News

Palo Alto Unified to reopen for sixth grade students next month

School board to discuss reopening plans at Tuesday study session

Palo Alto Unified plans to resume in-person instruction for the district's sixth graders in early March. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Palo Alto Unified is moving forward with a plan to allow sixth graders to return to in-person learning in the first week of March, the district announced on Friday.

The reopening of sixth grade in particular is now permissible under new state guidelines that consider sixth grade as attached to elementary schools rather than secondary schools, even if they typically attend school with seventh and eighth graders, as in Palo Alto. The state allows schools to resume face-to-face instruction for sixth grade once their county COVID-19 rates are less than 25 per 100,000 people for five consecutive days, which is now the case in Santa Clara County.

This comes as a welcome development for parents and students eager to return to classrooms this school year, though it remains to be seen whether older students in middle and high schools will be able to do so. Superintendent Don Austin cautioned recently that the path to secondary schools reopening this academic year, particularly the high schools, seems unlikely.

The school board has already approved a reopening plan for hybrid learning at the middle schools, which was also negotiated with the teachers union. The district plans to survey families again this week on whether they want to choose the hybrid model or stick with distance learning. If more families request in-person learning than the schools can accommodate, students will get spots through a lottery system.

Students will be in stable cohorts, alternating which periods they attend school in person. For example, half of the students could be attending first and second periods in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then third and fourth periods at home.

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The district plans to designate March 1 as an online "skinny day," in which classes in all periods will meet, for reopening and then resume in-person instruction on March 2, Austin said.

There may be opportunities for seventh and eighth grade students to come to campuses for small group activities this spring, and the district is looking for employees to staff those groups.

The high schools, meanwhile, opened 12 new in-person cohorts last week and also resumed athletic conditioning in small, stable cohorts.

The school board is holding a virtual study session this Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 4:30 p.m. to discuss reopening plans, among other items. View the agenda here.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

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Palo Alto Unified to reopen for sixth grade students next month

School board to discuss reopening plans at Tuesday study session

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Feb 1, 2021, 2:13 pm

Palo Alto Unified is moving forward with a plan to allow sixth graders to return to in-person learning in the first week of March, the district announced on Friday.

The reopening of sixth grade in particular is now permissible under new state guidelines that consider sixth grade as attached to elementary schools rather than secondary schools, even if they typically attend school with seventh and eighth graders, as in Palo Alto. The state allows schools to resume face-to-face instruction for sixth grade once their county COVID-19 rates are less than 25 per 100,000 people for five consecutive days, which is now the case in Santa Clara County.

This comes as a welcome development for parents and students eager to return to classrooms this school year, though it remains to be seen whether older students in middle and high schools will be able to do so. Superintendent Don Austin cautioned recently that the path to secondary schools reopening this academic year, particularly the high schools, seems unlikely.

The school board has already approved a reopening plan for hybrid learning at the middle schools, which was also negotiated with the teachers union. The district plans to survey families again this week on whether they want to choose the hybrid model or stick with distance learning. If more families request in-person learning than the schools can accommodate, students will get spots through a lottery system.

Students will be in stable cohorts, alternating which periods they attend school in person. For example, half of the students could be attending first and second periods in person on Tuesdays and Thursdays and then third and fourth periods at home.

The district plans to designate March 1 as an online "skinny day," in which classes in all periods will meet, for reopening and then resume in-person instruction on March 2, Austin said.

There may be opportunities for seventh and eighth grade students to come to campuses for small group activities this spring, and the district is looking for employees to staff those groups.

The high schools, meanwhile, opened 12 new in-person cohorts last week and also resumed athletic conditioning in small, stable cohorts.

The school board is holding a virtual study session this Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 4:30 p.m. to discuss reopening plans, among other items. View the agenda here.

Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.

Comments

Facts please!
Registered user
Green Acres
on Feb 2, 2021 at 10:36 am
Facts please!, Green Acres
Registered user
on Feb 2, 2021 at 10:36 am

So grateful for the PA school board and Don Austin! Thank you!!


LAHscot
Registered user
Los Altos Hills
on Feb 2, 2021 at 10:56 am
LAHscot, Los Altos Hills
Registered user
on Feb 2, 2021 at 10:56 am

Until 6th-grade teachers have their vaccinations, they should not be forced back to in-person teaching. EVERYONE wants to resume teaching in schools but it has to be done safely. Without vaccinations, teachers and their families will be placed at avoidable risk. Think again PAUSD DO and Board! Get your teachers vaccinated FIRST.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 2, 2021 at 12:06 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 2, 2021 at 12:06 pm

You should be thanking the poor staff and not Austin as he won’t be the one to be forced to work in person. It seems obvious to me that when the case numbers are so high that we are in purple tier, extra-contagious variants are spreading, health experts are advocating that people start double-masking with N95s to go to the grocery store, there is no possible way we could safely open schools, and only the most desperate magical thinking could convince you that there is. Yet people here are STILL convincing themselves that public school buildings are somehow safer than anywhere else.

