News

'We're asking you to wait.' Reopening plan highlights breakdown of trust between teachers, district

Board, all but certain to approve proposal, sets special meeting for vote next week

Rani Rambo works with Jordan French, a behavior intervention coach with Palo Alto Unified's Extended School Year program, at Greene Middle School on July 9. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Palo Alto Unified's plan to reopen elementary schools in October has sparked intense anxiety among teachers and staff members who do not feel safe returning to work in person, illustrating a deepening divide between them and school leaders who support safely getting back to face-to-face instruction.

More than 100 people spoke during the school board's virtual meeting on Tuesday night, with the majority being teachers and staff who urged the district against reopening campuses in the coming weeks. Many said they felt the plan was rushed and had not included their input, fueling a sense of distrust and lack of confidence in the plan. A recent teachers union survey found that 82% of special education teachers and specialists and 83% of elementary teachers who responded do not feel comfortable going back to work in person. According to the union, 84% of elementary teachers and 82% of special education teachers responded to the survey.

Loretta Beasley, a teacher at El Carmelo Elementary School, cited a recent New York Times article that attributed one California school district's ability to successfully reopen with the support of both staff and families to trust.

"That's what we're lacking here. The transparency of this plan is clearly flawed. The safety of this plan is haphazard at best," Beasley said. "What I think is happening then is the teachers are seen as the bad guys. I can tell you I am working harder than I have ever worked before. I am not part of the 83%, but I am terrified."

The district's reopening plan, which is subject to a board vote next week but almost is certain to be approved, proposes a staggered return to school with hybrid models that mix in-person and online learning. Transitional kindergarteners and first-graders would go back to school on Oct. 12, second- and third-graders on Oct. 26, fourth- and fifth-graders on Nov. 9 and middle and high schoolers on Jan. 7. Students of all ages, including now kindergarten, first- and second-graders, will be required to wear masks at all times.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Palo Alto Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

The district also plans to bring more special education students back to school for daily, in-person instruction starting Monday, Sept. 28, which some special education teachers said they learned about Tuesday night.

Superintendent Don Austin, who said he believes students "belong in schools," acknowledged that there is no reopening plan that will satisfy everyone.

"Part of our problem right now is we're chasing something with no finish line for some people," he said. "I understand that. A person's fear or anxiety is real. There is a point, however, where we have exhausted our steps that we can put in place trying to make people feel better about returning."

He pointed to a disconnect between how educators and parents in the district feel about reopening. Of about 2,600 elementary school parents who responded to a district survey last week, 62% want their children to go back to school in person.

"We have to work through that," Austin said. "We have to remember who we serve first. School systems are designed and created to serve students."

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

Teachers said they worry about the safety of themselves, their students and families. Several specialists, such as music teachers or reading specialists who would work with multiple classrooms, questioned how that will keep cohorts stable. They asked for more detailed information about day-to-day logistics, safety measures and testing. (The district is looking into providing testing on campuses at no cost to students and staff, including possibly through Stanford Health Care.)

"We have not been part of the plan," said Lisa Jauregui, a middle school teacher in the Futures program for students with moderate to severe disabilities. "We are the ones on the front lines."

'The transparency of this plan is clearly flawed. The safety of this plan is haphazard at best.'

-Loretta Beasley, teacher, El Carmelo Elementary School

Tuesday marked two weeks since Santa Clara County moved into the less restrictive "red" tier under California's color-coded reopening framework, meaning all schools are now allowed to fully reopen for in-person instruction.

Some teachers pointed to local school districts that are not planning to open in person this semester, such as San Jose Unified. Other neighboring districts, however, including the Los Altos School District, are planning to resume in-person instruction in a staggered, hybrid model starting in October. In the Menlo Park City School District, kindergartners and first graders are returning to classrooms on Monday.

Several teachers and parents also said that distance learning has vastly improved since the spring. They worried that reopening will disrupt the progress that's been made in providing daily, quality online instruction.

Several board members explicitly said they support the reopening plan as proposed. Jennifer DiBrienza said she's not sure why there's a disconnect between the work the administration has done to put together a plan and the teachers who are expected to implement it. She noted that some of the questions and issues raised are answered in the 52-page plan.

"I do think that our staff has made an effort to create a clear safety plan and ... for whatever reason, there are many teachers who feel like they don't know what it is. Teachers are thinking that there isn't an adequate, safe plan in place when we think we have published an adequate safety plan," she said. "I'm not sure what the missing step is there but clearly we have to keep working at it."

Board member Ken Dauber made a failed motion to waive the board's two-meeting rule and vote on the reopening plan on Tuesday night. With the targeted first day of school less than three weeks away, he said it would give families and staff more certainty and time to prepare.

'There is a point, however, where we have exhausted our steps that we can put in place trying to make people feel better about returning.'

-Don Austin, superintendent, Palo Alto Unified

"We're going to adopt this plan," he said. "There's no benefit to waiting to do that except to continue to create I think a real cost, which is prolonging the uncertainty."

Vice President Shouank Dharap, board member Melissa Baten Caswell and DiBrienza voted against Dauber's motion while President Todd Collins abstained.

In the coming weeks, the district will be asking elementary school families to choose which model they want for their children for the rest of the year: either the in-person hybrid option or full distance learning.

Senior administrators shared how the campuses have been prepared for a safe reopening, from replacing HVAC filters, installing plexiglass dividers and designating entry and exit points to purchasing personal protective equipment for teachers and staff.

Board members also asked about options for livestreaming classes and outdoor instruction, which Austin said are subject to negotiations with the teachers union.

The school board will vote on the reopening plan at a special meeting this Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department issued revised guidance for K-12 schools this week. Updates include: staff providing special education and related services and rotating into general education classrooms for a portion of the day must stay at least 6 feet away from everyone else in the cohort; desks in middle school classrooms must be spaced at least 6 feet apart; and reporting confirmed COVID-19 cases and close contacts should be conducted through online portal, rather than email and phone.

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Palo Alto Online and the Palo Alto Weekly on Twitter @paloaltoweekly, Facebook and on Instagram @paloaltoonline for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

'We're asking you to wait.' Reopening plan highlights breakdown of trust between teachers, district

Board, all but certain to approve proposal, sets special meeting for vote next week

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Sep 23, 2020, 9:14 am

Palo Alto Unified's plan to reopen elementary schools in October has sparked intense anxiety among teachers and staff members who do not feel safe returning to work in person, illustrating a deepening divide between them and school leaders who support safely getting back to face-to-face instruction.

More than 100 people spoke during the school board's virtual meeting on Tuesday night, with the majority being teachers and staff who urged the district against reopening campuses in the coming weeks. Many said they felt the plan was rushed and had not included their input, fueling a sense of distrust and lack of confidence in the plan. A recent teachers union survey found that 82% of special education teachers and specialists and 83% of elementary teachers who responded do not feel comfortable going back to work in person. According to the union, 84% of elementary teachers and 82% of special education teachers responded to the survey.

Loretta Beasley, a teacher at El Carmelo Elementary School, cited a recent New York Times article that attributed one California school district's ability to successfully reopen with the support of both staff and families to trust.

"That's what we're lacking here. The transparency of this plan is clearly flawed. The safety of this plan is haphazard at best," Beasley said. "What I think is happening then is the teachers are seen as the bad guys. I can tell you I am working harder than I have ever worked before. I am not part of the 83%, but I am terrified."

The district's reopening plan, which is subject to a board vote next week but almost is certain to be approved, proposes a staggered return to school with hybrid models that mix in-person and online learning. Transitional kindergarteners and first-graders would go back to school on Oct. 12, second- and third-graders on Oct. 26, fourth- and fifth-graders on Nov. 9 and middle and high schoolers on Jan. 7. Students of all ages, including now kindergarten, first- and second-graders, will be required to wear masks at all times.

The district also plans to bring more special education students back to school for daily, in-person instruction starting Monday, Sept. 28, which some special education teachers said they learned about Tuesday night.

Superintendent Don Austin, who said he believes students "belong in schools," acknowledged that there is no reopening plan that will satisfy everyone.

"Part of our problem right now is we're chasing something with no finish line for some people," he said. "I understand that. A person's fear or anxiety is real. There is a point, however, where we have exhausted our steps that we can put in place trying to make people feel better about returning."

He pointed to a disconnect between how educators and parents in the district feel about reopening. Of about 2,600 elementary school parents who responded to a district survey last week, 62% want their children to go back to school in person.

