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Palo Alto middle, high schoolers will be able to Zoom from classrooms in person

New reopening plan will take effect after county moves into red tier

The empty Henry M. Gunn High School campus in Palo Alto on April 3, 2020. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Palo Alto middle and high schoolers who want to will be able to return to their campuses as soon as March, Superintendent Don Austin said Tuesday night, in a reversal from his warning just a few weeks ago that secondary schools were unlikely to reopen at all this school year.

Seventh graders through high school seniors will still be taking classes on Zoom but will have the option of doing so in a classroom with small groups of classmates and a teacher, he said during Tuesday's school board meeting.

The district plans to put this in place once Santa Clara County has been in the red tier of COVID-19 case rates for five consecutive days. Other local districts are pursuing similar plans, including the neighboring Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District.

This was a welcome announcement for parents who have been lobbying the district to reopen secondary schools — including a group who held a protest outside the district office on Monday — and are increasingly worried about the academic and emotional toll that nearly a year of distance learning is taking on their children. District leadership and board members have consistently supported reopening schools but since late last year been hamstrung by new county and state guidelines that prohibited campuses that weren't already open from offering in-person instruction while the county is in the purple tier. This meant Palo Alto Unified had to pause its previous plan to reopen middle and high schools for hybrid learning in early January.

Teachers, meanwhile, remain worried about the health and safety risks and are asking the community to be empathetic about their fears rather than point fingers. Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association, said during the board meeting that all teachers should be vaccinated before returning to work in person.

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"Teachers want to teach ... but things are not normal," Baldwin said. "Teachers aren't lazy or selfish because they are legitimately concerned about their health and the health of their loved ones and their students."

National health experts, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, have said vaccination of teachers is not required for the safe reopening of schools. On Tuesday, State Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, called for the immediate vaccination of public school teachers in both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Under Palo Alto Unified's new plan, middle and high school teachers would return to their classrooms on March 1 or the day after the county moves into the red tier, if that occurs after March 1. They will continue teaching on Zoom. Austin said the district will neither "mandate or prohibit" livestreaming — teaching students remotely and in-person simultaneously — and will leave that to the discretion of teachers.

"I think being prescriptive right now is not the winning path," he said.

Students who want to be on campuses will be divided into two groups alphabetically. They'll go through their entire class schedule two days a week in a "Zoom from the room" model; Monday will remain a fully remote day for all students. Students won't have to commit to in-person or remote learning and if they aren't feeling well, need to quarantine or don't want to be on campus, they can learn from home.

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The district is working with California School Inspections (CSI) to conduct a COVID-19 "readiness inspection" at each middle and high school, which included three days of visual inspections of every building, classroom and physical space at the campuses. Reports from these evaluations will be made public, the district said.

Austin emphasized that the district has four months of reopening experience under its belt at the elementary schools, where there have been positive COVID-19 cases but no spread at the schools. Next week, two Addison Elementary School first grade classrooms will even start piloting five days of in-person instruction.

Sixth graders, who have been decoupled from the secondary schools under new state guidance, are set to return to campuses the first week of March. To date, 58% of sixth grade families have selected in-person learning, Austin said.

Because the board approved a reopening plan in the fall, the new secondary schools model does not require a formal vote.

Board members encouraged parents to give teachers space and support to adjust to being back in the classroom and not push them on any particular model, such as livestreaming.

"There can be a lot of pressure on our teachers to do different things," board member Jennifer DiBrienza said. "Let's just be patient right now."

The high schools' student board representatives urged board members to proactively seek feedback on the new plan from students after they have had time to think through the option of returning to school.

District staff will bring a proposal to the next board meeting to provide COVID-19 testing for secondary school students, Austin said. Employees are currently tested on a biweekly basis.

Austin cautioned that this is a temporary, limited step toward reopening for this school year. The district still hopes to return to normal school — five days a week of in-person learning — in the fall.

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 middle, high schoolers will be able to Zoom from classrooms in person

New reopening plan will take effect after county moves into red tier

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Feb 9, 2021, 9:57 pm

Palo Alto middle and high schoolers who want to will be able to return to their campuses as soon as March, Superintendent Don Austin said Tuesday night, in a reversal from his warning just a few weeks ago that secondary schools were unlikely to reopen at all this school year.

Seventh graders through high school seniors will still be taking classes on Zoom but will have the option of doing so in a classroom with small groups of classmates and a teacher, he said during Tuesday's school board meeting.

The district plans to put this in place once Santa Clara County has been in the red tier of COVID-19 case rates for five consecutive days. Other local districts are pursuing similar plans, including the neighboring Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District.

This was a welcome announcement for parents who have been lobbying the district to reopen secondary schools — including a group who held a protest outside the district office on Monday — and are increasingly worried about the academic and emotional toll that nearly a year of distance learning is taking on their children. District leadership and board members have consistently supported reopening schools but since late last year been hamstrung by new county and state guidelines that prohibited campuses that weren't already open from offering in-person instruction while the county is in the purple tier. This meant Palo Alto Unified had to pause its previous plan to reopen middle and high schools for hybrid learning in early January.

Teachers, meanwhile, remain worried about the health and safety risks and are asking the community to be empathetic about their fears rather than point fingers. Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association, said during the board meeting that all teachers should be vaccinated before returning to work in person.

"Teachers want to teach ... but things are not normal," Baldwin said. "Teachers aren't lazy or selfish because they are legitimately concerned about their health and the health of their loved ones and their students."

National health experts, including Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, have said vaccination of teachers is not required for the safe reopening of schools. On Tuesday, State Sen. Josh Becker, D-Menlo Park, called for the immediate vaccination of public school teachers in both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

Under Palo Alto Unified's new plan, middle and high school teachers would return to their classrooms on March 1 or the day after the county moves into the red tier, if that occurs after March 1. They will continue teaching on Zoom. Austin said the district will neither "mandate or prohibit" livestreaming — teaching students remotely and in-person simultaneously — and will leave that to the discretion of teachers.