It isn’t safe enough and immoral to open schools until school staff have been fully vaccinated and community spread of all strains of COVID-19 have been controlled.

Ask yourself: Why are boards of education meeting via Zoom instead of in-person? Why are state department of education employees working from home? Why are most employees of private corporations working remotely? Why are primary care doctors refusing to see patients who have a cough or headache in-person, but instead conducting tele-health visits and sending all patients with possible COVID symptoms to the emergency room or urgent care? I’ll tell you why - it’s not safe for people to be around other people right now!

Given that children are often asymptomatic but can still efficiently transmit the virus, until we have widespread and frequent surveillance testing in schools, we won't really know what's going on with infection rates and in-school spread. School reopening has not been "largely safe.” Districts have a vested interest in not contact tracing - so they don't. Hence there's 'little evidence'. Please do not cite the cherry picked CDC data here, say “follow the science”,” or articles that cite doctors and politicians that have no clue what it’s actually like working in education. This job can be done remotely and should continue to be done remotely!


LAHscot
Registered user
Los Altos Hills
on Feb 2, 2021 at 12:32 pm
LAHscot, Los Altos Hills
Registered user
on Feb 2, 2021 at 12:32 pm

Read what one district is doing for its teachers - and what PAUSD's District Office and Board could do if it wanted to: Web Link


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 2, 2021 at 8:57 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 2, 2021 at 8:57 pm

Vaccinate by AGE oldest to youngest. All facts support this approach.


Virginia Smedberg
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 2, 2021 at 10:23 pm
Virginia Smedberg, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 2, 2021 at 10:23 pm

Followup after tonight's School Board Meeting: The parents who spoke said "get the kids back in person". The teachers who spoke said "give us protection". Those are NOT conflicting goals! Everyone wants the kids back in school in-person. I guarantee the teachers would rather be teaching in person!! But I hope everyone also wants us all to avoid spreading the virus, AND values the health of the teachers as well as the kids.
Here's what the county guidance says about classroom space:
"Maximize space between seating and desks. Distance teacher and other staff desks at least 6 feet away from student and other staff desks. Distance student chairs at least 6 feet away from one another, except where 6 feet of distance is not possible after a good-faith effort has been made. Upon request by the local health department and/or State Safe Schools Team, the superintendent should be prepared to demonstrate that good-faith effort, including an effort to consider all outdoor/indoor space options and hybrid learning models... Under no circumstances should distance between student chairs be less than 4 feet. If 6 feet of distance is not possible, it is recommended to optimize ventilation and consider using other separation techniques such as partitions between students or desks, or arranging desks in a way that minimizes face-to-face contact." See p.21.
Here's the link to the whole document: Web Link
My concern is that the board (according to what my teacher niece has been told) has decided to use the 4-foot distancing. But she has not seen any info about a good-faith effort to do the recommended 6-foot distancing, or about other mitigations being put in place. This affects your kids, and thus you, as well as the teachers!
Also the teachers see 3-5 groups of students every day, so the kids'"stable group" idea does not apply to the teachers.


Paloaltonian
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Feb 3, 2021 at 1:32 pm
Paloaltonian, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Feb 3, 2021 at 1:32 pm

And yet hundreds of thousands of students are going to school every day of the week in this country and amazingly their teachers aren't dropping dead in the streets. Why even in San Francisco 15000 students go to school daily. The teachers at PAUSD have an unearned elevated opinion of themselves and their value. Release them and replace them with new grads from college. All grades need to be in school tomorrow. The teachers will keep making excuses until next fall. Based on nothing but their lack of commitment.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2021 at 1:52 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 3, 2021 at 1:52 pm

“The teachers at PAUSD have an unearned elevated opinion of themselves and their value. Release them and replace them with new grads from college.”

What do they value? Their lives and the lives of their family members? You don’t value them and yet at the same time you want them to go back and serve you and your needs. [Portion removed.] Worker and student safety always comes first. It’s people such as yourself demanding teachers work in person that is the problem.

Let’s see here...according to this link PAUSD is the #2 school district in California and #23 in the United States. Maybe you should be a little more grateful for your dedicated PAUSD teachers.

Web Link

The scientific evidence actually shows that closing schools leads to a reduction in the spread of COVID. I oppose the ruling class’s back to work campaign and I back the working class’s campaign to save lives.
Also, no PAUSD teachers will be replaced with college students.

As documented by Rebekah Jones and her team at the COVID Monitor, nearly 600,000 students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 at K-12 institutions throughout the country. Schools are barely open.

Web Link

Look outbreaks at k-12 schools on the rise in Michigan with a simple google search:

Web Link

Let’s not ignore the evidence and pretend it’s all safe because you say it is Paloaltoian. Let’s check back in when schools do reopen more due to a government push to do so and check in on infection rates. Paloaltoian isn’t getting his day care! Over 3000 Americans are dying from Covid everyday.


