'No other choice': Families leave Palo Alto for schools, states and countries where classrooms are open

Search for in-person education takes some to Denmark, Norway and Texas

A sign reminds people to social distance during Palo Alto Unified's Extended School Year program at Greene Middle School on July 9, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

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'No other choice': Families leave Palo Alto for schools, states and countries where classrooms are open

Search for in-person education takes some to Denmark, Norway and Texas

A sign reminds people to social distance during Palo Alto Unified's Extended School Year program at Greene Middle School on July 9, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

It was Sebastian Chancellor's first day of his junior year, and he couldn't stop smiling.

After 10 years of attending Palo Alto public schools, he enrolled last fall in Copenhagen International School in Denmark, where high school classes are taking place in person with few restrictions. It was the first time he'd sat in classrooms next to peers and learned from a teacher face-to-face since Palo Alto schools had closed in March.

"Seeing all these bikes flying by, hearing laughter and smiles, seeing kids running to class, hearing the bell — it was a big nostalgic moment of, 'Wow; I haven't heard this in awhile,'" he said. "I was smiling the whole day. I couldn't help myself. I was so excited to be able to come into a class environment."

The Chancellor family moved from Palo Alto to Copenhagen last August so Sebastian and his younger brother, Oliver, an eighth grader, could attend school in person. They saw the writing on the wall at the end of the summer that the new school year would start fully online in Palo Alto, with no extracurriculars, sports or in-person activities for students, and joined a growing exodus of families who are leaving public schools for places where schools are more fully open. Some are transferring their children to local private schools or home schooling — including a group of 30 families who left Palo Alto Unified to create their own private school in a backyard — while others have moved out of state or even abroad for in-person education.

Public schools across the state are reporting sharp enrollment declines, which have been attributed in part to trends that predated the pandemic, including declining birth rates, but also those born of the pandemic, such as higher dropout rates. California's K-12 public-school enrollment has dropped by a record 155,000 students according to new state projections — about five times more than the state's annual rate of enrollment decline in recent years.

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While Palo Alto Unified's fall enrollment was down by about 8%, which district leaders said was relatively normal given historical declines, this year those leaving the district also include families seeking more far-flung opportunities. The district reopened elementary schools for hybrid learning in October and is planning to bring sixth graders back in March, but older students are by and large still learning from home and will likely continue doing so until the fall.

These families' decisions, while temporary, reflect their deep frustration after living with months of stalled reopening decisions, patchy online learning experiences and the toll that the extended school closures are taking on their children. They've decided, for now, that restoring their childrens' love for learning, mental health and sense of normalcy outweigh uprooting their lives and leaving their homes and friends, in some cases even splitting up their families.

'It was a huge relief'

Sebastian and Oliver Chancellor in front of their school in Copenhagen with their father and grandfather, who were visiting from Palo Alto over Thanksgiving. Courtesy Nana Chancellor.

In Copenhagen, the Chancellor boys lived the kind of unrestricted life that feels so out of reach for Americans right now. They went to school in person (only wearing masks between classes), played basketball, had sleepovers with friends, attended birthday parties, went to the movies.

The Chancellors spend two weeks every summer in Copenhagen, where Nana Chancellor's family lives, so the transition was smooth. After this summer's annual trip — a breath of fresh air in a country where COVID-19 case rates are low enough that life feels relatively normal — they decided to extend their stay. Within a week, Nana Chancellor had moved with her two sons and enrolled them in the private international school while her husband, Brian, stayed in Palo Alto.

"After months of being isolated, it was a huge relief moving to Copenhagen at the end of August, allowing the boys to live with a sense of normalcy again and enjoying all the regular things kids do — the things we used to take for granted that they had missed terribly during the spring in Palo Alto," Chancellor said. "I wish we were there with schools open, but at the same time, each family has to make tough choices to do what's best for their individual children."

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For Sebastian, a social, outgoing, athletic teenager, online learning in Palo Alto last spring was challenging. He had a hard time focusing and connecting with his teachers and classmates. Many peers wouldn't turn their cameras on and kept themselves on mute. He was often left staring at his own reflection on the computer screen for six hours a day. The online school day crawled by, he said.

"I took it for granted, what it's like to be able to go to school and see everybody in person and have a very active classroom environment. I was used to all my life — 'I gotta wake up early for school; why can't I just stay home?' Now it's the other way around," he said. "I want to be at school. The whole narrative was flipped."

Sebastian Chancellor (in jersey 0 about to bump forearms with the referee) after a game with his Danish basketball team in Copenhagen. Courtesy Nana Chancellor.

In Copenhagen, Sebastian's hour-plus classes flew by. He felt engaged and excited about school again. He also was able to play basketball, crucial for the high school junior who hopes to play in college. Meanwhile, at home in Palo Alto, only small group athletic conditioning has resumed, with restrictions, and it remains to be seen whether the majority of high school sports will have any competitions this school year.

Though COVID-19 rates are much lower in Copenhagen, schools aren't immune to infections. Last semester, Oliver's Danish teacher and two elementary school students at the K-12 school tested positive at different times, though in all three cases, there was no spread to anyone else, Chancellor said. All students and teachers who were exposed stayed home for a week and had to get tested before returning.

"I really wasn't worried about COVID much last semester; I was just incredibly thankful and relieved that my boys could have regular school and sports again," Chancellor said.

Due to family circumstances and hoping for a postponed basketball season, however, Sebastian returned to Palo Alto for his second semester. He's glad to be home but struggled with the transition back to online school — a sharp contrast to the noisy hallways in Copenhagen and his memories of socializing with friends on the quad at Palo Alto High School. Ironically, his younger brother is also back to online school temporarily until Denmark lifts a lockdown implemented after the new COVID-19 variant was discovered there.

'I was smiling the whole day. I couldn't help myself. I was so excited to be able to come into a class environment.'

-Sebastian Chancellor, high school junior, who started the academic year in Denmark

Families who have moved abroad are also experiencing drastically different responses to the coronavirus. In Denmark, the public health restrictions are consistent — no school is closed while a neighboring campus is open — and unlike in America, there's little pushback or divisive debate, Chancellor said. There's also a light at the end of the tunnel in Denmark, which is projecting its 5.8 million population will be fully vaccinated by late June.

"Things change here quickly because people trust when the government tells them, 'This is what we need you to do right now,' and then everyone does it," Chancellor said of Denmark. "It feels a little more like it's something we have to get through together. There's not really finger-pointing."

For the love of sports

After 19 years of living and attending public schools in Palo Alto, the Japic family moved to Texas in October for one reason: so their daughters could play sports in person.

They're a serious sports family; the oldest Japic daughter plays Division 1 soccer at Baylor University and the middle child, Sydney, has aspirations to do the same. Sydney has her own website and YouTube page where she posts footage of game highlights and training sessions, hoping to attract the eye of college recruiters. The youngest Japic daughter plays volleyball and basketball.

In the fall, with school still online and no athletic practices or games allowed in Palo Alto, the Japic parents started researching places where soccer was happening in person. They looked at North Carolina, Dallas and Houston. They ultimately bought a second house in Frisco, a Dallas suburb where Sydney earned a spot on a top-tier soccer club team.

"With everything locked down in California, we just couldn't sit by and let things pass without having her opportunity to commit to a D1 school," Caroline Japic said. "Right now the positives in Texas outweigh the positives in California."

'Right now the positives in Texas outweigh the positives in California.'

-Caroline Japic, a mother, whose daughter is pursuing high school sports

Caroline Japic moved with Sydney in October; her husband and younger daughter followed in December. Both parents are able to work remotely from Texas, while the girls are playing sports and attending public schools in person (wearing masks, sitting at desks 6 feet apart and frequently washing their hands). They're "absolutely thriving," Japic said.

Unlike the Chancellors, the Japics don't envision their children returning to Palo Alto Unified. They expect to stay in Texas at least until Sydney graduates from high school in 2022 and perhaps until the youngest daughter graduates in 2026, Japic said. For now, they're enjoying a different kind of lifestyle in Frisco, where the cost of living is lower, there's less traffic and the die-hard Texas football culture portrayed in Friday Night Lights is real.