"I think being prescriptive right now is not the winning path," he said.

Students who want to be on campuses will be divided into two groups alphabetically. They'll go through their entire class schedule two days a week in a "Zoom from the room" model; Monday will remain a fully remote day for all students. Students won't have to commit to in-person or remote learning and if they aren't feeling well, need to quarantine or don't want to be on campus, they can learn from home.

The district is working with California School Inspections (CSI) to conduct a COVID-19 "readiness inspection" at each middle and high school, which included three days of visual inspections of every building, classroom and physical space at the campuses. Reports from these evaluations will be made public, the district said.

Austin emphasized that the district has four months of reopening experience under its belt at the elementary schools, where there have been positive COVID-19 cases but no spread at the schools. Next week, two Addison Elementary School first grade classrooms will even start piloting five days of in-person instruction.

Sixth graders, who have been decoupled from the secondary schools under new state guidance, are set to return to campuses the first week of March. To date, 58% of sixth grade families have selected in-person learning, Austin said.

Because the board approved a reopening plan in the fall, the new secondary schools model does not require a formal vote.

Board members encouraged parents to give teachers space and support to adjust to being back in the classroom and not push them on any particular model, such as livestreaming.

"There can be a lot of pressure on our teachers to do different things," board member Jennifer DiBrienza said. "Let's just be patient right now."

The high schools' student board representatives urged board members to proactively seek feedback on the new plan from students after they have had time to think through the option of returning to school.

District staff will bring a proposal to the next board meeting to provide COVID-19 testing for secondary school students, Austin said. Employees are currently tested on a biweekly basis.

Austin cautioned that this is a temporary, limited step toward reopening for this school year. The district still hopes to return to normal school — five days a week of in-person learning — in the fall.

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

Paly Teacher
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Feb 9, 2021 at 10:13 pm
Paly Teacher, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Feb 9, 2021 at 10:13 pm

I have to say this is a pretty bizarre plan. I appreciate that teachers won't have to come up with new lessons, some for kids who come in person and some for kids at home, but the plan seems so absurd.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the plan is to make teachers go into their classrooms and do exactly what they're already doing: teaching through Zoom. And students who choose to come to campus will do exactly what they're already doing: learning through Zoom. It's like two college roommates texting each other sitting four feet from each other multiplied by a dozen students per classroom multiplied by dozens of classroom per campus. What added benefit is worth the cost of community spread?

Also, Dr. Austin is either being inadvertently or willfully misleading:
1) During tonight's meeting, he basically said it will be OK because many teachers are already back on campus. What he didn't mention is 7-12 teachers will have kids that aren't in cohorts are rebellious teens, some of whom used to vape so often Paly had 12 fire alarms in one year.
2) From this article: "Austin said the district will neither 'mandate or prohibit' live-streaming — teaching students remotely and in-person simultaneously — and will leave that to the discretion of teachers." I mean, if teachers are teaching on Zoom from their classrooms, aren't they livestreaming?

Finally, just to add some context to this topic, teachers largely weren't made aware of this plan until today at 5:34 pm when we got an email from Teri Baldwin, our union president.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 9, 2021 at 11:24 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 9, 2021 at 11:24 pm

1. I legitimately feel sorry for anyone that has to work under Austin’s leadership. It said in the article that district leadership consistently wanted to open up but were (fortunately) hamstrung by state guidelines. Austin’s approach reminds me of Trump when Trump quite unwillingly shut down the economy on the advice of his health experts and then paced back and forth for a couple of months and then reopened too soon anyway which evoked the famous quote, “we can’t let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” If it were up to Austin teachers and staff would have been working throughout a dangerous pandemic while we were in regional lock downs. That’s not leadership or considering the health and safety of your staff. We are approaching 500,000 deaths in America. Those two are wrong. My heart goes out to the staff.
2. I’m ashamed of the new CDC Director and Fauci for pushing for unvaccinated teachers to return to work in person. If it’s so safe for everyone then private employees should return to in person too without vaccinations. No it’s not safe and this is a lie to restart the economy in the name of profits in Biden’s first 100 days in office. It is also a way to push a “herd immunity strategy” subversively. This is against workers rights to have a safe workplace.
3. I guess the protest worked. Did families bravely honk from their cars only and not mix into a crowd with other families, you know like a crowded classroom?
4. It’s way too early to bring back middle and high school students. Even with other school reopenings around the country I haven’t seen a focus on middle and high school kids returning as they have proven to spread covid as much as adults.
5. I don’t understand the point of this limited reopening either. I guess it’s to satisfy the protestors. It’s also a bit of a devious way to force teachers back into buildings.
Reminder to everyone: there is no cure for Covid and new variants are spreading.


Alvin
Registered user
Professorville
on Feb 9, 2021 at 11:36 pm
Alvin, Professorville
Registered user
on Feb 9, 2021 at 11:36 pm
Alvin
Registered user
Professorville
on Feb 9, 2021 at 11:46 pm
Alvin, Professorville
Registered user
on Feb 9, 2021 at 11:46 pm

@The Voice of Palo Alto. "Reminder to everyone: there is no cure for Covid and new variants are spreading." Is that why daily new cases in California have dropped by about 75-80% since the record high on December 16? Web Link


ProfvilleResident
Registered user
Professorville
on Feb 9, 2021 at 11:50 pm
ProfvilleResident, Professorville
Registered user
on Feb 9, 2021 at 11:50 pm

Maybe Palo Alto parents need their kids to Zoom from classrooms because Twitter/Facebook/Apple/Google are returning their employees (who have the same potential for spread as teens) to campus?