Paly mom
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 3, 2021 at 2:05 pm
Paly mom, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 3, 2021 at 2:05 pm

Congrats to 6th graders! So happy for you. No more bedroom classrooms and staring at the screen for 6 hours(at least) every weekday.

Time to get the 7-12th graders back to school as well! Most states have kids do in-person schools and sports. Just CA not catching up!! Read the science data, listen to health experts. They encourage kids back to school for mental health.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 3, 2021 at 2:36 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 3, 2021 at 2:36 pm
Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 3, 2021 at 2:55 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 3, 2021 at 2:55 pm

[Post removed; link to authoritative source]


East coast transplant
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 3, 2021 at 10:56 pm
East coast transplant, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 3, 2021 at 10:56 pm

“voice of PA”; you had me at Rebekah Jones. That’s woman is a grifter and a criminal! See NPRs recent story on her:
Web Link
Honestly, it’s just embarrassing that you cite her a credible source. Did you contribute to her Go Fund Me also?? [Portion removed.]


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 3, 2021 at 11:28 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 3, 2021 at 11:28 pm

First of all, whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty.” Just because she was arrested doesn’t mean she’s “automatically a criminal.” Read more about her so called nefarious crime. It needs to actually be proven she sent the message. That was her “big crime”sending a message. Could it be that the state of Florida is furious about her being a whistleblower. Also, what she is being accused of is separate and doesn’t discount her Covid Data Tracking.
Web Link


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 4, 2021 at 1:07 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 4, 2021 at 1:07 pm

Want data? Let's get some data on the impact on the shutdown of schools on student-athletes

Web Link

Serra HC Patrick Walsh shares some Alarming Data collected by the Golden State Coaches Community based on 105 Football Programs .

-1087 Players Have Been ruled ineligible.
- 253 Drop outs
- 64 Student Athletes have been incarcerated , 85 Joined Gangs .
- 38 New Fathers

Of course keeping schools closed disproportionally hits lower-income, people of color, at-risk students.

This is systemic racism. Way to go Teachers Unions.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 4, 2021 at 4:16 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 4, 2021 at 4:16 pm

1. “Systemic racism”-This is a health issue and not a social justice issue. Also, according to this link “Black and Latino Families are more concerned about returning their children to school than whites families.”
Web Link
2. “Way to go Teachers Unions”-Teachers unions protect worker health and safety. Students are not employees. 3.Dropouts/Gangs/Fathers/Incarcerations-This also happens when schools are open. How is the teachers union possibly responsible for them becoming new fathers? Is there statistical proof that there has been an increase in these activities over previous years due to school closures and cancellation of sports? 4. Ineligibility-Is this because the season has been cancelled so far and they lost motivation to get good grades or is it due to being uninterested in distance learning?
5. These stats seems to be more of a “sports cancellation issue” versus a “school closure issue.” I’m not sure if schools were open there would be high school sports. According to this link an organization called CIF is working with the state to try to work something out for high school sports:
Web Link
What does that have to do with the Teachers union? Ask yourself why there is a sudden media blitz from publications like The WALL STREET Journal about the working class suddenly having to return to work? The Government suddenly cares all about the children. Children are now supposedly safer at school than at home, both from the virus and their suddenly “irresponsible” parents. Children’s health and nutrition can supposedly be better monitored at school. Meanwhile, the parents need to return to work to ensure they can bring home a paycheck.


Trust the Public Health Experts
Registered user
Community Center
on Feb 7, 2021 at 11:57 am
Trust the Public Health Experts, Community Center
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 11:57 am

Glad to see Austin LISTEN to experts in epidemiology AND all the collective data (from past year) that say SCHOOLS SHOULD BE OPEN.

Give families a choice: in person or distance (many personal reasons why some families need to stay distance).


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2021 at 12:04 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 12:04 pm

This just happened in San Diego:
Web Link

Key statement by their Superintendent:
Rankins-Ibarra also said robust safety protocols are in place, including temperature checks prior to students entering class, portable air-filtration systems in classrooms, spacing between desks, and compulsory mask wearing in classrooms. The students who tested positive may have been asymptomatic, which would explain how they were able to get into classrooms.

This makes me wonder if it’s not so safe after all. It also makes me wonder if there are cases in PAUSD and private schools that aren’t being reported. It also make me wonder if those so called health experts are actually wrong. It also makes me wonder if the media is promoting a false narrative about school being safe to help restart the economy.


Educator
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 7, 2021 at 9:20 pm
Educator, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 9:20 pm

Paloaltonian- I hope you know that Palo Alto teachers have had almost no say in this process. There were the right number of elementary teachers ready to go for every child who wished to return, in spite of 85% of teachers not feeling safe about going back. Can you think of one teacher in PAUSD who was asked to return but did not? Teachers are NOT your enemy. Stop blaming them. The school board has decided that the logistics of maintaining stable cohorts in secondary schools are too complicated at this time. It has nothing to do with teachers.


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