school not realize that last school year 38 states opened up their schools in mid/late August or early September with kids/teachers wearing masks and there were no major outbreaks? That was before teachers were able to get vaccinated or students over 12. Those same states also played sports all year long and had a "normal" masked school year with homecoming, winter formal, prom, plays, band and chorus concerts, speech contests and athletic events. If schools or cities had a high positivity rate they went to distance learning for two weeks and then went back to in person learning.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2021 at 8:40 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Teachers were prioritized for Covid vaccination in this State and County in February!
This was a great privilege for their health, safety, general assurance, ability to travel over Spring Break.
Teacher’s Unions’ lobbying of CA and County led to their priorization over many of us - despite many of us being in an older age cohort, and risk of hospitalization and death being closely linked to AGE, all at a time of vaccine shortages. Many raced to be vaccinated in order - they said - to agree to hold in person schooling.
If teachers haven’t been vaccinated yet, in the above context, then a close review of them is warranted. (I understand a rare case of medical waiver, otherwise they should be vaccinated AND teach in the classrooms.)

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 7, 2021 at 9:06 pm

JR is a registered user.

Thank you local teachers for doing a great job educating the youth of tomorrow. Whether you are vaccinated or not is your own business and I would not dream of infringing on your personal privacy to ask whether or not you have had a certain medical procedure, including vaccination. Keep up the great work, you are greatly appreciated.

Posted by pa_briones_parent
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Aug 7, 2021 at 9:51 pm

pa_briones_parent is a registered user.

-This is not the right point in time in this pandemic to be sending kids back to school.
-It's not just about the safety of the attending kids; it's the effects of community transmission.
-We need to be unselfish, not pushing the in-person instruction that will prolong the problem.

Posted by Leo
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2021 at 10:01 pm

Leo is a registered user.

@NYC All of the open schools, proms, concerts, athletic events you mentioned occurred before the Delta-variant was in the U.S.

Unfortunately, the Delta variant is here, and it's affecting children and young people in a way that other variants have not done so. The best tool we have is vaccination, and for those who cannot yet be vaccinated, masks and distancing are the most effective backup we know of.

We're all tired of this pandemic, yet it seems some of us (and some commenters here) are ignoring this latest battle, while hoping for things to just magically return to normal.

Posted by Anne
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Aug 7, 2021 at 10:09 pm

Anne is a registered user.

NYT article link below. With Delta, COVID-19 progressed from the 10th leading cause of death in children in the U.S. in May 2021 to the top several now, in less than three months. We might set aside the debate over the percentage vaccination among staff and instead focus on daily indoor gathering of 0% vaccinated groups of 20+ children. As these statistics go, most children and classrooms will be OK. And then a certain number of children corresponding to the newly leading 3rd or 4th cause of childhood death will not. That's a lot of kids. It is highly unlikely to be yours - true. But they will be someone's. And if we weren't actively trying to view that number of childhood deaths as small in comparison to adult deaths, we would be horribly alarmed. We should be horribly alarmed.

Web Link

Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2021 at 10:37 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

“Do these parents that are stressing about sending their kids back to school not realize that last school year 38 states opened up their schools in mid/late August or early September with kids/teachers wearing masks and there were no major outbreaks?”

This is false information except for the fact they might have been open(but they likely also weren’t open that early). There were outbreaks all across the United State in schools. There is no national data base tracking Covid outbreaks in schools. That’s done on purpose under the guise of “see look…schools are a bastion of safety!”
The Government wants schools open at all costs so that parents can go to work and the economy can hum along. Biden also wants to score a big political win: “See I promised I would get your kids back in school!” But question it. Is it really safe with Delta?
Regardless, making a comment that 38 states “enjoyed a normal school year full of sports and proms and all kinds of other exciting school fun” while “we here in PA got gypped” is utter nonsense. It would be the opposite scenario where it would be pretty rare to find a school that had an “almost normal school year just with masks” last year during this pandemic. Not only that, each community has varying rates of transmission so comparing CA to other states would be apples to oranges because of our high population and our high population density.

Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 9, 2021 at 10:21 am

Cheryl Lilienstein is a registered user.

The American Association of Pediatricians urges emergency use authorization to vaccinate young children.

Web Link

Counties should mobilize to provide in-school vaccinations, and provide families with confidence in the government's ability to protect agains the virus. Let's get some relief for kids and parents.

Posted by Cheryl Lilienstein
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 9, 2021 at 10:30 am

Cheryl Lilienstein is a registered user.

not sure why that web link above doesn't work, but try this:
and then add

Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 9, 2021 at 11:04 am

Samuel L is a registered user.

Here's a blurb from an email Superintendent Austin sent to the PAUSD principals back in February. After complaining about the different bits of advice we have been given from those in charge over the past year, Austin first says, "I think we should stop saying we're following science." He goes on to say the following,

"My advice - Don't waste a minute trying to win the science debate. A teacher badgered me all weekend. They wanted my to answer the question, "WHY?" You may want to take my lead. I asked the teacher to give me a list of every reason why we should return for in-person. She refused. That doesn't matter and it saved me a lot of time. They know the answers. It may not align with their beliefs or desires, but there is no reason for you to answer that question. If forced, they could write 20 reasons why we are returning to in-person learning in the interest of students. I suggest having enough discipline to NOT do all the thinking for them. It's just a game in the first place. Avoid it."

Is this the attitude of a leader? Someone who dismisses questions as "games".

Does he only respect teachers that agree with him?

Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2021 at 1:16 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

“It may not align with their beliefs or desires, but there is no reason for you to answer that question.”

He states that school openings “doesn’t align with their(the teachers) beliefs or desires,” but the irony of the statement is that keeping schools closed actually doesn’t align with HIS beliefs or desires. So he immediately dismisses the thoughts of his staff that have legitimate concerns about their health and safety under the guise of “not having a science debate.” If forced himself, in reverse, he could also list 20 reasons why schools perhaps should not be open. I’ll start with two: Sickness! Death! He also condescends his staff by stating, “I suggest to NOT do the thinking for them.”

It says it went to principals, but he also messages his “parent base” in this same manner. Like with “it’s just a game in the first place. Avoid it.” That messaging appeals to the simpletons and says to them, “Our Superintendent is really showing those pesky teachers a thing or two AND he is a hero for standing up for our children!” This of course aligns with him wanting the continued support to keep his very well paid Superintendent position.

This is a serious situation. Anyone that states a teacher with COVID concerns is “badgering him”, won’t take the time to answer health and safety questions, completely ignores the health and safety of his staff, and acts condescendingly and dismissive of their staff should be fired immediately. There is also a subversive misogynistic angle at play here. I’m assuming a majority of teaching staff are female, and whether it’s intended or not, he also comes off as the “big man” putting women in their place and telling them what to do.

Always remember, Austin basically forced unvaccinated staff last year to work in person, while of course, not having to take on any of the in person risks himself. It looks even worse now as parents are having a fit making sure the teachers are vaccinated heading into this school year.

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2021 at 1:42 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

Re: Don Austin's behavior / message above -- Anyone dealing with our district knows that their communication pattern is spin spin spin, and it has been that way for a long time across many issues. Control the conversation.

It's not good for any of us, teachers, students, parents, or even admins themselves. The feedback loop of distrust starts at the top, where the real power is. A fix would have to start there, too.

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