"We have to work through that," Austin said. "We have to remember who we serve first. School systems are designed and created to serve students."

Teachers said they worry about the safety of themselves, their students and families. Several specialists, such as music teachers or reading specialists who would work with multiple classrooms, questioned how that will keep cohorts stable. They asked for more detailed information about day-to-day logistics, safety measures and testing. (The district is looking into providing testing on campuses at no cost to students and staff, including possibly through Stanford Health Care.)

"We have not been part of the plan," said Lisa Jauregui, a middle school teacher in the Futures program for students with moderate to severe disabilities. "We are the ones on the front lines."

Tuesday marked two weeks since Santa Clara County moved into the less restrictive "red" tier under California's color-coded reopening framework, meaning all schools are now allowed to fully reopen for in-person instruction.

Some teachers pointed to local school districts that are not planning to open in person this semester, such as San Jose Unified. Other neighboring districts, however, including the Los Altos School District, are planning to resume in-person instruction in a staggered, hybrid model starting in October. In the Menlo Park City School District, kindergartners and first graders are returning to classrooms on Monday.

Several teachers and parents also said that distance learning has vastly improved since the spring. They worried that reopening will disrupt the progress that's been made in providing daily, quality online instruction.

Several board members explicitly said they support the reopening plan as proposed. Jennifer DiBrienza said she's not sure why there's a disconnect between the work the administration has done to put together a plan and the teachers who are expected to implement it. She noted that some of the questions and issues raised are answered in the 52-page plan.

"I do think that our staff has made an effort to create a clear safety plan and ... for whatever reason, there are many teachers who feel like they don't know what it is. Teachers are thinking that there isn't an adequate, safe plan in place when we think we have published an adequate safety plan," she said. "I'm not sure what the missing step is there but clearly we have to keep working at it."

Board member Ken Dauber made a failed motion to waive the board's two-meeting rule and vote on the reopening plan on Tuesday night. With the targeted first day of school less than three weeks away, he said it would give families and staff more certainty and time to prepare.

"We're going to adopt this plan," he said. "There's no benefit to waiting to do that except to continue to create I think a real cost, which is prolonging the uncertainty."

Vice President Shouank Dharap, board member Melissa Baten Caswell and DiBrienza voted against Dauber's motion while President Todd Collins abstained.

In the coming weeks, the district will be asking elementary school families to choose which model they want for their children for the rest of the year: either the in-person hybrid option or full distance learning.

Senior administrators shared how the campuses have been prepared for a safe reopening, from replacing HVAC filters, installing plexiglass dividers and designating entry and exit points to purchasing personal protective equipment for teachers and staff.

Board members also asked about options for livestreaming classes and outdoor instruction, which Austin said are subject to negotiations with the teachers union.

The school board will vote on the reopening plan at a special meeting this Tuesday, Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department issued revised guidance for K-12 schools this week. Updates include: staff providing special education and related services and rotating into general education classrooms for a portion of the day must stay at least 6 feet away from everyone else in the cohort; desks in middle school classrooms must be spaced at least 6 feet apart; and reporting confirmed COVID-19 cases and close contacts should be conducted through online portal, rather than email and phone.

Comments

No
Registered user
Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:37 am
No, Barron Park
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:37 am
126 people like this

Not only will in-person instruction be dangerous but students will be receiving less instruction time with teachers than they are currently receiving during distance learning. For example: K-5 under the hybrid model will be receiving about 8-12 hours of instruction per week compared to the around 24 hours of instruction that they are receiving during distance learning. So less instruction time plus the risk of exposure to teachers, staff, students, and all of their families. Not worth it! Safety should be our #1 concern!


the way
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:37 am
the way, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:37 am
108 people like this

I agree with Austin and I'm a teacher in the district. Kids need to be in school and no plan will be perfect but kids in rooms by themselves all day is not the answer for sure.

How about those teachers that are willing to teach in person be allowed to and those who are not just take care of kids who want to remain online.

Yes, district will have to get creative but it is hopefully one year only. Kids and teachers should get a choice!


Amy
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:45 am
Amy , Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:45 am
36 people like this

The Way:
Last night listening to the teachers speak it sounded like the teachers have not been a part of the discussion about whether teachers should go back in person or not. Did the union sign off that those 83% of elementary school teachers that don't want to go in person, are in fact available to go back? So is it that the union told the district "yes, our teachers are ready, your plan sounds solid and so you set the date and they will be there"? And now the district has set the date but the teachers didn't know that the Union went against the 83% of elementary school teachers who don't find the plan sufficient? I'm just trying to understand this. Its concerning to me that 83% of the elementary teachers aren't comfortable yet their own union said they need to go? I am not a teacher, have never been in a union and realize it's complex. But at the end of the day I thought the Union was to speak for the majority of its teachers and here it seems like that didn't happen? Or maybe I'm missing something?


Brian
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:46 am
Brian, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:46 am
94 people like this

The question is this: do we trust the health department experts who have a background in infectious diseases and epidemiology? Or do we trust some [portion removed] fourth grade English teacher and/or teacher union leaders? Why exactly are the teachers "terrified?" [Portion removed.] It seems like they're acting from being media influenced rather than data-influenced. It's emotion-based reasoning [portion removed.]


Nancy
Registered user
Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:56 am
Nancy, Barron Park
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 10:56 am
85 people like this

Tweens/teens, unlike children ages 0-9, transmit COVID19 just like adults. According to Menlo Medical pediatrics, 15 minutes is all it takes for someone wearing a mask (that is not an N95) to pick up the virus in an indoor setting. I fully support all teachers who do not want to be enclosed indoors for hours in classrooms that WILL contain asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic students. I support PAUSD opening campuses only for special ed and PAUSD+. Should PAUSD open secondary schools for students who want to return to classrooms next year, PAUSD must offer a secondary education distance learning option, as robust as offered now, because many students and their families simply can't afford to get COVID19, nor should they have to do so to get an education. The PAUSD secondary school classrooms will contain asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic students (and possibly teachers), breathing out the virus particles into the classroom through the holes in the sides, top and bottom of their masks. "Symptom checks" will not prevent those students/teachers from sitting in the classrooms. Healthy classmates/teachers, sitting over an hour in a classroom filling up with virus particles, will breath in the COVID19 particles in the enclosed classroom. Infected, these students/teachers will bring COVID19 home to their families. Many families have family members who are immune compromised (for example, cancer survivors) and/or elderly grandparents in the home. Many students have asthma compromised lungs and can't risk this exposure. I hope PAUSD and teachers work out a live streaming option for the tweens/teens and their families who must continue distance learning next semester, should secondary schools open during this pandemic.


Bill Glazier
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2020 at 11:05 am
Bill Glazier, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 11:05 am
149 people like this

I just hosted nearly 1,000 kids in 9 weeks of summer sports camps in Palo Alto between June and August of 2020. We did this by the County Health Guidelines (and had no tolerance for people who would not follow the rules). Six hours a day, 4 days a week. We made it all summer with NO cases of COVID. We were safe, and the kids were thrilled to be together and learning and having fun. These are exactly the same kids who will be going to your elementary schools in Palo Alto. Our campers were primarily late elementary/early middle school.

If teachers believe they are an essential part of the workforce (which they absolutely are), they need to join the long line of other essential workers (doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, police officers, firefighters....) who take some risk in their professional lives. The need for kids to be in person socially and learning at school is extraordinary. For many, there will be no 'catch-up' opportunity once they have fallen off the track.

My high school outside Buffalo, NY just published a very detailed opening plan with how they will be bringing HS kids back to school before the end of this month. Extensive video describing and showing the changes - and they do not have the benefit ot outside hallways and outside space (Buffalo weather turns toward winter in October). The COVID infection rates in Santa Clara County and Erie County (where my old HS is located) are pretty much identical. I do not see why Palo Alto HS needs to wait another 4 months to open their doors.

I will be glad to share our experience in implementing the Guidelines with anyone in the school district, We proved it can be done - safely and successfully. The Teachers Union owes it to the kids to do a better job in encouraging everyone to get back to school.


Facts and Figures
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 23, 2020 at 11:21 am
Facts and Figures, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 11:21 am
55 people like this

@Bill Glazier,

Thank you for coming forward with these amazing facts.

Even one day per week for secondary students would make a difference for the mental health.

Students will not receive less instruction if teachers agree to stream from their classrooms. Is this optimal. No, but nothing is optimal in this time.