"In Frisco, the sports and academics are of equal importance," she said. "It's great to have that balance for the kids."

'We've been left no other choice'

An empty classroom at Fletcher Middle School in Palo Alto on April 3, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Last month, Kathleen Brizgys Tarlow did something she never thought she would do: She pulled her daughter out of the public school system. She didn't opt to move to another country or even another state, but the significance of the decision still felt monumental to her.

Brizgys Tarlow is a Palo Alto Unified graduate and a supporter of public schools. Until January, her three children — a kindergartener, third grader and sixth grader — attended district schools. Brizgys Tarlow had spent much of the spring and fall calling into virtual school board meetings and advocating for reopening. She was thrilled when her younger two children could partially return to school for hybrid learning in the fall, and said they're thriving after several months of being around their teachers and peers in person. But her sixth-grade daughter continued learning at home on a computer screen, isolated and falling behind as they hoped for a change that would allow middle schools to resume some in-person instruction.

When Superintendent Don Austin sent out a message in January indicating that middle and high schools were unlikely to reopen this school year, something "snapped," Brizgys Tarlow said.

"I feel like she's languishing," she said of her daughter. "The thought of her spending another six months doing the same thing for the remainder of the year was just something I couldn't make peace with."

Brizgys Tarlow decided to transfer her daughter to a local private school, which she declined to name, that's offering in-person classes. Though the district has been constrained from opening further due to local coronavirus rates and restrictions, she couldn't help but feel strung along.

"I'm really sad, and I'm also really angry. I feel like we've been left no other choice," Brizgys Tarlow said.

She said she's sympathetic to teachers who are fearful of returning to work in person, but believes that almost a year into the pandemic, schools are armed with enough information about how to operate safely. Health experts continue to urge schools to reopen as safely as possible, warning about developmental disruptions, learning loss and social isolation. (Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told teachers in a video call this week that all K-8 schools should aim to reopen within the next 100 days.) Brizgys Tarlow is concerned to hear teachers, both locally and across the state, demand that schools remain closed until all educators can be vaccinated.

"If the baseline is total safety then our kids will never go back to school full time," Brizgys Tarlow said. "I believe teachers are essential workers. I don't think kids can learn outside of school — certainly not all kids in an equitable way."

'I don't think kids can learn outside of school — certainly not all kids in an equitable way.'

-Kathleen Brizgys Tarlow, a mother, who enrolled her oldest daughter in a local private school

Brizgys Tarlow worries about the long-term consequences of school closures on her children's academic and social-emotional growth, particularly for her daughter, navigating the transition from elementary to middle school. While the school district is hamstrung by public health conditions and state and local restrictions, families are at home, watching more and more milestones pass by: middle school graduation, prom, the first day of high school.

When she's dropping her younger children off at school, she hears from other parents about kids not logging onto Zoom classes and becoming increasingly isolated at home. In her job at Palo Alto nonprofit Grassroots Ecology, which provides free science and nature programs to local teachers, she hears about students in less resourced districts who aren't attending their online classes with little or no parent supervision at home.

"The stories to me just say: There are going to be serious consequences," Brizgys Tarlow said. "I feel like we're acting like this is something that can be deferred forever, but a lot of kids are going to have these enormous learning losses that we're not really reckoning with yet."

Despite the news that sixth graders will be able to return to campuses next month, she doesn't plan to send her daughter back to Palo Alto Unified until schools are open again full time. She said she'll pull her other children as well if daily in-person school doesn't resume in the fall.

"In the past two weeks we've seen a recovery of her spirits," Brizgys Tarlow said of her daughter during this week's virtual school board meeting. "She's doing the difficult academic and social work that kids need to do in school."

Life after California

Before Elizabeth Lasky moved with her husband and three young children to Norway so their oldest daughter could attend school in person, she watched two possible futures unfold on social media.

Lasky is part of several Facebook groups with names like "Leaving California" and "Life After California," where thousands of members swap advice, post photos in front of moving trucks and new homes and ask questions about the housing market and the guilt of leaving family behind during the pandemic. In local groups, meanwhile, desperate parents launch reopening petitions, compare neighboring districts' plans and furiously debate how to turn the tide on school closures.

Frustrated with distance learning and unwilling to do it again in the fall, the Laskys decided to leave Palo Alto for her husband's native country. They spent $15,000 to move across the globe on two week's notice, timing it exactly so they would be done with a required 10-day quarantine before their daughter's first day of third grade.

Elizabeth Lasky's daughter, Bethany Andreassen, on her first day of in-person school in Norway in August. The family moved from Palo Alto to Norway last summer so Bethany could attend school in person. Courtesy Elizabeth Lasky.

Lasky took a picture of her daughter, Bethany Andreassen, on that day. She has a sparkly backpack on and no mask, her eyes squeezed shut she's smiling so big.

"This justifies everything I did to pull off the most manic move of my life," Lasky said.

For the Laskys, life in Norway feels like a big improvement over Palo Alto. Schools are open with some limitations — students don't have to wear masks but learn in stable cohorts and are encouraged to socialize outside of school with the same students to minimize exposure. Gyms are open, a plus for Lasky, who misses her gym buddies at the Palo Alto YMCA, and infection rates are low enough that the constant dread of infection that she lived with in California has evaporated, she said. Rent is cheaper (and includes a lightning-fast half gigabit internet package).

But most importantly, instead of being stuck at home watching TV most of the day or struggling with online classes, Bethany is engaged and learning. And when the country has shut down, elementary schools have been the last to close and the first to reopen, before bars and restaurants.

"I miss America and I do miss my friends in Palo Alto, but right now there's just no reason to be there," Lasky said. "When work is remote and your school is closed, what are you paying rent for? Why pay a premium to live in Palo Alto?"

'I miss America and I do miss my friends in Palo Alto, but right now there's just no reason to be there.'

-Elizabeth Lasky, mother, whose family moved to Norway

The Laskys signed a one-year lease on their Norway apartment, so come this August, they will have to decide if they want to stay longer or return to Palo Alto, which will hinge on the state of school reopenings back home. As the pandemic stretches on, she's watched on those Facebook groups as more and more families relocate to places where schools are open.

"Infections rates be damned, they're going to Arizona, they're going to Tennessee, they're going to Kentucky because in 2021, a good school district is one that teaches full time in person," Lasky said.

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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'No other choice': Families leave Palo Alto for schools, states and countries where classrooms are open

Search for in-person education takes some to Denmark, Norway and Texas

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Feb 5, 2021, 6:59 am

It was Sebastian Chancellor's first day of his junior year, and he couldn't stop smiling.

After 10 years of attending Palo Alto public schools, he enrolled last fall in Copenhagen International School in Denmark, where high school classes are taking place in person with few restrictions. It was the first time he'd sat in classrooms next to peers and learned from a teacher face-to-face since Palo Alto schools had closed in March.

"Seeing all these bikes flying by, hearing laughter and smiles, seeing kids running to class, hearing the bell — it was a big nostalgic moment of, 'Wow; I haven't heard this in awhile,'" he said. "I was smiling the whole day. I couldn't help myself. I was so excited to be able to come into a class environment."

The Chancellor family moved from Palo Alto to Copenhagen last August so Sebastian and his younger brother, Oliver, an eighth grader, could attend school in person. They saw the writing on the wall at the end of the summer that the new school year would start fully online in Palo Alto, with no extracurriculars, sports or in-person activities for students, and joined a growing exodus of families who are leaving public schools for places where schools are more fully open. Some are transferring their children to local private schools or home schooling — including a group of 30 families who left Palo Alto Unified to create their own private school in a backyard — while others have moved out of state or even abroad for in-person education.

Public schools across the state are reporting sharp enrollment declines, which have been attributed in part to trends that predated the pandemic, including declining birth rates, but also those born of the pandemic, such as higher dropout rates. California's K-12 public-school enrollment has dropped by a record 155,000 students according to new state projections — about five times more than the state's annual rate of enrollment decline in recent years.

While Palo Alto Unified's fall enrollment was down by about 8%, which district leaders said was relatively normal given historical declines, this year those leaving the district also include families seeking more far-flung opportunities. The district reopened elementary schools for hybrid learning in October and is planning to bring sixth graders back in March, but older students are by and large still learning from home and will likely continue doing so until the fall.