But, they aren’t. Because it is not safe.


How to help the hotspot areas
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2021 at 12:50 am
How to help the hotspot areas, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 12:50 am

Thank you!! It's one step forward. Families need to have a choice if the kids want going back to school to have some kind of normalcy. Some kids really need it for their mental health.


PAUSD parent
Registered user
another community
on Feb 10, 2021 at 7:45 am
PAUSD parent, another community
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 7:45 am

This is fantastic news. Research and data from around the world and the US has proven over and over schools are not spreaders of Covid if operated with masks, distancing etc, and the Palo Alto campuses are better equipped than any other I have seen. We have not seen ANY covid spread in our Elementary Schools since October. I am amazed how much mental health state of our students, who haven't left their bedrooms since March, is underestimated here. In other countries, schools are the last to close and the first to open, because they prioritize mental health and wellness of students. Mental health issues among students are up 70%. Given Palo Alto's history, I am amazed youth mental health isn't given higher priority, and people keep on emphasizing covid-spread risk despite all data available, even from local medical experts. I applaud the district for their drive to re-open schools - students really need it. We will now really need to support our teachers and school staff in this journey, and although not a strict need for a safe return, advocate for them to be vaccinated!


Mary
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2021 at 8:07 am
Mary, College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 8:07 am

I think this a great plan. And those who are complaining about it will complain no matter what.


Samuel L
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 10, 2021 at 8:09 am
Samuel L, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 8:09 am

If all they're doing is putting them in storage in a classroom, how tough can that be? Instead of sitting in their house on a computer, they'll be sitting in front of a computer at school. You've merely moved them to a new location. It took a year to figure out how to do that?


kattiekhiba
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2021 at 8:24 am
kattiekhiba, College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 8:24 am

A few months ago, I would have thought this plan was silly for my 7th grader. Why go to school just to zoom? But he recently spent a few days doing zoom together with another 7th grader in our family (his cousin) and he has been asking ever since to do zoom school with other kids. He says it was so much easier to focus and be plugged in because being with someone else got him in the zone of school. He could actually turn to another human and ask a question, make a comment, etc.

My elementary daughter has been doing the hybrid program at Escondido since October. The teachers at her school have been absolutely amazing. They worked it out amongst themselves who would do full distance learning (i.e. not come to school in person) and who would do in-person. There were a lot of teachers who actually wanted to be there in person. In some grades, both teachers come to school in person, even the one zooming.

I think teachers should first be given the choice and try to work together to figure out if there are some who want to be in person and some who prefer to distance teach. Many of the comments about teachers seem to assume they all want the same thing. This has absolutely not been the case at the elementary level, nor among the many high school teachers I know outside of PAUSD.

One last thought: even in the middle and high schools, teachers have been teaching in person (heroes!). So the idea that middle and high school teachers as an entire group are unwilling or unable to go to physically be in school is simply not true.


Midtown Parent
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:06 am
Midtown Parent, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:06 am

One year after in-person school ended, we are very relieved that in-person school is starting. It's time. Millions of students in classrooms all around the country and world have proven that schools can be a safe and productive environment. Our kids need this. The solution isn't perfect but its practical and its far better than watching the kids gradually get more and more disengaged and lost. This is a the right decision.


Roy M
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:18 am
Roy M, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:18 am

@The Voice of Palo Alto. Why are you "ashamed" of the stance of the CDC Director and Dr. Fauci? I would be ashamed of the politicians who bend to the will of their political cronies instead of following the advice of the health professionals. Biden's press secretary's response to the CDC director's comment was to say that she was speaking personally and not in an official capacity even though she was speaking as CDC director. Web Link Now, Biden is backtracking now from his pledge to have schools open in his first 100 days. Web Link

At this point, we have a good idea of what measures need to be in place to open schools safely now, even before teachers get vaccinated. We just have to follow them. All the private schools around here have some form of hybrid which from all accounts have worked well. The debate in Palo Alto should be around whether or not the district is doing what needs to be done to reopen schools safely, and if they have not, why not and what do they still need to do.


Grateful
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:25 am
Grateful , Gunn High School
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:25 am

My child is one of the few who’s back at Gunn HS doing the small group cohort and attending classes via Zoom. This set-up has made a TREMENDOUS difference in my child’s life, both mentally and emotionally. My child has been experiencing severe depression and anxiety since the schools closed down, and these last 2 weeks being back on campus and socializing with peers within the cohort has been such a positive experience. I love seeing the motivation and happiness radiate from my child again. I fully support this model of learning. It’s been great for my child’s mental health.


ProfvilleResident
Registered user
Professorville
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:43 am
ProfvilleResident, Professorville
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:43 am

If your offices reopened and you took all your VC’s while wearing headphones, sitting 4-6ft apart from on-site colleagues at all times, whilst wearing at least one mask (double masking now advised with more transmissible variants,) and then switched to fully remote whenever you knew someone around you had tested positive... would that be better for your mental health than WFH?


jr1
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:46 am
jr1, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:46 am
Martinimaas
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:54 am
Martinimaas, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:54 am