We must do what we can to get kids connected in person. Covid-19 is not miraculously ending any time soon. We cannot count on a vaccine for children any time soon. Our classrooms and processes must support streaming and in person and remote choice made on WEEKLY basis through 2022 or even longer (not 2021 as many seem to believe).


Californiamama PRD
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 23, 2020 at 11:31 am
Californiamama PRD, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 11:31 am
85 people like this

The fact that 83 percent do not feel safe to return says something. Have you seen the classrooms? Some do not have windows. Ventlilation is a real issue. Social distancing will be an issue (but easier among older kids). Outdoor summer camps are not a fair comparison. Kids will be indoors for 6 hours a day. Most teachers will not have N95 masks for protection. Asymptomatic transmission is the biggest threat with airborne transmission. Yes, CDC walked back those recommendations but the WHO has been pointing to airborne transmission for months. Parents and teachers are demanding more precautions for safety. Hand washing with cold water and temperature checks is not enough.


Jonathan Brown
Registered user
Ventura
on Sep 23, 2020 at 11:47 am
Jonathan Brown, Ventura
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 11:47 am
67 people like this

Science-based state guidelines are telling us it's safe to open schools for in-person learning today. The School District plan already builds in considerable grace period--months in the case of grades 6-12. The plan is 100% transparent; it's posted online. It follows all applicable health guidelines. Yes, "teachers are seen as the bad guys" because they are the ones complaining and not contributing any specifics to get kids back into classrooms. Thank you staff and school board for prioritizing the importance of in-person learning while following the science.


Frustrated Teacher
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:05 pm
Frustrated Teacher, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:05 pm
97 people like this

Teacher here. I agree entirely with @Bill Glazier. The District plan is more than adequate, and the mental health benefits for me and for the kids are more than worth the small and dwindling risk to physical health. My opinion is unpopular enough among my colleagues that I don't share it widely for fear of damaging those relationships. I've contemplated leaving the District despite tenure if our union here tries to keep us closed into August 2021 while all the Districts around us reopen.


CoCo
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:06 pm
CoCo, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:06 pm
83 people like this

I have worked in an elementary school in Palo Alto for over a decade as an instructional aide. I miss the kids and know that being in person is better for most kids than online learning. But I am with the 83% that don't feel it is safe to return. There is a big gap between plans drawn up by adults for how a classroom should look and function during a pandemic, and what will actually occur when you have CHILDREN present. Because children will remember what school used to be like and will struggle to follow all the new requirements. You can "require" a student to wear a mask, but what do you do when the student fidgets with or pulls down the mask because it has become uncomfortable after many hours of wear? Who is going to be checking that the masks are replaced or are freshly sanitized EVERY day the student is in school? Who is going to accompany the child to the restroom and supervise the 20 second hand washing with soap? And hand washing before and after snack/lunch? And supervise the line that forms while students wait to use the one classroom sink or the two sinks commonly found in the student restrooms. If you think the kids will space themselves out six feet apart and wait patiently without an adult present, you have not recently spent a day with young children. Teachers are essential workers, to be sure, but unless the district is going to be handing out gloves, masks, shields, gowns, and bring the level of PPE up to the standards of hospitals/medical offices where nurses and doctors have prolonged contact with others as teachers will when they return to classrooms for 6+ hours a day, it is not a safe environment. It's a "semi-safe" environment, and the COVID 19 virus is ready to exploit it.


Jay
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:06 pm
Jay, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:06 pm
31 people like this

Why not planning small first?
I think working as community together with empathy to fight against COVID 19, District should plan small by targeting struggling kids and families first beyond PAUSD+. By the way, do not get this wrong. My kids are totally fine with distance learning. If we limit number of kids and staffs at campus, it will have more efficient and effective outcome as a whole community, especially timing with flu season. District should beg whole community to keep kids who is doing ok with distance learning at home even though it is not 100 % ideal situation and district should beg community to give campus space to the struggling kids and families referred by teachers whatever reason that is. Flu season is coming and I think this reopening plan is wasting our recourse. Don sent out email that " students and staff safety is the priority" and then he celebrated that 800 staffs were on campus. I felt something is not consistent. I wonder if anyone wants to check how district prepared safety measure for those 800 staffs at site and office. So we can see the true example and trust district safety plan on paper of reopening school. Survey shows 65% of parents wants to send kid to school. I wonder what is total population of 100% survey participants. Usually People who likes current situation is not eager to participate survey. I am not sure 65% is real number representing whole community thoughts. For social wise for elementary kids, I see my kids are having fun during lunch time through zoom or face time with other friends by chatting, drawing and eating together. If they are going to school, ironically social will be more weird by distancing 6 ft each other with mask. District should plan something effective and efficient. Put whole community safety first while taking care of kids and families who has difficulties. Make goal and plan small, so at the end of COVID 19, District has at least something to share for their accomplishment.


Midtown Dad
Registered user
JLS Middle School
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:19 pm
Midtown Dad, JLS Middle School
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:19 pm
39 people like this

I appreciate that the district is giving families a choice in whether to choose distance learning or in-person education during this trying time. I hope that teachers also get a choice in choosing to teach in-person or from a distance.

One of the potential technology solutions mentioned during the school board meeting is ionization systems for the HVAC systems. I hope decision makers ask the consulting company about the ozone created by ionization purifiers. It's likely we would be exchanging COVID sterilization in exchange for pumping ozone, a common car pollutant and irritant, directly into our school buildings. (They may also want to consider the expertise of this particular company.) The EPA has a page specifically on the concern of ionizers creating ozone which includes the line "There is no difference, despite some marketers' claims, between ozone in smog outdoors and ozone produced by these devices." Many tech companies in the area are shunning ionizers for this reason and instead are looking at UV sterilization systems in HVAC systems which sanitize the air without pumping a pollutant into classrooms and offices. I hope we make our classrooms and offices safer without introducing new problems.


Mary
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:19 pm
Mary, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:19 pm
50 people like this

The teachers and staff need to look [portion removed] and see what's going on in the rest of the country and the rest of the world. Kids are going to school, and have been in Europe in many places for months. How many teachers are getting sick? How many kids are getting sick? California has been been very strict about reopening things, and Santa Clara County even more so, and they both say it's safe now.


Anony Mouse
Registered user
St. Claire Gardens
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:35 pm
Anony Mouse, St. Claire Gardens
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:35 pm
45 people like this

@Amy - No. The Union is not disconnected from the teachers. What you are seeing is the unyielding negotiating stance of the Admin. From what I've been informed, Admin has been keeping teachers and the Union at arm's length. You saw evidence of this in teacher comments last night, especially Futures Program teachers.

It's important to note that this reopening is like a rocket launch. Just like a rocket, all systems must work perfectly in order to launch. Any breakdowns in the system in this case leads to illness and death. Admin is very confident that plans are robust and everything will go according to plan. I ask you, the public: do you believe that it's a core competency of educators and PAUSD to launch a complex, high stakes, multifaceted, public health plan perfectly? Right from the start?

The answer, in my view, is no. As they are "iterating" and getting it right, and improving and so on, who will be at risk? How will parents know?


Facts please!
Registered user
Green Acres
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:46 pm
Facts please!, Green Acres
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 12:46 pm
53 people like this

This board meeting was the epitome of how a meeting should NEVER be run. Instead of 100 angry teachers who fear we are sending them to the guillotine, why didn't the board invite to talk medical specialists (we are right next Stanford, after all) who could evaluate with FACTS the content of the plan? [Portion removed.]


Enough
Registered user
another community
on Sep 23, 2020 at 1:03 pm
Enough, another community
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 1:03 pm
65 people like this

With all due respect to teachers it is time to get back to work or find another line of work. I respect teachers but the county health department and the state governor's office have set strict criteria which everyone worked hard to meet. Now that those criteria have been met it is time to get our children back to class. This is not a "nice to have" this is an absolute necessity. I have been watching young kids struggle with "Distance learning" for the last 6 months. They are certainly not getting a good education. I challenge anyone to argue that "Distance Learning" is providing even half the educational and mental benefits that in person does. Our kids have not interacted with others in months or if they did on a very limited basis. Young children need to see others their age, interact with them, have a focused learning environment. All the things that "Distance Learning" does not and can not provide.

The parents, including teachers with small children, also need the mental and physical break that comes from having kids out of the house for a few hours a day. I have heard this from every parent I have spoken to, even elementary teachers who have small children.