These families' decisions, while temporary, reflect their deep frustration after living with months of stalled reopening decisions, patchy online learning experiences and the toll that the extended school closures are taking on their children. They've decided, for now, that restoring their childrens' love for learning, mental health and sense of normalcy outweigh uprooting their lives and leaving their homes and friends, in some cases even splitting up their families.

In Copenhagen, the Chancellor boys lived the kind of unrestricted life that feels so out of reach for Americans right now. They went to school in person (only wearing masks between classes), played basketball, had sleepovers with friends, attended birthday parties, went to the movies.

The Chancellors spend two weeks every summer in Copenhagen, where Nana Chancellor's family lives, so the transition was smooth. After this summer's annual trip — a breath of fresh air in a country where COVID-19 case rates are low enough that life feels relatively normal — they decided to extend their stay. Within a week, Nana Chancellor had moved with her two sons and enrolled them in the private international school while her husband, Brian, stayed in Palo Alto.

"After months of being isolated, it was a huge relief moving to Copenhagen at the end of August, allowing the boys to live with a sense of normalcy again and enjoying all the regular things kids do — the things we used to take for granted that they had missed terribly during the spring in Palo Alto," Chancellor said. "I wish we were there with schools open, but at the same time, each family has to make tough choices to do what's best for their individual children."

For Sebastian, a social, outgoing, athletic teenager, online learning in Palo Alto last spring was challenging. He had a hard time focusing and connecting with his teachers and classmates. Many peers wouldn't turn their cameras on and kept themselves on mute. He was often left staring at his own reflection on the computer screen for six hours a day. The online school day crawled by, he said.

"I took it for granted, what it's like to be able to go to school and see everybody in person and have a very active classroom environment. I was used to all my life — 'I gotta wake up early for school; why can't I just stay home?' Now it's the other way around," he said. "I want to be at school. The whole narrative was flipped."

In Copenhagen, Sebastian's hour-plus classes flew by. He felt engaged and excited about school again. He also was able to play basketball, crucial for the high school junior who hopes to play in college. Meanwhile, at home in Palo Alto, only small group athletic conditioning has resumed, with restrictions, and it remains to be seen whether the majority of high school sports will have any competitions this school year.

Though COVID-19 rates are much lower in Copenhagen, schools aren't immune to infections. Last semester, Oliver's Danish teacher and two elementary school students at the K-12 school tested positive at different times, though in all three cases, there was no spread to anyone else, Chancellor said. All students and teachers who were exposed stayed home for a week and had to get tested before returning.

"I really wasn't worried about COVID much last semester; I was just incredibly thankful and relieved that my boys could have regular school and sports again," Chancellor said.

Due to family circumstances and hoping for a postponed basketball season, however, Sebastian returned to Palo Alto for his second semester. He's glad to be home but struggled with the transition back to online school — a sharp contrast to the noisy hallways in Copenhagen and his memories of socializing with friends on the quad at Palo Alto High School. Ironically, his younger brother is also back to online school temporarily until Denmark lifts a lockdown implemented after the new COVID-19 variant was discovered there.

Families who have moved abroad are also experiencing drastically different responses to the coronavirus. In Denmark, the public health restrictions are consistent — no school is closed while a neighboring campus is open — and unlike in America, there's little pushback or divisive debate, Chancellor said. There's also a light at the end of the tunnel in Denmark, which is projecting its 5.8 million population will be fully vaccinated by late June.

"Things change here quickly because people trust when the government tells them, 'This is what we need you to do right now,' and then everyone does it," Chancellor said of Denmark. "It feels a little more like it's something we have to get through together. There's not really finger-pointing."

After 19 years of living and attending public schools in Palo Alto, the Japic family moved to Texas in October for one reason: so their daughters could play sports in person.

They're a serious sports family; the oldest Japic daughter plays Division 1 soccer at Baylor University and the middle child, Sydney, has aspirations to do the same. Sydney has her own website and YouTube page where she posts footage of game highlights and training sessions, hoping to attract the eye of college recruiters. The youngest Japic daughter plays volleyball and basketball.

In the fall, with school still online and no athletic practices or games allowed in Palo Alto, the Japic parents started researching places where soccer was happening in person. They looked at North Carolina, Dallas and Houston. They ultimately bought a second house in Frisco, a Dallas suburb where Sydney earned a spot on a top-tier soccer club team.

"With everything locked down in California, we just couldn't sit by and let things pass without having her opportunity to commit to a D1 school," Caroline Japic said. "Right now the positives in Texas outweigh the positives in California."

Caroline Japic moved with Sydney in October; her husband and younger daughter followed in December. Both parents are able to work remotely from Texas, while the girls are playing sports and attending public schools in person (wearing masks, sitting at desks 6 feet apart and frequently washing their hands). They're "absolutely thriving," Japic said.

Unlike the Chancellors, the Japics don't envision their children returning to Palo Alto Unified. They expect to stay in Texas at least until Sydney graduates from high school in 2022 and perhaps until the youngest daughter graduates in 2026, Japic said. For now, they're enjoying a different kind of lifestyle in Frisco, where the cost of living is lower, there's less traffic and the die-hard Texas football culture portrayed in Friday Night Lights is real.

"In Frisco, the sports and academics are of equal importance," she said. "It's great to have that balance for the kids."

Last month, Kathleen Brizgys Tarlow did something she never thought she would do: She pulled her daughter out of the public school system. She didn't opt to move to another country or even another state, but the significance of the decision still felt monumental to her.

Brizgys Tarlow is a Palo Alto Unified graduate and a supporter of public schools. Until January, her three children — a kindergartener, third grader and sixth grader — attended district schools. Brizgys Tarlow had spent much of the spring and fall calling into virtual school board meetings and advocating for reopening. She was thrilled when her younger two children could partially return to school for hybrid learning in the fall, and said they're thriving after several months of being around their teachers and peers in person. But her sixth-grade daughter continued learning at home on a computer screen, isolated and falling behind as they hoped for a change that would allow middle schools to resume some in-person instruction.

When Superintendent Don Austin sent out a message in January indicating that middle and high schools were unlikely to reopen this school year, something "snapped," Brizgys Tarlow said.

"I feel like she's languishing," she said of her daughter. "The thought of her spending another six months doing the same thing for the remainder of the year was just something I couldn't make peace with."

Brizgys Tarlow decided to transfer her daughter to a local private school, which she declined to name, that's offering in-person classes. Though the district has been constrained from opening further due to local coronavirus rates and restrictions, she couldn't help but feel strung along.

"I'm really sad, and I'm also really angry. I feel like we've been left no other choice," Brizgys Tarlow said.

She said she's sympathetic to teachers who are fearful of returning to work in person, but believes that almost a year into the pandemic, schools are armed with enough information about how to operate safely. Health experts continue to urge schools to reopen as safely as possible, warning about developmental disruptions, learning loss and social isolation. (Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told teachers in a video call this week that all K-8 schools should aim to reopen within the next 100 days.) Brizgys Tarlow is concerned to hear teachers, both locally and across the state, demand that schools remain closed until all educators can be vaccinated.

"If the baseline is total safety then our kids will never go back to school full time," Brizgys Tarlow said. "I believe teachers are essential workers. I don't think kids can learn outside of school — certainly not all kids in an equitable way."

Brizgys Tarlow worries about the long-term consequences of school closures on her children's academic and social-emotional growth, particularly for her daughter, navigating the transition from elementary to middle school. While the school district is hamstrung by public health conditions and state and local restrictions, families are at home, watching more and more milestones pass by: middle school graduation, prom, the first day of high school.

When she's dropping her younger children off at school, she hears from other parents about kids not logging onto Zoom classes and becoming increasingly isolated at home. In her job at Palo Alto nonprofit Grassroots Ecology, which provides free science and nature programs to local teachers, she hears about students in less resourced districts who aren't attending their online classes with little or no parent supervision at home.

"The stories to me just say: There are going to be serious consequences," Brizgys Tarlow said. "I feel like we're acting like this is something that can be deferred forever, but a lot of kids are going to have these enormous learning losses that we're not really reckoning with yet."