Teenagers have never been and continue to not be at anything other than almost zero risk of serious illness from covid. There is well beyond enough data on that. Honestly, that data was solid at the time our shutdown began. Distance learning has never been about the medical wellness of our children. It has always been about accommodating the fear that our teachers harbor and of some families who have multigenerational living situations but not enough physical space to make that safe (which is ironic given how huge many homes are in Palo Alto). Covid and its growing number of variants are here to stay. A virus like this which can easily jump from humans to dogs, gorillas and even snow leopards can never be eradicated. So, everyone on earth will be exposed to it at some time. That is for certain. It's also seriously disturbing.
Nobody is ever going to tell people that it's ok to come out and take off your mask and get close to people again, because covid is not going away. Some people will continue to be very vulnerable (fear is not a physical vulnerability). Up to now, a teacher's "wellness" was not a major factor in fitness for the job, but now it has become just that. Some teachers may never be fit or well enough to resume teaching in person again, but many if not most will. Similarly, some....very very few...students may not be able to resume learning in person, so there is a need on both sides, but it is mismatched. There appear to be significantly more teachers who appear unable to return to work in person. This situation may be remedied across districts and even the whole state, but in the end, in order for students to receive in person on campus live instruction (this is what my taxes are paying for....I could "buy" distance learning for a few hundred dollars a semester), we will almost certainly need to replace unfit/unwell teachers with fitter ones for the job, which will likely be younger ones.


BalancedParent
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:55 am
BalancedParent, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:55 am

No stable cohorts for grades 7-12 -- and only 4 feet of distance required. Elementary has small, stable cohorts so it's a very controlled environment -- not comparable to this plan at all. This seems like a disaster in the making. Middle and High School teachers will be exposed to how many students each day? Each week? Students will be mixing with how many other students in 7 class periods, passing periods and lunch? And we know that adolescents and teens do spread Covid like adults.

Austin said the schools will be divided up by alphabet, but simply said that "it is a math problem" when asked by our STUDENT BOARD MEMBERS how classes would be kept small using this method. Not sure how he plans to keep 2000 kids with 6-7 class period schedules (coming when they want to/or not) all balanced based on alphabet alone? First period could have 13 kids with last names A-M, second period could have 6, third could have 18 -- and all different as there are NO COHORTS!

I found it telling that the only Board Members who asked any intelligent questions were our two AMAZING Student Board Members. And they were quickly dismissed by Dauber when they both said they thought more input should be collected from STUDENTS and that this plan was very different from what was offered/voted on previously. They were the ones acting like adults last night.

I hope that not too many of our teachers, staff or students become seriously ill. Will be keeping our kids home from this super-spreader environment.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:20 am
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:20 am

Bravo. I know there will be parents who want more. I feel it is great to give an option. I especially appreciate parents who have children attending in the small cohorts sharing the impact of being on campus. Please parents that have children in the small cohorts share how it is helping your child!
Remember, they all stay in 1 room and do zoom for the day. They are not switching rooms or getting instruction. They don't wander around or go to T&C. It is structured to minimize exposure.

Thanks for making an option for students who need to see others and also need some level of accountability.


BalancedParent
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:26 am
BalancedParent, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:26 am

@cmarg
You say: "Remember, they all stay in 1 room and do zoom for the day. They are not switching rooms or getting instruction. They don't wander around or go to T&C. It is structured to minimize exposure."

And the new plan is the absolute opposite of this. No cohorts. No consistency on who is in class on any given day. Students will follow their schedule, moving from room to room/teacher to teacher, and mixing with numerous other students. NO COHORTS. The new plan is not safe.


PAUSD parent
Registered user
another community
on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:39 am
PAUSD parent, another community
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:39 am

@Balanced Parent -
1) your arguments about safety don't follow the widely available science around safely operating schools during covid
2) please realize the student board members and the entire ASB are far from representing the majority of the students at our high schools. I applaud the things they do, but the ASB is a very monocultural student representation and you won't find the typical, sports loving and many other students in the ASB. Please don't consider their voice "the student voice".


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 10, 2021 at 12:23 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 12:23 pm

@Mas-The premise of your post is false. You are all worried about your precious “tax dollars.” Much like the way an Oligarchy views the working class for profits, it’s a view that teachers are “replaceable” for “younger and fitter ones.” Also, your quasi-intellectual take about the virus itself is incorrect. It is hear to stay(true)but with vaccinations it will become much less of a threat. Those same “unfit teachers” will get to keep their jobs even though you were SO inconvenienced by distance learning. Another see through “you didn’t please me by working through a pandemic therefore you must be replaced” post here. Finally, don't underestimate the health ramifications of this new virus on children. Most children have been sheltered with you know, the school closures you didn’t like, so the data is incomplete. Stop with “teacher fear” and don’t be weird. Teachers aren’t health care workers.
@Roy-You probably didn’t realize it but your own post was contradictory. In your first paragraph you stated how the CDC director wasn’t speaking officially for the CDC and how Biden backtracked his promises about reopening and then went on to say how safe schools can be. Take the emotion of “I want my kids back in school” out of it and ask yourself, is it really safe? The “data” is based on one study in rural schools under perfect conditions. Specifically, to Fauci/CDC, I am ashamed of them because this is a workers rights issue. It is NOT safe to put unvaccinated staff in a room for hours with people that may be carrying a fatal disease and to promote this is also IMMORAL. The media propaganda of school safety is just that. Links to one example of an outbreak:
Web Link
This is about health and safety and not “it’s been a year” or “parent choice.” How disingenuous.


OldTimeNeighbor
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2021 at 12:41 pm
OldTimeNeighbor, College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 12:41 pm

I certainly hope I'm wrong, but I can't see this working. After listening to the PAUSD school board meeting from last year, and after seeing what is going on in other cities, there is no way the teachers are going to allow this plan to happen. Like it or not, the teachers in California have the ba*ls of the parents, kids, and politicians in their hands. In fact, Gavin Newsom is likely to be politically castrated in a recall election later this year once the public realizes how little ability he or any public official has in bringing kids back to school.