So teachers, if you have ideas on how to make the classrooms safer you should share them, if they are reasonable I am sure they will be considered, but arguing to not restart school when the professionals have said it is safe is a non-starter and one I think you will find little support for from parents..


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 23, 2020 at 1:05 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 1:05 pm
45 people like this

Germans have the data (I'm reposting from another thread)

"Child-to-child transmission in schools/childcare facilities appeared very uncommon. We anticipate that, with face mask use and frequent ventilation of rooms, transmission rates in schools/childcare facilities would remain low in the next term, even if classes’ group sizes were increased."

Web Link


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Sep 23, 2020 at 1:39 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 1:39 pm
27 people like this

I am not weighing in on who is right here, but I do want to comment that the nightmare spring quarter was the Teacher's Unions plan and was signed without ANY parent/student/community input on March 25th. So, this time the parents/students/community are making sure voices are heard.
I ask that the teachers/parents/community read the 52 page document that was provided, links went out last week, and then provide input on the safety. See if it does indeed meet safety requirements.


Trust the Public Health Experts
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 23, 2020 at 1:53 pm
Trust the Public Health Experts, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 1:53 pm
55 people like this

I'm glad Don Austin is doing his job and growing a spine against the powerful teachers' union.... "We have to remember who we serve first. School systems are designed and created to serve students." Public health experts say Palo Alto kids can go back to school. Schools in other countries are open in areas with higher positivity rates than Palo Alto and thriving. KIDS FIRST; THEY ARE THE FUTURE. Both education AND mental health should be national, state, city priorities. I empathize with teachers who are scared to go back because of health reasons (they can continue with online teaching to kids who need to continue with distance learning); there are many teachers/substitute teachers who would LOVE to get a chance to work for PAUSD in-person for a year and get their foot in the door. Ask any teaching applicant, getting a job at PAUSD is hard. (Of course, once you're in and tenured, you could be the worst teacher on Earth and not get fired. Thanks, Union!)


Ohlone parent & PAUSD graduate
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 23, 2020 at 2:29 pm
Ohlone parent & PAUSD graduate, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 2:29 pm
29 people like this

We appreciate the Board's commitment last night to "anchor" and "rely upon" government health guidelines for school reopening. Regarding outdoor instruction, the guidelines from the Santa Clara Department of Public Health are clear: "Move as much instruction and as many activities as possible to outdoor spaces and other larger spaces to allow for greater distancing between students and greater dispersion of viral particles." [1]

Outdoor instruction is the top recommendation for all class settings, and the expert guidance to hold as many activities as possible outdoors is repeated throughout the guidelines. See Id. at 12, 7, 13, 14, 20, 22.

The currently proposed PAUSD Return to Campus Roadmap is not consistent with that guidance. For classrooms, the current plan is to "[u]tilize other campus spaces for instructional activities (e.g., lecture halls, gyms, auditoriums, cafeterias, outdoors), as needed." [2]. By contrast, staff meetings, food services, and physical conditioning are to be outdoors, consistent with the guidance. See Id. at 25, 28, 29. We do not think that the Board would like to afford less protection to our students than it does to our staff.

The reopening plan must be amended to include outdoor instruction whenever possible, to be consistent with the Santa Clara Department of Public Health guidelines, and to protect our students and community from known health risks.

[1] Santa Clara County Public Health Department, COVID-19 Prepared: Reopening of Santa Clara County K-12 Public Schools (June 30, 2020; revised Sept. 21, 2020) at 12, available at Web Link (last visited Sept. 22, 2020)

[2] Palo Alto Unified School District, Return to Campus Roadmap (Sept. 22, 2020) at 25, 44, 45, available at Web Link (last visited Sept. 22, 2020)


Facts and Figures
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 23, 2020 at 2:44 pm
Facts and Figures, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 2:44 pm
23 people like this

Engaged parents and community,
SB98 created standards. The State created reopening tiers. The County set forth requirements.
Who on the board is requiring the admin to show on a checklist that these standards and requirements are being met?
1. SB98: In person, whenever possible, and distance for whoever is home by choice or quarantine or if the County/State has closed the school
2. Distance learning: live daily interaction of the equivalent quality and challenge as in person (so immersion should get immersion; AP, AP; honors; honors).
3. County requirements? Are these being met?
4. State requirements? Are these being met?
We should not have to read a 52 page document. Show us the checklist that is being used to ensure that all required standards and guidelines are being followed.


Nancy
Registered user
Barron Park
on Sep 23, 2020 at 3:21 pm
Nancy, Barron Park
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 3:21 pm
37 people like this

1. Transmission is low for children ages 0-9, but tweens and teens transmit the virus just like adults.
2. Masks REDUCE but do not prevent viral transmission because the viral particles leak out masks sides, tops and bottoms. When outdoors (like at a sports camp), those viral leaks dissipate. When indoors, those particles fill the classroom, for others to breathe in, through their masks sides, tops and bottoms.
3. Virus particles indoors enter a person through their eyes. That's why infectious disease experts now recommend eye coverings.


Meanwhile
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Sep 23, 2020 at 3:40 pm
Meanwhile, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 3:40 pm
70 people like this

Two things:
1. The plan looks very detailed until you're the one who has to implement it and then you realize how many holes are in it--then it reads like an overview. This isn't a situation where teachers can just make it work on the fly. Teachers need specifics. For example, they need SITE specific, STAFF specific plans for recess at the elementary-level. Who covers whom and when--this is a unique situation given the requirement for staggered recesses and stable cohorts. This is just the most lay-person accessible example I can think of to share that demonstrates what teachers mean when they say that the plan isn't detailed enough.
2. There's a disconnect between what is being told to families and what's actually getting done. Some sites appear to be ON THEIR WAY (not DONE)...signage is up, but rooms haven't been set up, handwash stations, hot water, etc...and others aren't. Not all the PPE outlined in the report is actually in hand, it's on back order or is on the way. Ventilation is still being resolved and teachers are returning to classrooms to discover that issues not in alignment with the safety protocol. When they voice these concerns, well, read any thread. Teachers aren't trying to shirk their job--they're trying to blow the whistle. Take a look at the proposed MOUs that the district has publicized on their own website to see the differences between what they wanted to return with and what we have now...the district offers the bare minimum and only shifts when that bare minimum is changed by health departments or from community/teacher outcry.


Anonymous
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Sep 23, 2020 at 3:49 pm
Anonymous, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 3:49 pm
21 people like this

I'm amazed that the Teachers Union is so quiet in all of this. The main purpose for *any* union is worker protection, followed by worker compensation. Clearly the teachers feel like they're being put at risk, so where is their union? How did they cede their bargaining power in all of this.


Anony Mouse
Registered user
Palo Alto Orchards
on Sep 23, 2020 at 4:03 pm
Anony Mouse, Palo Alto Orchards
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 4:03 pm
20 people like this

Perhaps it would be useful to have Special Ed. parents weigh in here about their experience. It's a useful analogy. Many Special Ed. cases are highly complex plans, with multiple personnel expected to do complex tasks with a young human. The district makes a "promise" in an IEP - this is actually more like a contract than the re-opening plan. How does the parent verify that all promises are being carried out exactly as specified? When it is discovered that the promises are not carried out exactly, what is the district response? When they say "we're working hard", and "we're working on it", is that adequate? Now, apply that same logic to re-opening. Special ed parents, jump in any time...


William Billiam
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 23, 2020 at 8:21 pm
William Billiam, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 8:21 pm
47 people like this

If the district was actually doing what they say, this would be a conversation. Don Austin has repeated lied and is feeding parents misinformation. Classrooms aren't close to ready and they are going about it bass aackward. They don't have the proper desks, dividers, cleaning supplies, spacing markers, signage, or any other numerous required 1st steps to do this safely.

What's the impetus to get everyone back? Teachers don't want it and a majority of parents don't want it. We should have distance learning for the standard & in person instruction for the people who do so we can get a feel about how it works.

Also don't confuse the hybrid learning for anything resembling what we had last fall. Schools will not be back to the pre pandemic normal. Life won't be normal for a while.

Stay safe.