Despite the news that sixth graders will be able to return to campuses next month, she doesn't plan to send her daughter back to Palo Alto Unified until schools are open again full time. She said she'll pull her other children as well if daily in-person school doesn't resume in the fall.

"In the past two weeks we've seen a recovery of her spirits," Brizgys Tarlow said of her daughter during this week's virtual school board meeting. "She's doing the difficult academic and social work that kids need to do in school."

Before Elizabeth Lasky moved with her husband and three young children to Norway so their oldest daughter could attend school in person, she watched two possible futures unfold on social media.

Lasky is part of several Facebook groups with names like "Leaving California" and "Life After California," where thousands of members swap advice, post photos in front of moving trucks and new homes and ask questions about the housing market and the guilt of leaving family behind during the pandemic. In local groups, meanwhile, desperate parents launch reopening petitions, compare neighboring districts' plans and furiously debate how to turn the tide on school closures.

Frustrated with distance learning and unwilling to do it again in the fall, the Laskys decided to leave Palo Alto for her husband's native country. They spent $15,000 to move across the globe on two week's notice, timing it exactly so they would be done with a required 10-day quarantine before their daughter's first day of third grade.

Lasky took a picture of her daughter, Bethany Andreassen, on that day. She has a sparkly backpack on and no mask, her eyes squeezed shut she's smiling so big.

"This justifies everything I did to pull off the most manic move of my life," Lasky said.

For the Laskys, life in Norway feels like a big improvement over Palo Alto. Schools are open with some limitations — students don't have to wear masks but learn in stable cohorts and are encouraged to socialize outside of school with the same students to minimize exposure. Gyms are open, a plus for Lasky, who misses her gym buddies at the Palo Alto YMCA, and infection rates are low enough that the constant dread of infection that she lived with in California has evaporated, she said. Rent is cheaper (and includes a lightning-fast half gigabit internet package).

But most importantly, instead of being stuck at home watching TV most of the day or struggling with online classes, Bethany is engaged and learning. And when the country has shut down, elementary schools have been the last to close and the first to reopen, before bars and restaurants.

"I miss America and I do miss my friends in Palo Alto, but right now there's just no reason to be there," Lasky said. "When work is remote and your school is closed, what are you paying rent for? Why pay a premium to live in Palo Alto?"

The Laskys signed a one-year lease on their Norway apartment, so come this August, they will have to decide if they want to stay longer or return to Palo Alto, which will hinge on the state of school reopenings back home. As the pandemic stretches on, she's watched on those Facebook groups as more and more families relocate to places where schools are open.

"Infections rates be damned, they're going to Arizona, they're going to Tennessee, they're going to Kentucky because in 2021, a good school district is one that teaches full time in person," Lasky said.

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

Elementary Parent
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2021 at 7:33 am
Elementary Parent , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 7:33 am

Perhaps Palo Alto Online could also do an article that shows profiles in courage of the hundreds of district kids that have been hanging in there sometimes very tenuously over the last year and a half, because their families neither have the choice nor the resources to go to Denmark, Texas or Norway.


Park goer
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Feb 5, 2021 at 8:09 am
Park goer, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 8:09 am

@Elementary, yes, and the slow and inexorable disappearance of our childrens' smiles, initiative, and spirit. This pandemic is devastating our children and our families, and while PAUSD did act on elementary (thank you!), the older children have become shadows of their former selves. It makes me want to cry and rage on alternating days. Many other school districts are doing more for children and families.


Bob
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 5, 2021 at 8:56 am
Bob, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 8:56 am

Privilege much? This article just reeks of Palo Alto elitism. Sigh.


Park goer
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Feb 5, 2021 at 9:06 am
Park goer, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 9:06 am

Bob, unfortunately said privilege is one of the excuses that the PAUSD staff I have heard from espouse for why it's okay to stay closed. "It's a wealthy district", they opine, "the kids will be fine". I can't help but think that PAUSD's much professed dedication to emotional health is a sham, a spineless facade. I am grateful for the teaching that we are getting, some of it excellent quality. But I am furious about what the persistently and obstinately closed schools are doing to our children.


Not Pro-Business?
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2021 at 10:00 am
Not Pro-Business?, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 10:00 am

Doesn't it just seem like 1000s of parents were flooding the board meetings asking for the schools not to re-open? Now people are moving so their kids can play sports? I really don't get why this paper blasts the school district no matter what.


How to help the hotspot areas
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 5, 2021 at 10:27 am
How to help the hotspot areas, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 10:27 am

I wish we could move but not possible with other factors. It has been a year and PAUSD didn't give good options for the middle and high schoolers wanted to go back in-person. Finally 6th graders have a choice of going back in March. The "Hybrid" program offered for 7-12th is not the students and families wanted, less than 10% of the students chosen it among the whole school. Other school districts in Bayarea are announcing the in-person school openings and have the plans to open soon. But PAUSD has no plans, they IGNORE the mental health for the students.

If you are not happy about the situation, want them to hear your voice: There's a protest this coming Monday 2/8, 4-5pm, PAUSD Offices(25 Churchill Ave & El Camino). Bring your masks & signs!


Noel
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 5, 2021 at 10:44 am
Noel, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 10:44 am

Teachers are essential workers and should be second in line for vaccines after medical workers, starting with teachers over 50 and those with medical conditions and immediately after them, all teachers of any age. The fundamental problem is that there was zero leadership at the top when this pandemic started and therefore priorities have not been set and we have had massive confusion and varying degrees of chaos all accross our country. This is why we have the highest infection and death rates in the developed world and schools and economy are a mess.


TorreyaMan
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Feb 5, 2021 at 10:48 am
TorreyaMan, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 10:48 am

This is a waste of journalistic effort and of my time to read it. I don't blame these parents for doing what they did for their kid's sake, but how many families can manage this? We have, here, an in-depth article on a tiny minority who have the money and, in the case of the overseas travelers, apparent local connections to manage. Most don't have either.


LAHscot
Registered user
Los Altos Hills
on Feb 5, 2021 at 10:50 am
LAHscot, Los Altos Hills
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 10:50 am

To Superintendent Austin and PAUSD Board: I think teachers want to get back to in-person classes just like parents and students. All you need to do is get classroom teachers and classroom staff vaccinated and protect the 6-foot separation guidelines (not 4'). Get organized, deal with the County, show you care about keeping teachers/staff safe.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2021 at 11:01 am
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 11:01 am

Great article! I agree with the families who took action. I also realize it’s not easy to decide what to do.
However, situations are not comparable: in California, (as opposed to Norway or other more sensible U.S. states), taxpayers are saddled with the high expense of educating undocumented immigrants, see cis.org “Immigration is the elephant in the room in L.A. school strike,” 1/25/2019. While this predates the pandemic, it demonstrates the heavy burden to the taxpayers, public schools to attempt to educate undocumented.
I add here the simple-but-made-complicated topic of “the undocumented” and the obvious burden this adds to CA.
[Portion removed.]


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 5, 2021 at 11:09 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 11:09 am

If the baseline is total safety then our kids will never go back to school full time”
This comment came after the statement of teachers wanting to be vaccinated before returning. All workers have the right to a safe work place regardless of the silly labels of “essential or non-essential.” Currently there is a media blitz by publications such as The WALL STREET Journal, the mouth piece of the financial elite doing 3 things: perpetuating the falsehood that schools are safe, pitting the working class against each other-teachers vs. parents!, villianizing teachers/school staff for not wanting to return in person during a deadly pandemic, all under the guise that the Government is now all worried about the children and their mental health due to school closures. Yet even in this article it states in Copenhagen where disease transmission is much lower than in the US, a teacher and 2 elementary school students walked into school infected with a deadly disease. Ask yourself why after another financial bailout has there suddenly been a huge push these past two weeks to get children back in school? Why isn’t the government so concerned about say restaurants reopening? Herding kids back into school allows parents to get back to work to open the economy. Subversively, the new administration is also pushing a “herd immunity” strategy to the pandemic. By opening schools and allowing more young people to become infected, within a few more months 30-40% of the US population will have been infected and another 30-40% will have been vaccinated reaching a herd immunity threshold. Here is Bloomberg one of the wealthiest people in America “telling teachers to suck it up and run risks” and suddenly acting all worried about the “poor people”:
Web Link
Vaccines are here. Why can’t we wait a few more months so they can be distributed to save lives!