Roy M
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2021 at 1:00 pm
Roy M, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 1:00 pm

@Voice. Nothing contradictory at all in what I said. My point about the CDC director was that she made a statement in her official capacity saying that schools could reopen even without vaccines, then Biden's press secretary stated that she was not speaking on behalf of the CDC. Remember that this is the new director recently appointed by Biden. When I criticize politicians for not listening to the scientists, this is an example.

In December, there was a European study that concluded the following:

"There is a general consensus that the decision to close schools to control the COVID-19 pandemic should be used as a last resort. The negative physical, mental health and educational impact of proactive school closures on children, as well as the economic impact on society more broadly, would likely outweigh the benefits." The study does not say that schools are completely safe (no one is saying that). Only that COVID spread in schools is not worse than in the community and we shouldn't ignore the detriment of closed schools to kids. Web Link

My point is that COVID is not the only risk to the health and safety of the kids. Kids suicides and trips to the emergency room for mental issues are up due to lockdowns. It is the opposite of immoral to take that into consideration.

It is possible to open schools safely in a limited fashion without vaccines. The private schools around here have all done that.


Paly Teacher 2
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Feb 10, 2021 at 1:53 pm
Paly Teacher 2, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 1:53 pm

I'm not seeing a whole lot of concern about actual "educational content" in the comments above from the pro-opening contingent. It seems that the primary concern is the social-emotional part of this situation and the lack of students being around their peers.

So, here is a workaround. Let us take advantage of this wonderful climate that we live in (and pay dearly for) and set up an outdoor campus on the football field for those students that desire to return. Put up some tents to provide shade and set out the hundreds of long testing tables the school has available and sit a student at each end. I am sure that there will be enough teachers that are not afraid and are willing to come help/supervise these students while they participate in their Zoom classes. Or, this supervision component could be done rotationally for fairness.

This will provide for a more academic feel and provide for infinitely better air circulation than would ever be found in a classroom even with modifications.

We all have a strong desire for "normalcy" but this is not the time to have 10-15 students in a stagnant-air classroom with a teacher. I personally am not willing to sit in a room with students when the primary reason they are there is social interaction. The outdoor campus would scratch that itch in a much safer fashion.

My classes are doing just fine academically and will continue to do so. I am able to interact via breakout rooms with students in a maskless confidential setting that have been highly productive and will become public domain in the half-in/half-out setup. I chose this job to educate...not facilitate social interaction so I find this decision reckless and premature.


Test
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Feb 10, 2021 at 3:50 pm
Test, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 3:50 pm

I strongly applaud the school district's move. I hope the county can get to red in the next few weeks.


Paly Teacher 2
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Feb 10, 2021 at 5:00 pm
Paly Teacher 2, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 5:00 pm

If we do in fact open up on March 1st, all board members and Don Austin should regularly come into classrooms for the 75 minute classes 3 times a day to show solidarity and share in the viral load.


Clarification
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Feb 10, 2021 at 5:03 pm
Clarification, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 5:03 pm

Let me get this straight:
1. Students are going to get to decide on a day-to-day basis if they're going to school on their assigned day (based on their last name).
2. Teachers won't know how many kids or which ones are coming on any given day.
3. If students come, the teacher will "Zoom from the room" (admin sure loves a good rhyme almost as much as they love an acronym!) double-masked at their screen while the kids present just watch.
4. And the bathroom/lunch schedule for potentially 1000 students a day will be designed in the next two weeks.
5. And the bathroom/lunch schedule will be executed by a handful of admin while they also do their usual tasks. No, teachers don't have to provide this.
6. And admin will deal with the influx of discipline cases due to Covid guideline infractions (teachers aren't going to let mask/social distancing refusal slide like the glorified babysitter on their phone they hired for PAUSD+ does)...while they also handle the bathroom/lunch schedule...while they handle their usual tasks.
...anyone who doesn't instantly see how problematic this--what a waste of of our resources (manpower, etc), leaves students under-supervised, etc.--should prepare for a very rude awakening. 2 weeks to sort this? And after Don Austin said we weren't coming back this semester at all two months ago, so no opportunity to prep?
And those of you planning to keep your kid home or "opt out" once you see how bad it is (ala the folks who selected hybrid at the semester and have abandoned ship now), good luck when that one kid shows up to class and the double-masked teacher offers the only curriculum they can, or (if some of the teacher-bashing is to be believed) want to offer. Or will the board push Austin to pivot again???


Shwonder Sharikov
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 10, 2021 at 5:14 pm
Shwonder Sharikov, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 5:14 pm

What if we would just stopped this circus and turned schools back on?

Tons of states and countries maintain schools open because they understand that education is kind of important. [Portion removed.]


Health Care Worker
Registered user
College Terrace
on Feb 10, 2021 at 6:02 pm
Health Care Worker, College Terrace
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 6:02 pm

Hello all,
I am somewhat dismayed by the tone of this discussion- it seems to have turned into teacher vs parents and teacher vs admin / Board. I am a healthcare worker and have been in close contact with COVID cases for the last year. While following standard guidelines/precautions, there is not a single person that I know of who has contracted COVID. I (along with all my colleagues) was afraid (even phobic) of COVID when it first appeared on our doorstep a year ago. I perfom procedures that are considered at some of the highest risk for COVID transmission. We all follow standard precautions in workplace and I dont know of anyone (not a single person) amongst tens of thousands of individuals who work in our organization who contracted COVID as a result of being exposed to a patient with COVID at workplace. Just like all the individuals who are posting here, I have seen several colleagues develop COVID due to socializing outside work and not taking precautions. So, following guidelines and standard precautions and masking works but it has taken time for it to sink in for us and we have all become increasingly comfortable with taking care of patients with COVID. I totally understand the concerns raised by our teachers.. I have been there afraid but have gradually learnt that masking and following guidelines set by our infectious disease experts works. We just need to trust them and do what is in the best interest of our community. We need to empathize with our teachers- who have dedicated their lives to educate our kids and give them time and space and some degree of freedom to choose. I also applaud the work that Don Austin and the teachers leaders have done to articulate their concerns. We need to hear from all the stakeholders and be open to listening to their concerns respectfully. I am hoping that discussions on this forum are more respectful and appreciative of our teachers.