Fresh Air - why not outdoors?
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 23, 2020 at 8:37 pm
Fresh Air - why not outdoors?, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 8:37 pm
34 people like this

We have a second grader at El Carmelo with an IEP which calls for a one on be aide, counseling, OT, and a writing specialist. Distance learning has been extremely challenging but we have a great teacher and support staff. They “get” my grandson. For us to go to a hybrid setting, he would actually lose direct contact time with his teacher and the idea of asynchronous instruction just doesn’t work for him. Since school has begun he is working on anxiety and focus. To move to distance learning he will most likely lose his team and must start over again establishing relationships and trust. This just seems cruel and not child centric at all. We are in a no win situation. Why rush this? I was very disturbed that none of the board members expressed any concern for the topics that many people voiced last night. This virus is airborne and I’m still not convinced it’s safe. Todd Collins said last. Ogura that he tried to Google school districts who use tents. He said he couldn’t find any? Really? Use these search terms tents outdoor school district and you will find some. Why can’t Palo Alto be a leader on this? Please listen to all your constituents.


Fresh Air - why not outdoors?
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 23, 2020 at 8:39 pm
Fresh Air - why not outdoors?, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 23, 2020 at 8:39 pm
20 people like this

We have a second grader at El Carmelo with an IEP which calls for a one on be aide, counseling, OT, and a writing specialist. Distance learning has been extremely challenging but we have a great teacher and support staff. They “get” my grandson. For us to go to a hybrid setting, he would actually lose direct contact time with his teacher and the idea of asynchronous instruction just doesn’t work for him. Since school has begun he is working on anxiety and focus. To move to distance learning he will most likely lose his team and must start over again establishing relationships and trust. This just seems cruel and not child centric at all. We are in a no win situation. Why rush this? I was very disturbed that none of the board members expressed any concern for the topics that many people voiced last night. This virus is airborne and I’m still not convinced it’s safe. Todd Collins said last night that he tried to Google school districts who use tents. He said he couldn’t find any? Really? Use these search terms tents outdoor school district and you will find some. Why can’t Palo Alto be a leader on this? Please listen to all your constituents.


Frustrated Parent
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 24, 2020 at 12:05 am
Frustrated Parent, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 12:05 am
52 people like this

It is unfortunate that the burden of mitigating the COVID risk has fallen on our kids. They are paying the price for it by staying home like prisoners, glued to their desks, losing precious growth opportunities.Poor kids are suffering because they are not able to focus on online studies, have a lack of motivation to study for tests (ACT, SAT) or to apply to college (for Juniors and Seniors), nonstop screen time, sitting in weird positions all day long leading to physical problems such as back/neck pain/headaches, lack of social interaction and emotional growth, mental health issues, and so on. Sadly don't have unions or the power, to voice their concerns :(

All the hospitals and clinics across the Bay Area have been open for a long time and are not seeing any increased COVID infections even though their staff are constantly getting exposed to patients who have the highest risk of carrying Covid. Then why are we so worried about reopening schools which are not even a place for sick people? If the high-risk hospitals and clinics can open, then why not schools? 

Several preschools and schools in the bay area have been open for months without any problems. What is working for them can also work for our public schools.
Aren't we all taking a risk everyday by going to the stores, malls, salons, restaurants, parks and public places? So why do the teachers want 0 risk for school?

The question is, are the teachers willing to take some risk as well? If they are waiting for a 0 risk solution, that is not possible. We can't keep waiting for a vaccine to come out and even when it does come out, will the vaccine guarantee 0 % risk? If not, does that mean the kids will never go back to school again?

Right now there is COVID, if God forbid, there is another such virus in the future. then what will we do? Will the schools be closed forever? 

This virus is not going away anywhere. It is here to stay with us for a lifetime, so we need to quickly find ways to get our kids back in school and in doing so, be willing to take some minimal risk, which we already do by stepping out of house. Remeber there are in

The state has given us the green signal to reopen the schools based on expert guidance, so what are we waiting for? Is the district not prepared for reopening or the teachers wouldn't let that happen as they think they know better than all the medical staff and experts in California?

The teachers need to face the reality that they will have to teach on site at some point. Not much is going to change in COVID situation between now and January or a year from now. It is time to take action. We can't wait indefinitely for schools to open. 

Let kids be kids and let us be the mature adults, those who can take slight risks. Let us not hide behind our young & innocent kids who are at the moment being used as shields to protect us against COVID. COVID is here to stay and we have to learn to face it, not hide from it.

Whether the schools open this Fall, in January, or next year, the measures that the school district will have to take to protect its school population are going to be the same. So why not implement those measures right now instead of waiting till January or later?

How about instead of keeping kids at home, we come up with solutions to keep more of the staff at home? We should try to maximize the use of outdoor and open spaces in schools for in-person education. The district should partner with parents to help with on-site learning. 

It's been 7 long months and we keep having the same discussions. For some reason, the teachers and most parents seem to be on opposite sides. We have to trust each other that we want the best for all of us. We really are in this together. It is time that we converge and make a plan to reopen schools in person. 


Roger Dodger
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 24, 2020 at 6:24 am
Roger Dodger, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 6:24 am
104 people like this

Just taking a moment here to weigh in to point out the irony of the Board of Education, our district administrators, and over 1000 members of our community meeting via Zoom in order to be safe from a deadly pandemic. While everyone is safe at home (and on this forum), they are discussing sending teachers, staff, and students back into unsafe indoor environments during that same deadly pandemic.

Perhaps when the Board and administrators are willing to meet in person for 6 hours, less than 6 feet apart, in a classroom with no open windows and inadequate ventilation, with a crowd of 20 or so kids doing a group project together, with that project being something that the Board and admins are responsible for managing in terms of masks, proper distancing, hand-washing, proper handling of supplies, general hygiene AND meeting all the state standards for curriculum, teaching, and learning (don't forget the individual accommodations for IEPs and 504s!), all while they simultaneously discuss their plans for how teaching and learning should go forward without fear, then I will be willing to take what they are saying with less than the metric ton of salt I am giving it at the moment....


S_mom
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 24, 2020 at 9:01 am
S_mom, Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 9:01 am
46 people like this

I think we should trust our state and county health officials, who are qualified to make these decisions. We listened to them when they said to close, we should listen when they say to open. The school board and the teachers don't have any expertise in making public health decisions, so I support the school board's plan to follow the guidance of our public health officials.

I am very sorry that some teachers are fearful, and am guessing communications have been bad, but I think we should make decisions for public schools based on our best scientific public health advice.


Clarification
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Sep 24, 2020 at 9:35 am
Clarification, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 9:35 am
78 people like this

The teachers' concerns aren't just that it isn't safe to return...it's that the district can't meet the health department's guidelines for a safe return.

And if you don't think Covid isn't in PAUSD--two of the day care centers on school campuses have had to close for two weeks in the past two months due to cases.


John Hackmann
Registered user
Professorville
on Sep 24, 2020 at 9:49 am
John Hackmann, Professorville
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 9:49 am
9 people like this

probably best left up to individual parents


Finally
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 24, 2020 at 10:57 am
Finally, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 10:57 am
29 people like this

I support the choice they are giving to parents re DL or hybrid, as not one model fits all. Regarding the teachers who don't want to come back, I'm pretty sure all the other essential workers- grocery store employees, firemen, police, maintenance, and, especially all our health care workers- had reservations going back too, but did it for the good of society. Our teachers have a strong union already advocating for them. I know that many health care workers went back EVEN with pay cuts. [Portion removed] let's think of the people who don't have a voice, or are unwilling to speak up here. Mental health issues are REAL.


Ventilation plans and metrics?
Registered user
Downtown North
on Sep 24, 2020 at 11:19 am
Ventilation plans and metrics?, Downtown North
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 11:19 am
42 people like this

I am interested in learning more about the plans for measuring and improving ventilation in our classrooms. What has been done to date (e.g., in elementary schools), what is planned, and what is the cost? Does anyone have a pointer to where I can find out more? Thank you...


Teacher
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 24, 2020 at 4:00 pm
Teacher , Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 4:00 pm
75 people like this

I’m a teacher currently working in the district. The safety plan has not been implemented. I work from school almost everyday and I have not seen a single maintenance person in my room, or on campus, getting ready for school to begin. We want to see our students and support them as much as we can, but the district HAS NOT done what they say they have. We have no hot water, no dividers, no filters, and no distance markers. On top of that, having 2-3 asynchronous days will significantly reduce instruction time. Also, our amazing class communities will be completely destroyed. There is a reason we are saying we don’t want to come back under these conditions. We love our students tremendously, we would never want to put any of them in harms way and we don’t feel like the truth is being told.