Testing For All!
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2021 at 11:15 am
Testing For All! , Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 11:15 am

They are so privileged to be able to move to another area to attend school. They can afford tutors, and cars for their teens to go hang out with others. I’d love to see a story on how this affects those that are no so completely privileged. I wonder how this is affecting kids in EPA and San Jose. Cities where no students are returning to class. Not really feeling any kind of sad feelings for that family.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:00 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:00 pm

This is not very surprising. Children learn socialization skills at age appropriate levels. From learning to take turns, to share, to show good manners, to learn how to talk to peers, to adults, to authority figures,how to deal with those they are not so close to, or those they don't like so much, or just people they have never met before,etc., in other words they are learning life lessons from being in a classroom with peers under the discipline of classroom routines and rules. These are life lessons that are just as important as book learning.

Without learning these life skills at the appropriate time, we must ask ourselves what will be the serious repercussions for this generation? Will they learn the childhood manners that will last them a lifetime? Will they recover from isolation from peers and learn how to deal with being in society? Will they turn to being reclusive to deal with problems? Will they become selfish and expect the world to revolve around themselves? These may be kindergarten skills but the middle and high school versions are just as important.

Will the downsides of keeping these children out of school for a year ever be known in full. I can't blame parents who just do not want to find that out.


Jeremy Erman
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:08 pm
Jeremy Erman, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:08 pm

I'm glad the families profiled here have found solutions for their children's educational needs. I hope they continue to thrive in these uncertain times.

However, I'm disappointed that the article, like so many others about education during the pandemic, doesn't mention the arts at all. Where are the stories about students who love choir, orchestra, band, and theatre? What are they doing during the pandemic? How are they and are their families coping with the loss of cherished activities?


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:17 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:17 pm

Interesting article. I don't think many of us could just pick up and move. We don't have families in other countries to go live with and have the wealth to do this.

Actually reading the article made me sad - it really is about the choices available for those financially wealthy. Why aren't there stories of those less fortunate and how they are making things work or that are perhaps selling their home and moving to a lower cost place just to make it?


sunnypa
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:19 pm
sunnypa, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:19 pm

This article again highlights all that is wrong with some Palo Altan’s sense of entitlement and privilege, and all that is wrong with the youth sports culture mentality in this country. The pay-to-play system needs to stop and it is just another way to discriminate against underprivileged and underrepresented minorities who may be soccer and basketball players but without the means to move to other towns to continue with their sports. Guess what, sports parents all over, throwing money and resources at your athletes won’t make them any more talented. And how about trying to get into good colleges the old fashioned way by working and studying hard all day like many of the kids in Palo Alto public schools? Let’s all put a stop to this entitlement and money driven culture that is not doing our kids any favor. Let your kids succeed on their own merits and hard work rather than trying to force success by throwing money and resources into what they do. The next Kobe and Messi are not going to come from this entitled and privileged culture. They will come from kids out there working their butt off through all the adversities that the pandemic is bringing.


Michael
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:36 pm
Michael, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:36 pm

The Copenhagen school referenced in the article is now remote only for 5th grade and up due to COVID-19 . The Netherlands are now locked down pretty heavily as the new UK variant sweeps through the population.


Pam T
Registered user
Charleston Gardens
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:48 pm
Pam T, Charleston Gardens
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 12:48 pm

I agree with most of the folks above. As someone who has lived in Palo Alto for more than 35 years, I see these people as "jumping ship" and not as real Palo Altoans. They're here because they can afford it and the schools are superb, but take that away and they go. They are not connected or devoted to the Palo Alto community. I say good riddance. To survive this challenge, everyone must pull together - to help educate from home, to PROTECT teachers [who should absolutely be receiving vaccine] and to stay home and quell this virus so everyone can get back to normal. This wonderful community has lost many fine members over the years because of the high cost of living here, partially developed by folks who only care for the great schools. We will come back from this a stronger, more connected community, much as it was some years ago.


Really?
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 5, 2021 at 1:54 pm
Really?, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 1:54 pm

Some really mean-spirited comments above.  Anyone living in Palo Alto and accusing others of "privilege" should take a look in the mirror.  Good luck to any and all parents doing what they can to give their kids a more normal school experience under these extraordinary circumstances.


Shahin
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Feb 5, 2021 at 2:38 pm
Shahin, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 2:38 pm

Good for them. Of course, for most people those are not realistic options. Meanwhile, here is Menlo Park, my 6th grader is sitting in front of the screen, in yet another hour long "reading workshop" breakout session, staring at her "partner's" face, both in total silence, waiting for another miserable week of online "learning" to end so that she can go back to play her favorite online game on another screen with her teammates from the school's Basketball team they once played in (You see, in good old days, kids played real sports). Of course, her school, La Entrada, is so proud these days to have opened for in-person class. Why not? In-person, only after 6 months into the academic year, only every other day, only for less than half of the usual daily school hours (3 hours per day). So glad to see kids "socialize" during in-person school hours that doesn't even include school lunch time, doesn't include PE (apparently even outdoor PE is a no-no), with 5 minute recess, barely enough to run to the restroom and back. That is, if running is permitted on school grounds!


Cheryl
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Feb 5, 2021 at 3:47 pm
Cheryl, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 3:47 pm

Perfect! Now offer those empty seats to more Tinsley Program students or Inter-District Transfer requests. I’m sure there’s plenty of families still interested in PAUSD.


Name hidden
Downtown North

Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 4:58 pm
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 4:58 pm

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


JR McDugan
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Feb 5, 2021 at 5:54 pm
JR McDugan, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 5:54 pm

It is not a privilege to move to Texas for school, it is a sacrifice. Needless to say, almost everyone who lives in Palo Alto could make the sacrifice and move to Texas if they so choose. Those that made the sacrifice should be commended for the steps they are taking to improve the education of their children.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 5, 2021 at 5:55 pm
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 5:55 pm

The city of SF is suing the SF school District to open. Enough is enough.


MidtownMom
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 5, 2021 at 8:00 pm
MidtownMom, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 8:00 pm

@Bob- YES! The privilege displayed almost knocked me over. The quote about equitable learning was equal parts hilarious and infuriating


John Young
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 5, 2021 at 8:31 pm
John Young, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 8:31 pm

Interesting article. I applaud the local journalism required to make such an article... though the stats just do not back up the implicit assumption that "everyone is leaving". If you look at home sales in our area... whether it be median sales price, number of sales, or $/ft2, there is no evidence that people are leaving the Bay Area. Web Link is my recent analysis of actual real estate data. 2020 is just not very different from the past 5 years. While its true that parts of a family may be leaving, and renters are likely seeking cheaper options, the vast majority of locals are just soldiering through this difficult time. Hope this helps inform the important conversation we are having about reopening our schools!


TimR
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 5, 2021 at 9:38 pm
TimR, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 5, 2021 at 9:38 pm
Midtown resident
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 6, 2021 at 1:30 am
Midtown resident, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2021 at 1:30 am

I agree that over the course of time articles about the school situation should reflect the experience of the majority at least as much as that of small minorities. But this article was not inappropriate insofar as it reports on a canary in the coal mine. -- We love Palo Alto, my children have lived there all their lives. We miss it regularly and we will return. But the teenage years pass quickly, and we can't wait for the grand backlash in public sentiment over school quality and what it really takes to maintain social justice in education (which is, to educate all, rather than nobody, with greater rather than lesser ambition, and I don't mean education about yoga). We saw what the first three months of the pandemic were like at Paly, heard that taking classes online elsewhere was deemed "cheating", and we ran. We're not rich, but we are world citizens and know about the priority many other countries give to solid, professionally delivered teaching, in good times and in bad. As do some places in the U.S., if one knows where to look. We are now in a small town overseas with rigid restrictions on public life but a very decent traditional little school that has been open in person every single day since September, third wave and all: Masks yes, "bubbles" yes. But suspension of in-school social life: no. Discouragement of healthy ambition: no. Teacher unions forcing contracts that prohibit performance evaluation, with predictable results: no. We currently live on $280/week, rent, food, and all. Royally, compared to our usual situation. I have no doubt that houses in Palo Alto still sell, but the community has changed a lot already, and it will change even faster once public schools are no longer a draw. So whatever one's prime concerns as a resident, an article drawing attention to the beginnings of a trend with consequences, even if that trend is initially limited to the (supposedly) privileged, is not misguided.