Teacher
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Feb 10, 2021 at 6:23 pm
Teacher, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 6:23 pm

Per usual, this Board doesn't care about teachers. They just respond to angry parents' demands and their own drive to impress the world with their "excellence" and their "moonshots." I don't think the community cares about teachers either. Definitely Don Austin does not.

I also know some students are really struggling and my heart truly breaks for those students.
But requiring us to be back on campus with students before we are vaccinated puts our health and our future ability to support our families at risk. What about the new variants? How are we supposed to earn a living if we end up being an COVID "long hauler"? How are we supposed to teach if we end up being in the 10% who have long lasting cognitive or neurological problems?

Then there is the complete disregard for those of us who are parents. How are we supposed to find childcare for our small children on 3 weeks notice so we can return to school to "teach" in a situation that will amount to little more than babysitting Palo Alto's teenagers?

Parents have the privilege to choose whether to send their kids back. Teachers have not been given a choice, nor have we been given vaccine appointments. I don't know why the union bashers think we have the district in a chokehold. When the teachers' union "agreed" to the MOU in November, the new variants had not emerged and the case rate was much lower. Currently, we are all at much higher risk than ever, and none of the teachers are vaccinated. Currently, PAUSD has served up these options: scramble to find childcare and put myself at risk so I can watch students stare at their screens, take (mostly unpaid) leave, or quit. Not inspiring. Not feeling very "essential."


Martinimaas
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 10, 2021 at 6:31 pm
Martinimaas, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 6:31 pm

I sincerely hope that all k-12 teachers who want a vaccine are able to get one very soon, I would also hope that the various teachers unions consider lobbying for teachers to be eligible to receive the two different pneumonia vaccines as well (prevnar 13 and pneumovax 23) regardless of a teacher's age. With what appears to be almost half of all covid deaths related to the development of pneumonia as a complicating factor, these two pneumonia vaccines could help decrease serious covid risk among teachers (or anyone really) tremendously. Ordinarily, those vaccines are offered to people 65 and over, so I'm guessing the customary vaccine schedule will not catch a lot of teachers prior to their retirement. The CA teachers union is a powerful lobby. They should flex their power toward what will protect teachers' health.


Anony Mouse
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 10, 2021 at 8:28 pm
Anony Mouse, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 8:28 pm

I think we can now lay to rest the pernicious myth of the all-powerful union. This "plan" has zero teacher input, yet teachers will be left holding the bag. Admin has successfully pitted parents against teachers. They have a flawed plan which is essentially highly paid babysitting. Your child can now zoom from school - Ok. Don has created a wonderful heads-you-lose, tails-I-win situation. He wants the sites to solve the details, teachers to use their "discretion" about live streaming, and students to show up for a prison-like experience, and parents to blame the teachers no matter what. Does everyone know their roles? Excellent. Now, if it goes well, his social media will be full of crowing about his leadership, and access to state leaders (with no credit given to those of us moving heaven and earth to do the right thing). If it goes sideways? Well, it was the lazy teachers, pesky parents and clueless site admins. We're all being played. Parents, don't fall into this trap.


Paloaltonian
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:19 pm
Paloaltonian, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:19 pm

Finally some common sense and an actual demonstration of concern for the students. [Portion removed.] If the self idolized teachers don't want to actually teach in person perhaps it's time for them to try a new vocation. Lot's of new grads can easily take their place. [Portion removed.]


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:42 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 10:42 pm
Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:56 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 10, 2021 at 11:56 pm

During the pandemic I have posted on various social media about the idea of using large tents outside. Students in NY were educated outside during the last big pandemic and this worked. The Chicago Tribune discussed this early in our pandemic.
At least, is this being attempted at any nearby school!?
Endlessly delaying in-person school can’t be the future that kids see....
Vaccinating teachers ages 50-64 — along with the rest of us in this high risk group ASAP would offer confidence to them.
Note: as a neighbor, I see happy kids at Duveneck Elementary, and the private school opposite the main post office appears to be functioning well, perhaps they and other in-person “bigger” schools can share what they’ve learned, to guide PAUSD


Relieved Parent
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2021 at 10:43 am
Relieved Parent, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 10:43 am

@Teacher, when the MOU was signed in November I don't think the number of cases was actually lower. If you check sccgov.org, the numbers in Nov on the whole look to be higher than they are now. See: Web Link

I am so relieved. Middle school, with the issues of changing classes and various schedules and passing periods, has been back in Menlo Park since October, without covid spread. It can and has been done. Yes, PAUSD has some other issues to deal with, but schools across the country have successfully formulated and implemented plans. We aren't unique. Yes, it's just Zoom from school, but students won't be able to just tune out in breakout rooms with their cameras off and mikes muted if they are in-person, and at least going to school and seeing a friend outside at lunch will be a reason to be excited to get up in the morning for currently depressed and lonely teens.


Paly mom
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2021 at 11:21 am
Paly mom, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 11:21 am

Parents highly want teachers got vaccinated before in-person teaching. However, teachers need to be flexible and adaptive to the new environment of teaching. It has been a year, kids in most states have returned to schools. There's no science data to prove high transmission when students to schools.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 11, 2021 at 12:12 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 12:12 pm

@palymom:
That’s not necessarily true. Please cite some sources that say there “are no sources proving high transmission at school.” Even if that were true, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is NO transmission taking place at schools.