Mary
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 24, 2020 at 5:14 pm
Mary, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 5:14 pm
7 people like this


Facts and Figures
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2020 at 6:10 pm
Facts and Figures, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 6:10 pm
15 people like this

If indeed the admin (our Board and Don Austin) are lying to teachers, why do they still have their jobs?

Maybe parents, students and teachers need to talk directly WITHOUT the union, the admin and PTA.

Together get can comfortable room by room, child by child, without waiting until January for our secondary students to go in classrooms that do not have HEPA filters or anything else that would help.

How can this happen? Oakland has a Parent Group. What do we have?


Ventilation plans and metrics?
Registered user
Downtown North
on Sep 24, 2020 at 9:44 pm
Ventilation plans and metrics?, Downtown North
Registered user
on Sep 24, 2020 at 9:44 pm
15 people like this

Coincidentally, I saw workmen today at Cubberley as I was dropping off the kids. Palo Alto Glass was there and windows in classrooms were being pried open. So some ventilation work is happening at PAUSD. But how much and at what pace? Are we adding ceiling fans? How will we measure how fast air is turning over in the rooms?


Sarah
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Sep 25, 2020 at 2:54 am
Sarah, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2020 at 2:54 am
73 people like this

Hello! I am an alumni of the PAUSD system and the daughter of a PAUSD elementary school teacher. Tonight I am up late, stressing about the fact that these administrators are willing to risk the lives of staff, my mother included, and rush a reopening plan that they are not equipped or prepared to handle. Teachers have gone above and beyond for your students, pouring hundreds of additional hours into adapting lesson plans, building out their digital classrooms and working through the growing pains of transitioning to a virtual classroom (with very little notice I might add, because the school board waited to make a decision about reopening at the beginning of the school year, giving teachers almost no time to prepare!!!!!!!!!) The comments on this article, suggesting that teachers “need to get back to work”, implying that they are currently profiting from virtual learning and shirking their responsibilities, are despicable. I have seen first hand how hard my mom and others have worked to create these digital classrooms. I have watched how stressed and worried they are about their students, and to imply otherwise is abhorrent.

One glaring omission from the board’s plan is specialty teachers- who have been told they have to visit each class every week. This puts the staff and students at such a huge risk!!!!!! These teachers (library, art, PE, music) are what made my Palo Alto education so great. Any single staff getting sick or dying, is a failure and is absolutely avoidable.

This town has so many issues, the biggest being mental health. Before this pandemic, for decades Teachers in this district have had to shoulder the burden of student mental health, while a revolving door of PAUSD administrations have failed to support students and solve our district wide mental health crisis. Going to school in this town is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and unnecessarily losing one of my teachers, an aide or a librarian would have sent me over the edge. We put these students through so much, and the world is already so heavy. They cannot handle the stress of disorganized emergency quarantines or the potential of losing a teacher or classmate (children have died from COVID too!!). It’s about time that the board stepped up to support its staff who have been on the front lines of this mental health crisis for years. I owe these teachers my life, and PAUSD should value theirs.

Forcing teachers, back into the classroom when they feel unsafe and uncomfortable is sending the wrong message to our students, who are always watching and learning. I am using my “nationally ranked education” that these teachers helped me earn to speak out about how wrong the school board is. I am extremely frustrated and upset with the disregard for the humanity of the PAUSD teachers and staff (and their families). A reminder to all who are feeling just as frustrated that school board members are elected positions and there is an election in 39 days. We have the opportunity to vote for new leadership, and for candidates who have our teachers backs. It is the least they deserve.

Thank you to all those teachers who have been going above and beyond to make lemonade out of some rotten freakin lemons. Your hard work does not go unnoticed and your students love you.


Elementary School Parent
Registered user
Community Center
on Sep 25, 2020 at 5:12 am
Elementary School Parent, Community Center
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2020 at 5:12 am
66 people like this

I am the parent of a 1st grader and I have been impressed with the remarkable job that the teachers have done with the distance learning program and connecting with the children in their classes. They have done an outstanding job building a classroom community under exceedingly difficult circumstances. The current distance learning that we have is not perfect, but it is far superior to the proposed “hybrid” plan or the full distance learning plan that parents are now being asked to choose from.

To begin with, the timing for these young children is too aggressive given the substantial concerns that parents, teachers, and school administrators have expressed over the hybrid model’s effectiveness. In addition to risking the health of students, teachers, specialists, and school staff, we will be disrupting the current model that seems to be working for a large percentage of families and that the teachers say is working. I believe strongly that waiting until January and developing a plan by working closely with the teachers who will be the ones implementing the plan at all levels is the best option.

At the very least, allow parents the option of a semester by semester decision, that is, revisiting their decision in January.

*2-3 Days a Week Does Not Work for Anyone*

When I read the proposed “hybrid” schedule for 1st graders, it is impossible for me to tell who this plan benefits
• For the students, it provides near daily inconsistency in school experience and in who is educating them. For the days at home, the children are essentially home-schooled by their parents and for the days at school, they will be behind plexiglass, essentially in a bubble. Why be at school if this is their experience?
• For working parents, it also provides no consistency and greatly increases the current load that we already bear. We will be home-schooling our children half the time – therefore unable to have consistent work schedules. We tried this in the Spring and it was disaster.

If we are to return to a “hybrid” model, wouldn’t a better option be to have AM/PM cohorts instead of split by days? Some teachers have proposed such a model – why was it not considered?

**The current plan prioritizes the wrong thing**

For elementary school kids, continuity in a school year is especially important. The teachers have done an excellent job building relationships with their students so far. By forcing this choice, most students will not be with the teacher that they have already spent 6 weeks building a rapport with. Especially for the younger children, education cannot simply be passed from teacher to teacher. How are teachers supposed to evaluate the new 1st graders that they now have and have no relationship with? All the work of the last six weeks will be for naught.

By pushing this plan now, parents are being forced into an impossible and false binary decision – either return our children to an extremely flawed “hybrid” learning model that only serves to disrupt their learning even more than it already has been or go full distance learning for the rest of the school year. Wouldn’t it be better to wait until a natural breaking time, like the new semester, to force this change?

**Flawed Polling of Parents and Flawed Messaging of the Plan**

The district staff has discussed that parents were polled. The poll that was sent to the parents was extremely biased and had many flaws
• We had less than one day to respond and we had no clue what the plan being considered was
• We were basically asked “Do you want your child to return to school this year?” – of course we do. Everyone does. But this is very dependent on the actual plan and circumstances of returning.
• The communication of the plan is rushed and incomplete. Most parents I have talked to have no idea that on the non-school days that there will be almost no learning interaction with the teacher and that they will have to home-school their child.


John Evans
Registered user
College Terrace
on Sep 25, 2020 at 10:28 am
John Evans, College Terrace
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2020 at 10:28 am
16 people like this

The PAUSD approach to Covid, except the beach is the school, the one-day invasion is a school year, and the citizen-soldiers are kindergartners:

"You get your ass on the beach. I'll be there waiting for you and I'll tell you what to do. There ain't anything in this plan that is going to go right." (Colonel Paul R. Goode, in a pre-attack briefing to the 175th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division)


Elementary School Parent
Registered user
Walter Hays School
on Sep 25, 2020 at 1:19 pm
Elementary School Parent, Walter Hays School
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2020 at 1:19 pm
19 people like this

@John Evans,
Exactly. I have a 1st grader and it makes me pretty upset that the plan is to start the experiment with our youngest and most vulnerable group, creating a huge disruption in their lives when they've just gotten a good bond with their DL teacher (no matter which option we "pick", there's no guarantee to keep the teacher they have - this is especially true if we "stay" with DL).


Options
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2020 at 1:50 pm
Options, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2020 at 1:50 pm
14 people like this

I respect families have different needs and experience for DL or in-person. District should provide options for our needs. It cannot be "One size fits All" here.



Staying Young Through Kids
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2020 at 2:06 pm
Staying Young Through Kids, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2020 at 2:06 pm
18 people like this

@ElementarySchoolParent Thank you! You provide a well articulated and exceptionally cogent summary of the situation and our community needs.

@DonAustin_SUP and @PaloAltoUnified this is mandatory reading!


Staying Young Through Kids
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2020 at 6:00 pm
Staying Young Through Kids, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2020 at 6:00 pm
22 people like this

First, let me say that I am in FULL SUPPORT of kids getting back to the classroom right away, so long as it can be done in full compliance with the county orders.