Incredulous
Registered user
Addison School
on Feb 6, 2021 at 10:53 am
Incredulous , Addison School
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2021 at 10:53 am

Someone please explain to me why, even though teachers and people 65+ are supposed to be prioritized in the same '1B' tier, the County has made the decision to make sure all the retirees get vaccinated before teachers, forced back to work in packed classrooms with reduced social distancing, are eligible??


ProfvilleResident
Registered user
Professorville
on Feb 6, 2021 at 11:40 am
ProfvilleResident, Professorville
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2021 at 11:40 am

A quote in this article says it all:

“I really wasn't worried about COVID much last semester; I was just incredibly thankful and relieved that my boys could have regular school and sports again," Chancellor said.

Congratulations. Many Palo Altans similarly still wear their lack of fear of Covid-19 as a badge of honor.

But the point is that pandemics are not about YOU and your own risk tolerance. The *public* in public health recognizes this.

Perhaps months of unmasked young people attending schools contributed to community spread and gave this virus the opportunity to mutate into stronger variants. Humbling.

Palo Alto is filled with parents well-versed in wielding “this just does NOT work for me. I need to speak with a manager.”

Unfortunately Covid-19 doesn’t answer their calls.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 6, 2021 at 1:00 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2021 at 1:00 pm

1. it will change even faster once public schools are no longer a draw:
False. Nothing will change once the pandemic is over. Look at the outcry for reopening when it’s not safe to do so for the free day care. Things will just go back to normal. There will be no retribution or backlash. Public schools will always be here.
2. Teacher unions forcing contracts that prohibit performance evaluation, with predictable results:
PAUSD is the #2 school district in California. The fallacy of most families is that they think they have the ability or qualifications to judge teaching staff and also that nothing is ever “good enough.” They don’t have the ability.
Web Link
3. small town overseas/rigid restrictions on public life/decent traditional little school that has been open in person every single day since September:
It sounds like a different culture that prioritizes the importance of school versus such things as celebrating the Super Bowl and causing yet another super spreader event. Look at the protests when we had lockdowns here!
4. professionally delivered teaching, in good times and in bad:
PAUSD is delivering professional instruction online since the virus has ran out of control in the United States. Do not implicitly blame teachers for not working in person because of the failed Federal response to the pandemic. How glib.
5. The title of this article should have been “Lots of Other Choices.”
6. Thank you to Shahin for that comment illustrating what schools ACTUALLY are like during the pandemic for anyone clamoring for a reopening. Another protest coming! Sigh.
7.Profville/Incredulous-Wonderful comments! I couldn’t agree more. Thank you.
8. The “mass exodus of Californians” stories are getting overblown. If people want to leave they can leave! I won’t miss them. The pandemic is a portal. California is down but not out. We will bounce back to a new Gold Rush era.


Parent
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 6, 2021 at 3:04 pm
Parent, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2021 at 3:04 pm

Families are leaving for varied of reasons, including the Board’s mishandling of its pandemic response.

They are also leaving because they can — because their employers granted them the work-from-home privilege they oppose for teachers.

Almost as ironic as the planned Reopening Rally — sitting in the safety of one’s car, ordering Instacart deliveries, and honking at district admin to ramp reopening efforts even further.

Also, anyone else getting tired of PA Online articles reading like propaganda pieces for the school Board?

Not a coincidence that the three members endorsed here won.

Not a coincidence that a quick google search reveals the connections between one of the families profiled in this piece and a Board member preoccupied with image.


Longtime Resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 6, 2021 at 3:45 pm
Longtime Resident, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2021 at 3:45 pm

International travel is what caused the spread of this virus around the world.
There are many people who feel above the law. It takes only one infected person to unknowingly spread the virus. It is sad to know that there are so many wealthy arrogant people in our area. Traveling during a pandemic is simply irresponsible.
It is as selfish as taking a cruise during a global pandemic, and coming back to our community with Covid, putting citizens in our community at risk. As others in our community did last year when they went on a cruise during the pandemic, then boasted about receiving the latest antiviral treatment at Stanford.

Why is it that so many people feel entitled to travel and potentially spread a deadly virus around the globe?

The entire population of the world is suffering. People who travel should not be allowed to return.


Longtime resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 6, 2021 at 8:08 pm
Longtime resident , Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 6, 2021 at 8:08 pm

This embarrassing flaunting of privilege is so indicative of those who feel entitled to endanger anyone and everyone for their own benefit. After playing ugly hardball with terrified teachers, Austin and his cronies have continually ignored the pleas of parents, teachers, and longtime residents, making the facade of democratic process a sham. The new variants are even more infectious and will absolutely threaten teachers, staff, and even families forced to go inside. Why aren’t you reporting on teachers forced to choose between homelessness and endangering their lives and families? Are we supposed to feel sorry for those who are able to outsource their risk anywhere and everywhere, and who have access to media to define the narrative? Who is really languishing here? I also agree with the commenter above who reveals the economic agenda behind this. There is absolutely no reason to open weeks or months before we can reach a vaccination threshold, except that politicians lack the political courage to support families to stay home. And, those who can stay home, who can hire private tutors and nannies and cooks and workout in their private gyms but still believe themselves the victims here are actually giving their kids the worst education possible. They are teaching them to exploit anyone and everyone for your short term gain. This selfishness has gotten us this far and it will prolong the pandemic for the rest of us. It is certainly nothing to boast about.


EYC
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2021 at 12:38 am
EYC, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 12:38 am

As a parent, you do what’s best for your kids. There is nothing wrong with their exodus.
Just be real folks!


Silver Linings
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2021 at 2:04 am
Silver Linings, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 2:04 am

…staring at the computer screen for 6 hrs/day.

It’s so hard to read that. I know from having had no choice but to homeschool our high schooler here that remote learning can mean superior and more efficient learning, but not if people try to just reproduce school. I cannot believe anyone ever thought that making students sit at computers for hours a day was a good way to approach interim online learning.

This could have been an opportunity to show kids how you make victories out of life’s curveballs, to see the year as an opportunity, develop positive ways of dealing with stress.

Where is the state leadership? I know from experience that in order for remote learning to really work, teachers, students, and families have to give themselves permission to do things very differently, and not expect the same kind of academic mill, benchmarks, or face time.

In-person socializing IS crucial (I personally wish schools had maintained limited, safe, in-person socializing throughout), in fact, homeschooling can mean higher quality in-person social interactions and freedom/time to participate. (If anything, homeschool kids are hit worse by loss of in-person activities.)

But many students are thriving from online learning, too (search “some kids thriving during remote learning”). If we were smart, we would try to provide more of that while kids are stuck remote learning, and bring the advantages back to schooling when things return to “normal.”

I wish school districts across country had used pandemic lockdowns to renovate or even rebuild facilities (the majority of which were built 50+ years ago) and improve air quality for pandemic safety, because nationally and locally, research shows aging school facilities (doesn’t matter the repair) are associated with all kinds of negative physical and learning outcomes, as are air quality issues that we have here, too. Doing our best to make schools safe now will improve student success long after.


theAlex
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2021 at 8:23 am
theAlex, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 8:23 am

@Incredulous, who wrote:

"Someone please explain to me why, even though teachers and people 65+ are supposed to be prioritized in the same '1B' tier, the County has made the decision to make sure all the retirees get vaccinated before teachers, forced back to work in packed classrooms with reduced social distancing, are eligible??"

The reason is because older people have a much greater risk of being hospitalized and dying. We're trying as best as we can to keep the most number of people alive and out of hospitals.

Think of this as a character building exercise for yourself as well as your children. It's very educational, when you think about it!