Studies have shown that it’s not safe to open schools in areas of widespread community transmission which we are in.

Web Link

Here’s a study of lower mortality due to school closures:
Web Link

Here’s another one stating that infection rates among children increases when schools reopen:
Web Link

I also disagree with your premise that “teachers need to be flexible because it’s been a year.” So what? This isn’t based on time into a pandemic. Historically, pandemics have lasted anywhere from 12-24 months.
If anything the teachers have shown flexibility by switching to online to keep educating students. It’s been the families that have been the ones not being flexible by demanding unsafe school reopenings during regional lock downs of all things. You don’t put the cart before the horse. You get the pandemic under control, vaccinate the teachers, and then reopen the schools. Then the teachers can be “flexible” and “adjust” once they are fully vaccinated.
Overall, if Republican leadership would have done a better job at a Federal level we would have been out of this mess sooner. Good thing we have an experienced Biden that actually knows what he’s doing in there now to clean up this mess.


meelsfromPA
Registered user
Palo Alto Orchards
on Feb 11, 2021 at 12:58 pm
meelsfromPA, Palo Alto Orchards
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 12:58 pm

@The Voice of Palo Alto "I’m ashamed of the new CDC Director and Fauci for pushing for unvaccinated teachers to return to work in person."
Could you please post a credible weblink that purports that Fauci supports unvaccinated teachers to return to work in person? I'd like to see that. Thank you.


Whatever
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 11, 2021 at 1:15 pm
Whatever, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 1:15 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 11, 2021 at 1:55 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 1:55 pm

Here is your link:
Web Link

Key statement:
Children can return to in-person learning "without necessarily having everyone vaccinated, all the teachers or all the students," White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told "Your World" Friday.
[Portion removed due to deletion of referenced comment.]


YP
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 11, 2021 at 7:52 pm
YP, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 7:52 pm

Teachers Unions holding our kids eduction hostage. Simple... and disgraceful


YP
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 11, 2021 at 8:20 pm
YP, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 8:20 pm

By the way our leader Joe Biden promised in his campaign that he would work to have the majority of schools "open " in his first 100 days.

Well, ... now apparently "open" is defined as at least one day of in person school a week. In other words Joe lost out to the teachers union, how many of you agree "open" is one day a week??

Web Link


meelsfromPA
Registered user
Palo Alto Orchards
on Feb 11, 2021 at 9:29 pm
meelsfromPA, Palo Alto Orchards
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 9:29 pm

@The Voice of Palo Alto
Thanks for sending the link. A few things to note.
Perhaps you overlooked the key word, "credible". Fox News' factual reporting rating is "mixed", which is just above the "low" category, and far below the credible "high" category.

Also, nowhere in your link is there evidence that supports that Fauci is "pushing" unvaccinated teachers to return to in-person learning. The quote provided in your FoxNews link is also an inaccurate quote, intending to mislead: "Children can return to in-person learning 'without necessarily having everyone vaccinated, all the teachers or all the students,' White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told "Your World” Friday”. If you had actually watched the original interview/video (not that unrelated video clip), you would have known that the quote was taken out of context and that Fauci was answering a question about relative risk posed by the FoxNews interviewer. The actual quote from Fauci is: “there is a risk to almost everything that we are doing in this environment...how much do you want to diminish the risk? you CAN have children going back to school, as we have in the past, without necessarily having everyone vaccinated, all the teachers or all the students vaccinated, but clearly...".

In the future, please do not circulate misinformation. If you had watched the actual interview, particularly from 6:44, you would have seen that FoxNews misrepresented material taken from their own show.
Web Link


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 11, 2021 at 10:00 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 10:00 pm

“please don’t circulate misinformation”
1. [Portion removed.]
2. You are arguing about the “context” of Fauci’s quote. He still said it regardless. He needs to be more careful choosing his words as he’s looked upon as the leading expert on this matter. Not only that, he said this right around the time the CDC made their announcement about teachers not returning with vaccinations. Do you think that was all a coincidence? [Portion removed.] It’s semantics, his words carry weight, and he needs to choose his words more carefully in that case. If he says that in any context you don’t think all of the people on the side of reopening latch on to that?
3. When I said “pushing” it was in reference to the CDC mostly and then Fauci piggybacking their stance. Again, it’s not a coincidence that the CDC and the leading infectious disease experts are trying to align. For context, in other comments I’ve made, my stance is that schools are not safe and that this is a push to restart the economy too soon.
[Post removed.]


Teacher
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Feb 11, 2021 at 10:40 pm
Teacher, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Feb 11, 2021 at 10:40 pm

Just a quick note to the parent community:

I certainly hope that the parents who allowed their group of children to drive together in the same car to campus for sports the other day, a trip that has now caused MULTIPLE families to have to quarantine, weren't part of the group of parents protesting outside the district last week demanding that my colleagues and I go back into the classroom with your children despite the fact that we are not vaccinated.

I anticipate that once school opens my entire family, including MY children, will have to suffer, miss school, and feel isolated while we quarantine at home, perhaps multiple times, because PA parents don't think they should have to follow the county safety guidelines.

Despite Don Austin's flippant remark on the news tonight that teachers' "comfort" is not a valid reason to delay reopening, our safety and the "comfort" of our families should matter as much as yours.

Thanks.


joshuagdoherty
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 12, 2021 at 5:26 am
joshuagdoherty, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 5:26 am

Separating senior and junior courses is a good option to avoid another pandemic. It seems to me that the possibility of using online teaching tools will help reduce the number of patients in the local area. My son is studying remotely and educational resources Web Link help us keep a stable level of knowledge. I am worried about the social aspect of education because socialization is an important aspect of personality formation. We read books and squeeze in messengers, but that's not enough.