So, did anyone else read all the way to the bottom of Dr. Austin's INCREDIBLY LONG Superintendent's Update today? He gives the link to the PAUSD survey about "Distance Learning".

Here's the link to the survey:

Web Link

He said in a private email response that there's over 80% support for returning. I don't think he is really interested in more data, so please feel free to provide some!

Do parents offering to return really understand they will only get a teacher 50% of the time? Do the parents opting for distance learning really understand they will have a new teacher and a new class at a new school in a few weeks? I don't think so.

Nearly seems like Dr. Austin did a Friday Information Dump sending out a TON of info on a Friday afternoon knowing it will get less attention. Still, at next Tuesday evening's board meeting he can point to the 8 pages of info in the email and say, "We've been totally transparent!" Well Played sir!

Nothing like trying to beat the clock and run the "Hurry Up Offense." It's just that this isn't low stakes HS football. This is student, staff, and community safety. "Coach A., let's run 'Prevent!'" Perhaps that will resonate?


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 25, 2020 at 6:07 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2020 at 6:07 pm
33 people like this

God, the lack of trust in research in this thread is crazy. Teachers running scared even though studies have shown that spread in schools with precautions is unlikely. And saying that the youngest kids are the most vulnerable is patently false based on existing research.

I bet the people who are screaming about listening to the science about climate change are also the most vocal in not trusting the science and epidemiologists on COVID-19.

You can't pick and choose when to trust science and not. Either you do or you don't.

Rather than believing in the boogieman, it might be worth actually reading the papers that are coming out.

In other words, get informed.


William Billiam
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2020 at 9:36 pm
William Billiam, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Sep 25, 2020 at 9:36 pm
28 people like this

You can trust the research and also distrust the district. I don't think anyone is denying the standards set by researchers and state officials, however the district has failed to meet and implement those standards. Schools are not functionally ready and they won't be to meet these hasty timeframes. Classrooms and schools have not been modified to safely return.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2020 at 1:01 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2020 at 1:01 am
26 people like this

1. Why exactly are the teachers "terrified?" It seems like they're acting from being media influenced rather than data-influenced.
I wonder if they could be terrified because over 200,000 Americans have died already in less than 6 months? I wonder if they are terrified because death projection models are predicting a historically bad fall and winter with COVID. I don’t really thinks that’s “media hype.” Also,
please do a quick search on the web and see how many teachers became infected their first day or two back in a classroom.
2. I agree with Austin and I'm a teacher in the district.
You are in the 17% that want to return [portion removed.] I would probably rethink this stance.
3. I just hosted nearly 1,000 kids in 9 weeks of summer sports camps in Palo Alto between June and August of 2020.
Unreal (and agreed whole heartedly and labeled as ‘amazing’ by Facts and Figures no less) that some guy who ran some OUTDOOR sports camp not only claims to have all the answers on how to run an INDOOR classroom, with little to no ventilation, and to keep it safe, but also tells teachers they are essential and makes demands they should get back to work and tells them to take risks to their lives not knowing he is doing it by making a false comparison and in the process gets over 100 “likes” in this forum for it.
4. My opinion is unpopular enough among my colleagues that I don't share it widely for fear of damaging those relationships
You have the right to your opinion and you should be able to voice it just as the majority does, but In this case the opinion of the 83% majority is the correct one.
5. If indeed the admin (our Board and Don Austin) are lying to teachers, why do they still have their jobs?
Of course they have their jobs. The system doesn’t work like that. There wouldn’t be immediate firings. [Portion removed.]
6. I support the choice they are giving to parents re DL or hybrid, as not one model fits all I'm pretty sure all the other essential workers- grocery store employees, firemen, police, maintenance, and, especially all our health care workers- had reservations going back too, but did it for the good of society.
You allow for parent choice and are happy about it but won’t allow for teacher choice when they are the ones that would be at the most direct risk. Also, another false comparison. None of the workers you mention have direct contact with the public in the same room for 6+ hours a day breathing the same air.
7. SB98 created standards. The State created reopening tiers.
Please stop posting about SB98 as if it were some LAW that HAS to be followed. It’s a bill that gives some guidance and mainly flexibility in making decisions surrounding reopenings. If the Board would vote NO, like they should, schools would not open.
8. Germans have the data
You mean those same Germans whose country has controlled the virus unlike the United States?
9. With all due respect to teachers it is time to get back to work or find another line of work.
No. It’s not safe. Please stop demanding. Also, they have been working online. Show some appreciation.
10. I'm glad Don Austin is doing his job and growing a spine against the powerful teachers' union..
He is not growing a spine against the teachers union. He is in a rush to be “the first to open” and he is currently recklessly endangering the lives of students and staff. What happened to prioritizing the safety of students and staff? He is also trying to show the teachers that he is the man in charge all while making these decisions safely on Zoom. Here is Don Austin:

Web Link

12. Aren't we all taking a risk everyday by going to the stores, malls, salons, restaurants, parks and public places? So why do the teachers want 0 risk for school?
Your premise is false. Being in public for short periods of time is considered low risk. Being in a classroom EVERY DAY for 6+hours breathing the same air as members of the public is considered HIGH risk.
13. Rather than believing in the boogieman, it might be worth actually reading the papers that are coming out.
So it’s the boogeyman that has already killed nearly 1 million people worldwide? [Portion removed.]
14. This virus is not going away anywhere. It is here to stay with us for a lifetime, so we need to quickly find ways to get our kids back in school and in doing so,
You are stating this like a fact, but you have no idea what the future trajectory of the pandemic is. We could have a vaccine by early 2021 that could move us toward eradicating it. That’s why the premise in your post that it doesn’t matter about opening whether it’s the Fall or January makes no sense. By that same logic why did we close when there were almost no cases but are now opening when there are more cases?
15. The parents, including teachers with small children, also need the mental and physical break that comes from having kids out of the house for a few hours a day.
To end my post, we finally have someone admit what the forced early return is REALLY all about. Thank you for doing that. I thought it was all about the kids?
Finally, @ Rodger Dodger. Exactly! Perfect comment!


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2020 at 2:10 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2020 at 2:10 am
13 people like this

I thought the Germans really had all of that data, that other countries have opened schools without issues, and it’s all just the “bogeyman?!”

This is for all of the “trust the data” posters. I wonder why PAUSD teachers don’t think it’s safe to return and are terrified:

Web Link


Kristen
Registered user
Fairmeadow School
on Sep 26, 2020 at 1:09 pm
Kristen, Fairmeadow School
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2020 at 1:09 pm
16 people like this

!URGENT TIMING! Add your name to this letter by end of day Sunday!

Add your name to this parent driven, multi-school letter to the PAUSD Board. It lists collective concerns from hundreds of parents regarding the District's current Return to Campus reopening plan: Web Link


South PA Parent
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 26, 2020 at 2:55 pm
South PA Parent, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2020 at 2:55 pm
17 people like this

There really isn’t an answer that will satisfy everyone and sometimes the same people asking for one thing will want something different when you finally figure out how to give it to them. If you think you can support your children’s academic, emotional and physical well being at home then by all means continue distance learning. Bringing kids back to school is for those families who for one reason or another cannot do that.

There are some teachers who are willing to go back to in person instruction with reasonable safeguards and smaller class sizes just like there are people who are willing to bag your groceries and make your meals. There is no one right way for anyone in this community. Many of the people who complain about sending their kids back too soon have no problem sending their kids to play close contact sports without masks because they figure outside is safer. Others wouldn’t even take that risk and they are judging those parents.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 26, 2020 at 3:07 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 26, 2020 at 3:07 pm
4 people like this

[Post removed.]


Fresh Air - why not outdoors?
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 27, 2020 at 9:54 am
Fresh Air - why not outdoors?, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 27, 2020 at 9:54 am
3 people like this

@South PA Parent,
What is reasonable safety? We want to return but need to know the data and benchmarks to support “reasonable” safety.


South PA Parent
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 27, 2020 at 10:25 am
South PA Parent, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 27, 2020 at 10:25 am
8 people like this

Fresh Air....the Board published a 52 page document on this. Did you read it? Maybe going through the document at the next board meeting on Tuesday would be a good approach?


Fresh Air - why not outdoors?
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 27, 2020 at 11:58 am
Fresh Air - why not outdoors?, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 27, 2020 at 11:58 am
10 people like this

South PA Parent,
Yes I read it and noted the lack of details to make me feel reasonably safe. I’m data driven.