Curious Parent
Registered user
Community Center
on Feb 7, 2021 at 8:54 am
Curious Parent, Community Center
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 8:54 am

@Incredulous wrote:
"Someone please explain to me why, even though teachers and people 65+ are supposed to be prioritized in the same '1B' tier, the County has made the decision to make sure all the retirees get vaccinated before teachers, forced back to work in packed classrooms with reduced social distancing, are eligible??"

I strongly support the vaccination prioritization of teachers currently working in the classroom including private school teachers and the K-5 teachers in Palo Alto. But why in the world would we prioritize teachers who are NOT YET COMMITTING TO COMING BACK IN AUGUST, EVEN IF THEY ARE VACCINATED. Please read that last line again and let it sink in. These teachers are not front-line workers and in fact there is no group that I would characterize as more a "back-line worker" than unionized teachers.

Public school teachers will be among the last to go to back to work regardless of what happens with the vaccine. They should be asked to commit to a date when they are willing to go back to work and should be vaccinated 5-6 weeks before then. If we want to tier the vaccine schedule on anything other than age, teachers should be after front-line medical workers, grocery/restaurant/retail workers, Uber drivers, Soul Cycle instructors, babysitters, and possibly the more vulnerable populations in 3rd world countries.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2021 at 10:06 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 10:06 am

@CP [Portion removed.] Your post is based on a false premise that “teachers need to be working in person” to be vaccinated. Then although you made a legitimate point about perhaps vaccinating grocery store workers first because they are working in public, you veered off into absurdity with your Soul Cycle/3rd world country references(further downplaying the lives/roles of teachers). You also promoted multiple false assumptions, that first “teachers would be the last to go back to work regardless of vaccine” and (in ALL CAPS!) that teachers aren’t committing to coming back in August even if they are vaccinated. First, please provide evidence that the teachers union or teachers have stated this. Second, the reason schools have been shut down is because the California Government deemed it was not safe not the “evil unions.” The goal posts are constantly shifting. “Schools can’t open in purple.” “Schools can open with 25 cases per 100,000.” Finally, you missed the bigger point. This isn’t the Hunger Games regarding the vaccine. Everyone is crying out for schools to reopen (even when it is not safe to do so) because of the importance of EDUCATION. Opening schools also triggers society “going back to normal.” For this to happen teachers need to get vaccinated ASAP as many of the vaccines full efficacy doesn’t kick in for 30-49 days after receiving it. Getting a shot in the arm on Saturday and returning to work on Monday does not improve worker safety.
Here is what happened in Escondido yesterday(they took all precautions!):
Web Link
Don’t paint a vulgar picture of teachers being greedy for the vaccine. Try supporting your teachers. Please read that last line again and let it sink in.


Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 7, 2021 at 10:29 am
Palo Alto Resident, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 10:29 am

Hopefully we will finally recognize the impact of public employee unions in California:

- Teacher union => no school re-opening, "tenure" (iron-clad job protection regardless of performance after 1.5 years), huge pension liability
- Police union => protection of racist/violent cops, huge pension liability
- Prison worker union => "three strike" laws, mass incarceration, huge pension liability
- Other government employee unions => huge pension liabilities

California is the ultimate worst case of a public employee union takeover - it is a one-party state, with that party effectively controlled by the public employee unions (e.g., the CTA) through political campaigning and contributions. Unless we change this structure, the state will continue to be run for the benefit of its union employees, no the residents.

Limit public employee unions to workplace negotiations - they should be banned from political activity.


Surprised, though shouldn't be
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Feb 7, 2021 at 10:41 am
Surprised, though shouldn't be, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 10:41 am

"I'm really sad, and I'm also really angry. I feel like we've been left no other choice"

If you had shown me that quote a year ago and told me that this was from a parent, I would have thought that perhaps this parent had resorted to having to steal bread to feed their family, move to a smaller home because they could no longer afford their rent, take up another job in order to keep the lights on. I would've had empathy and felt for that parent and their unimaginable situation....

but, no. This? This is the epitome of privilege. I'm so sad seeing attention given to this. "No other choice" is when you have to go to your minimum wage, high risk of exposure job in order to be able to get a tablet for your kids to share to use for school. "No other choice" is when you call in sick, knowing that loss of pay means you can't make rent, because your kids have runny noses and they aren't allowed at daycare. THOSE situations should be "something [we] couldn't make peace with."


mauricio
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 7, 2021 at 6:23 pm
mauricio, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 6:23 pm

Obviously, 450,000 Americans died because Covid19 is not a big deal, and there is no reason to keep schools closed because they are so safe.

The parents who left for Texas, or foreign countries, are to me on the same level as deserters- privileged, condescending insufferable deserters who abandoned those who can't just up and leave to their own fate.


Jane
Registered user
Ventura
on Feb 7, 2021 at 6:27 pm
Jane, Ventura
Registered user
on Feb 7, 2021 at 6:27 pm

All these people complaining about "privilege" -- namely other people using their resources to do the best they can by their children. You would do the exact same thing for your kids if you had the resources.

You should direct your anger toward the politicians and "public health officials" who are making decisions for you based on hysteria, and not giving you any alternatives.


ProfvilleResident
Registered user
Professorville
on Feb 8, 2021 at 12:07 am
ProfvilleResident, Professorville
Registered user
on Feb 8, 2021 at 12:07 am

“You would do the exact same thing for your kids if you had the resources.”

Actually, no. Hopefully most others wouldn’t flaunt privilege and then play the “no other choice” victim. How embarrassing.

NO other choice? Really? The pandemic abounds with instances of true desperation. Those profiled here do not compare.

One thing Palo Alto parents can’t buy their offspring is experience in hardship, perspective, and empathy.

And when it arrives here parents’ immediate instinct is to rally/tantrum with the full weight of years of training to shield their kids from it.

Parents defend with, “I just want my child to be HAPPY.”

(not mentioned: and for convenience, sanity, and a quiet work-from-home environment for myself)

Meanwhile, many of the kids respond they want not to be the cause of long-term health damage or even death to community members.

What a toll to mental health for a child to know each time their cohort switches to remote that one of their friends, or teachers, or someone’s family member is infected with a disease that can linger for years or even kill.

Read the Paly/Gunn articles. Listen to our two phenomenal student Board trustees. Our kids understand the magnitude of what we are living through. They understand collective good and protecting life through short term (even 1-2 year) sacrifice.

While perhaps it skipped a generation, maybe these kids are channeling the wisdom of ancestors who lived through war, famine, depressions, and other hardships of the magnitude our world now faces.

It is not hysteria. Perhaps it hasn’t yet hit close enough to home to register, but it is irreparable destruction to 450K families + countless more globally.


Rebecca White
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2021 at 9:06 am
Rebecca White, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 8, 2021 at 9:06 am

Most of us would move to Scandinavia for a year if the schools were open, and we had family and community there. Dual citizenship is a gift and Scandinavia is wonderful. Also, both families are Palo Alto local, with at least one parent who grew up in PAUSD. It's hardly fair to say these families aren't community-focused. They are, quite literally, community leaders.


Rebecca White
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2021 at 9:12 am
Rebecca White, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Feb 8, 2021 at 9:12 am

Pulling out for private is a different discussion. I personally think that if you live in Palo Alto your kids should benefit from the incredible community built by attending public schools. From my experience, when we were young, kids who attended private were at a disadvantage socially. But it's not straightforward. Some kids aren't thriving in big, public schools. And it's easier to get into a "good" college from a "good" private high school. (I use quotes ironically because there are thousands of good colleges and universities.) Paly and Gunn are extremely competitive academically, and 4+ grade point averages aren't getting into a single UC. These are additional factors affecting the current trend.


Longtime resident
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2021 at 10:03 am
Longtime resident , Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 8, 2021 at 10:03 am

I would like to see a story that discusses the real duress upon the children of teachers and staff who fear illness and who were given no real chance to opt out of in person learning by "leadership" that literally told them to quit when they voiced honest concerns. I would like to see a story about other alternatives in such a resource rich neighborhood to support all kids to thrive without resorting to outsourcing risk and spreading illness across the globe (possibly contributing to the development of more variants). I would like to see a discussion of the real lessons we could be learning in this pandemic about how even the elite can't always hop line at the expense of everyone else when we need all of us to be well for any of us to be well.

I would like to see a story about the actual damage done to children and teens by teaching them that they can own the world and harm anyone who gets in the way of their immediate desires. I would like to see a story about the millions of families who have been thrust into food insecurity, who have lost loved ones to Covid, who have lost their homes, along with a substantive conversation about how to actually band together as a community.

In tough times, one is given the chance to build character, develop creativity, and deepen community. If what we care about is educating our kids, the ultimate education would be to check our entitlement and individualistic "I get mine" mindsets and actually model what it means to confront a once in a century problem with solutions that do not hinge upon extending this pandemic indefinitely. It is time to model perseverance. It is time to model integrity. It is time to check one's desire to throw a temper tantrum and ask who it harms.

PA Weekly, I am so disappointed. This reads like an Onion article to anyone outside your bubble. Please consider journalism that expands critical thinking and brings out our best. The public is not stupid, and we see right through this.


Midtown resident
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 8, 2021 at 11:32 am
Midtown resident, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 8, 2021 at 11:32 am

It may be time here for two clarifications. 1. Families who moved to Scandinavia or anywhere else in Europe did not spread disease. They were tested before they left, after they arrived, then quarantined, then sometimes tested again, before they could interact with anyone. (Speaking from my own experience.) They are opting out of something, yes, an action which some of you may perceive as lack of community spirit, but they are not selfishly prolonging the pandemic for others. 2. Not everyone who left PAUSD left simply because school moved online and stayed there. Maybe the sports fans did. We did not. We were pushed over the edge because the online experience was incredibly disappointing and unprofessional (after what had been a rather middling experience at best in-person, earlier in the 2019-20 year) and the district actually wanted to hold us hostage to its pitiful offerings by forbidding high school kids to take college-accredited classes elsewhere online. (There has been at least one lawsuit to date over this notion.) Just because some people are flaunting their entitlement, if that is how you want to read it (and I'm sure some are, there always are in Palo Alto), does not mean there is not ALSO a serious problem with how our school administrators have been dealing with the pandemic -- a problem that goes deeper than the online/offline issue, to the academic quality of what is actually produced, in whatever medium, to what ostensible purpose. But that is a different discussion, which has been held at great length on the occasion of other articles already.


toransu
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2021 at 12:04 pm
toransu, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 8, 2021 at 12:04 pm

[Portion removed.] To that family going to Texas, good riddance. Hope your kid doesn’t get COVID and brings it back home. As for the families heading to Europe, they can go to school because up until recently, places like Denmark actually handled it well, unlike the US! You can’t look at somewhere that actually did a good job and think that “oh, if they can open theirs, so can we”! It’s idiocy. Y’all want to get back to normal but don’t want to do anything to actually help get back to normal. [Portion removed.]


Hopeful
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2021 at 2:43 pm
Hopeful, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 8, 2021 at 2:43 pm

I appreciated this article and reading the many comments. Thank you !
I see this time as a sort of renaissance, do you ? . A Re- birth!
With all due respect to the serious environment of our times , I am moved with profound sadness too. Yet, what I see in this article illuminates hope about family life . I like reading about families working together. About teens!! I like it when teens are out of a rut! I liked hearing the teens perspective and Id love to hear more!
So many teens reportedly have suffered from school avoidance. Families of many teens have suffered from serious broken communication and relationships.
I personally see no reason to be up in arms about this article . Instead of maybe sending the child away for such an experience, they are charting a new course for learning and living together . I believe , and hope -this strengthens the family, and families are the soul of society.
I am encouraged by the adventurous spirit of the families represented here. that's good news.
I am hopeful and I wish the good of every family and child everywhere less stress in life and that each of us can learn new things and experience a re-birth in health , life values and work.
How are you doing today? I am trying!! To see with new eyes and change is not easy after 20 + years of living in my fantastic life style. Stay positive everyone!! To many , I hope my comments don't seem too uneducated ..or Pollyannaish... but just wanted to share the good that I see.


Matthew M
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 8, 2021 at 6:21 pm
Matthew M, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 8, 2021 at 6:21 pm

Well, I can only say my family left the district after seeing my kid start to physically hit themselves due the boredom / frustration of sitting in front of an inane zoom screen hour after hour, day after day. We gave it time to improve, for folks to find their stride... it slowly became clear that no help was on the way.

So, we pulled them out to home-school. We are not people of means, and the toll on our time and finances has been immense. I have had to work significantly less. We moved out of Palo Alto, not by a choice of privilege, but a sacrifice of necessity for the well-being of our children. Despite the immense resources of PAUSD, we were better without them in our Covid-era lives than we were with them in it.

Our world is one of trade-offs, and those trade-offs do get brutal when circumstances get this bad. But imho, the response of our public school system, PAUSD and otherwise, can only be characterized as a shockingly unbalanced failure.


Midtown resident
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 9, 2021 at 6:06 am
Midtown resident, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 9, 2021 at 6:06 am

@Matthew M. Your story has given me another reason to wish for all of this to be over soon.

The experience of many, both at the secondary and at the college level, seems to be that online teaching retains effectiveness whenever the staff involved was didactically excellent in the first place (meaning, in person) and had actual substance to convey, but magnifies weakness in every other situation, at the expense of the student stuck in front of the screen. Hence the imperative in an education system like the American one to be at least selective about which teachers do the heavy lifting online (not a technical problem, given that one good lecture or lab demo can be rolled out for thousands) and/or to allow students to complete requirements by enrolling in independent high-quality courses that are professionally designed for online consumption.

It boggles the mind that a community of parents that on average is not only wealthy but also smart and nonprovincial should let itself be represented by voices that want all of us to worship at the altar of the sitting duck, accepting daily handouts of mediocrity at best and screaming incompetence at worst as character building opportunities for our children.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 9, 2021 at 12:16 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 9, 2021 at 12:16 pm

“Hence the imperative in an education system like the American one to be at least selective about which teachers do the heavy lifting online.”
I completely disagree. There is no imperative for this unless the system changes and teaching goes online permanently. Teachers won’t lose their jobs to only find “didactically excellent” teachers to record online lectures during the pandemic. They will need teachers for when we go back to normal so that students can be herded back into classrooms so parents can go to work. Could it be that because teachers had to switch to online in an instant and many of them had no experience doing this you then judged them as “unprofessional and disappointing?” Maybe they actually weren’t, but in your eyes they were. What qualifications do you have as an administrator to judge the quality of teaching? [Portion removed.] Not all teachers are going to be “didactically excellent.” In the NBA for example, there is only one Steph Curry. You aren’t getting a “Steph Curry” to teach your special children in every class they take. [Portion removed.]


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2021 at 9:35 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 9, 2021 at 9:35 pm

I understood Tinsley transfer ARE in school here. That’s great and I hope the rest of students may return soon.

I know that in Chicago $100M of air filters, improvements have been made and teachers union was still recently resisting return to school teaching (I have not checked today’s news of CPS Chicago Public Schools) but believe me, that’s a huge impact to threaten another strike on those students in that big city.

There is a “Gunn + program” for underprivileged per NextDoor post I read (Palo Alto NextDoor). Perhaps someone can describe this program.

Also, risk of hospitalization ICU and death rises directly with age. Quit hating on 50-64 who hope to be vaccinated sometime so we don’t have to live in fear.

Look up age of CA public school teachers, I found largest age group was much younger than above,


Christine C
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:36 am
Christine C, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:36 am

If a child is suffering at say a level 6 (you know that scale they give you when you go to the doctor's office) does that mean they are NOT suffering because others are at an 8 or 9?? Dismissing someone's pain is so sad.

Every family needs to make the decisions that are best for their children. YOU do not know what they might be going through and what might be the best of challenging choices to help their kids.

Reeks of elitism?? That is insulting, as so many people (including the families featured in this article) are making very real sacrifices to help their children. Throwing stones at them instead of trying to understand and be thoughtful will just work to make our community more torn apart, rather than a lovely good neighbor town.


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