South PA Parent
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Sep 27, 2020 at 7:13 pm
South PA Parent, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Sep 27, 2020 at 7:13 pm
10 people like this

Ok, since you actually read the document then I would advise you to take any unanswered concerns that you have to the upcoming board meeting on Tuesday. They will have people from Stanford Health and the County Health Dept. there to answer specific questions.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 28, 2020 at 10:13 am
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2020 at 10:13 am
11 people like this

Chicago Tribune article “Pandemic boosts outdoor preschools,” September 25, 2020.
Teach outdoors as much as possible.
I think this should be possible.
From the article:
“...estimates 585 schools across the country...a significant amount of time is spent outside.”
(While this is about preschool, they are outside in all weather.)

Examples:
CA - about 50 programs
WA - about 50 programs
IL - about 20 programs

Mention made its very good to learn outside and BE outside, even in Winter.
Palo Alto has a mild Winter!

“This summer, Dr. Anthony Fauci...encouraged outdoor schooling...”
“In Chicago, heading outside isn’t unprecedented; a tuberculosis outbreak in 1909 led to “open air schools.”


S Juria
Registered user
another community
on Sep 28, 2020 at 6:25 pm
S Juria, another community
Registered user
on Sep 28, 2020 at 6:25 pm
4 people like this

I'm from outside the area, but I'm wondering what happens if a parents don't make the choice between hybrid and full distance learning by the deadline. Does the district automatically opt the kid into hybrid?


casey
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 29, 2020 at 9:29 am
casey, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2020 at 9:29 am
7 people like this

Palo Alto is a relative bubble, but not all our students live in this city. It was reported last week that East Palo Alto had a COVID-19 positivity rate of 15.4%. Will the safety protocols still protect the students and teachers if some students come from a location where there is widespread community infection?

Web Link


Fresh Air - why not outdoors?
Registered user
Midtown
on Sep 29, 2020 at 10:04 am
Fresh Air - why not outdoors?, Midtown
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2020 at 10:04 am
1 person likes this

Why has Palo Alto gone radio silent on reporting on the reopening plan? See:
Web Link


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2020 at 11:29 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2020 at 11:29 am
1 person likes this

" It was reported last week that East Palo Alto had a COVID-19 positivity rate of 15.4%."

And we still don't know to what the cycle threshold of those tests were. Anytime these percentages are stated without understanding how sensitive the machines were set, this data is suspect.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Sep 29, 2020 at 4:24 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2020 at 4:24 pm
12 people like this

“And we still don't know to what the cycle threshold of those tests were. Anytime these percentages are stated without understanding how sensitive the machines were set, this data is suspect.”
Man, the lack of trust in research in this thread is crazy. [Portion removed.]
15.4% means 15.4%. That’s all it is! No rationalizations. No twisting the data.

“Will the safety protocols still protect the students and teachers if some students come from a location where there is widespread community infection?”
No. There is no 100% safety. Do a web search on school reopenings. Covid has spread at schools. It’s probably even more widespread at schools than you would even be able to find due to underreporting.

“Palo Alto is a relative bubble.”
There is no safety bubble.

The Mercury News article posted above is unbelievable.

1. If 400 teachers and parents have signed the petition indicating that they either don’t think it’s safe to return or do not believe the so called safety plan is good enough, then why does Don Austin insist on forcing everyone back so early? What are his motives? Is this about funding? Is this a power play to show everyone “he’s in charge?” Part of being a good leader is to listen to your staff and not railroading or forcing. Obviously based on the article, a majority of the staff and a large amount of parents are not comfortable returning.

2. After being called out for misrepresenting survey data in the article, Don Austin rationalizes it and said the survey data was to gauge a “gut reaction” by parents about returning. Excuses. He was caught and exposed by staff and parents and it was reported to the media. If it is only to gauge a gut reaction by parents, then why is he basing the return decision on this survey?

3. Don Austin said he sent out another survey through Wednesday to parents, but the board is making a decision tonite. So what good is that survey?

4. Even if PAUSD does reopen, why are parents (and in effect students) being forced to make a year long decision between hybrid or distance learning? Where is the flexibility? Also, I always love how it’s always up to parent choice but the staff, who will be taking on the most direct risk, gets no choice or say and he won’t listen to any of their concerns. That’s not how employees should be treated.

5. Finally, at the end of the article Don Austin rationalizes the return by saying “only 20-40 students will be returning to campuses” at the start of the return. Well Don Austin, all it takes is ONE infected person to spread COVID.

Finally, after hitting the grim milestone of 1 million COVID deaths worldwide over the weekend, I am calling on leadership to start thinking more in terms of erring on the side of caution. In my opinion, dropping students and staff back into a classroom this fall with the upcoming flu season and potential spread of Covid is beyond dangerous. In person learning is important but not at the cost of lives. Between back tracking about that survey, not listening to opinions of the majority of his staff, not listening to the parents and staff that don’t feel the safety plan is good enough, needing a parent petition and media to be involved to have voices heard, all while holding board meetings and making decisions over ZOOM, the lack of leadership is astounding. I am now calling for some sort of consequences against Don Austin for his haphazard, rushed, and forced return plan, his deceitful twisting of survey data, and for his lack of listening to the concerns of his staff and parents. Why is he in charge? It is time to stop being in denial about the dangers of this pandemic. Just because HE thinks it’s time to get back to normal doesn’t mean it is. I wonder, does he really understand the science of this disease and how dangerous a Fall return would be? [Portion removed.]


Curious
Registered user
another community
on Sep 29, 2020 at 7:37 pm
Curious , another community
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2020 at 7:37 pm
7 people like this

Hi all,

I am just curious why 400 parents and staff signing a petition, out of around the 22,000 to 24,000 staff and parent community, leads one to believe they can make these conclusions?

I am not arguing about what is the right decision but the extrapolation the Voice takes is hard to accept.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Sep 29, 2020 at 9:58 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Sep 29, 2020 at 9:58 pm
6 people like this

"15.4% means 15.4%. That’s all it is! No rationalizations. No twisting the data. "

I think you need to get more up-to-date on your own research.

Ct settings have been set too arbitrarily high across the country, leading to over-reporting of positive cases. Until Ct settings are disclosed for each positive result, we have to assume Ct settings are too sensitive and actual positive results are much lower than 15.4%.

15.4% positive does not mean that 15.4% tested have COVID-19.

Even The NY Times has reported on it, of all places.

In any case, positive results is not the metric at which we should be looking. Hospitalizations is a more valid metric.

"In my opinion, dropping students and staff back into a classroom this fall with the upcoming flu season and potential spread of Covid is beyond dangerous."

Yes, it's your *opinion,* but an increasing number of scientific studies have shown your *opinion* to be misguided.

Your desire to stay out of the classroom is pretty clear.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 3, 2020 at 1:45 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 3, 2020 at 1:45 pm
4 people like this

Here is your requested up to date research with the back drop of the sobering reality that the President is currently hospitalized with COVID
(I don’t think the Ct was too sensitive):

Web Link

Key statement: After preying heavily on the elderly in the spring, the coronavirus is increasingly infecting American children and teens in a trend authorities say appears fueled by school reopenings and the resumption of sports, play dates, and other activities.

“Yes, it's your *opinion,* but an increasing number of scientific studies have shown your *opinion* to be misguided.”

Proven false again. Instead of saying I’m misguided give real evidence. Your attempt at undermining my posts isn’t working. Stop twisting the data to suit your false narrative that schools are safe to return to. Last word.


Gunn Papa
Registered user
Greater Miranda
on Oct 4, 2020 at 11:18 am
Gunn Papa, Greater Miranda
Registered user
on Oct 4, 2020 at 11:18 am
8 people like this

Mountain View Whisman School District is indicating that they may wait to reopen in January, and I believe that PAUSD Superintendent Don Austin said that Mountain View Whisman was one of the districts that they were looking at. Mountain View Whisman Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph made the recommendation last Thursday based on 46% of the teachers not wanting to return to campus. Wasn’t ours in PAUSD something like 90% not wanting to return?


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

In order to encourage respectful and thoughtful discussion, commenting on stories is available to those who are registered users. If you are already a registered user and the commenting form is not below, you need to log in. If you are not registered, you can do so here.

Please make sure your comments are truthful, on-topic and do not disrespect another poster. Don't be snarky or belittling. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

See our announcement about requiring registration for commenting.