Midtown resident
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2021 at 7:00 am
Midtown resident, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 7:00 am

Discussions surrounding urgently needed school openings with reinstitution of real, substantive in-person teaching--urgently needed by society at large, not just by the proverbially entitled parents so often pointed at by the loudest voices here--would seem as far removed from rational communal problem solving as ever if one wanted to take some of these comments seriously. There will be a small risk for anyone working with the public for a long time to come, but as medical staff have learned, the risk is very small indeed if proper precautions are being taken by everyone. Another fact of life: having a paid job outside the home does at times cause childcare issues, for teachers as a group as much as for other groups (since we don't live in a country where childcare is considered a public priority across the board). But on the other hand, why do we not have rules that ban kids/families from campuses for the rest of the year if they violate clearly articulated codes on social distancing, mask wearing, etc.? Whether that's in "disciplinary" incidents in the classroom or carpooling arrangements that adults must be held accountable for? I don't blame teachers or their unions for objecting to the sort of risk they are asked to run if we don't minimize violations by instituting fairly draconian consequences for them. Among other obvious steps, such as priority vaccination for all classroom staff. And outdoors teaching on our large high school campuses sounds worth exploring too. Web Link There are plenty of institutions to learn from about what worked and what didn't in implementation. E.g. Eckerd College in Florida did it extensively last year. Let's just get on with it.


Staying Young Through Kids
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2021 at 8:56 am
Staying Young Through Kids, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 8:56 am

Just over a month ago Dr. Austin himself told the elementary teachers that they were FORBIDDEN to teach "in person" students synchronously via zoom on days they were not present in class. Not all teachers wanted to offer this "service" but the ones who did were told it was NOT PERMITTED!

This included no synchronous "Zooming" even if a student was a quaranting due to possible illness or possible Covid exposure. This often meant 10 days of no synchronous learning for healthy, but quarantined kids at our school. Just because they were staying safe!

I realize things change and adjustments must be made to adapt to the circumstances, but the manner Dr. Austin used to dictate this stance to our teachers was inexcusable. I celebrate the change, and would like him to explain his rationale for his previous stance. Why it is now going to be one of the keystones of our new system. Dr. Austin?


Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2021 at 11:54 am
Palo Alto Resident, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 11:54 am

@Staying young, most likely they said that because of union contract conditions that don't allow it.

Note that what you describe is NOT the same as what's proposed for secondary schools. In the latter case, ALL kids are on Zoom - some in the room, some remote. In the elementary school, the in-person kids are not on Zoom.

I figure they are proposing this now because it is the best option for secondary, given the public health rules and practical differences between elementary and secondary schools (especially that elementary kids all take one class from one teacher, and secondary teachers and students don't).

What was "inexcusable" about Austin's manner? If there's a contractual requirement, he has to enforce it.


Paloaltonian
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Feb 12, 2021 at 12:52 pm
Paloaltonian, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 12:52 pm
district teacher
Registered user
Midtown
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:58 pm
district teacher, Midtown
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 1:58 pm

We aren't even close to the red tier, so my guess that Don is posturing for the parents who protested to show how tough he is on teachers and unions. Yet another instance of vilifying teachers.


Resident11
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Feb 12, 2021 at 2:21 pm
Resident11, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 2:21 pm

We are not so far from the red tier. The problem is it's hard to find the adjusted case rates. If you go to this page: Web Link

you can see a graph of the adjusted case rates, by county. Look at the slope of the case rates in Santa Clara county. We could certainly be in red in four weeks if we continue to do well.


Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 12, 2021 at 2:42 pm
Palo Alto Resident, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 2:42 pm

@Resident11, the County has a dashboard page for that - Web Link

It shows the time series for adjusted and unadjusted case rates and positivity, as reported by the state Blueprint system. It gets updated weekly - the state puts out new numbers on Tuesday, this chart usually updates on Weds.


Resident11
Registered user
Fairmeadow
on Feb 12, 2021 at 2:49 pm
Resident11, Fairmeadow
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 2:49 pm

Perfect thank you!


Anonymous
Registered user
Barron Park
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:00 pm
Anonymous, Barron Park
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Thrilled this long over-due reopening is finally happening. Our kids need this so badly. We have been sacrificing their education, mental and physical health to this pandemic for long enough. It was one thing when PPE resources and public health information was scarce back in the spring. We know so much more now on how to open schools and keep them open safely. The elementary reopening proved PAUSD can do this well. Our older kids deserve the same opportunity for in-person learning. I realize the teachers are scared, but it is no longer justified as a reason to not return. COVID is not going away. We need to adjust. The science does not support this fear. Thank you Don Austin and the board for prioritizing our children's education and well-being over fear.


Paly mom
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:25 pm
Paly mom, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 4:25 pm

This is a video how schools in France have remained open despite lockdowns and fears of new variants. Short video with teacher's inputs.
Web Link


Trust the Public Health Experts
Registered user
Community Center
on Feb 12, 2021 at 10:55 pm
Trust the Public Health Experts, Community Center
Registered user
on Feb 12, 2021 at 10:55 pm

So relieved to see PAUSD start to follow SCIENCE and open schools for all kids, who have been stunted developmentally for the past year. The problem is: Zooming from classrooms is not ideal... but it's a start.


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 13, 2021 at 12:11 am
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 12:11 am

[Post removed; repetitive of prior posts.]



Hal
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 13, 2021 at 11:31 am
Hal, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Feb 13, 2021 at 11:31 am

Wake me up when the Board Members start sending all their children or come down out of the mountains to the community they represent. Then we will know it is safe.


Do the reading!
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Feb 14, 2021 at 9:58 am
Do the reading!, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Feb 14, 2021 at 9:58 am

I just want to remind our community to avoid the absolutist remarks about safety or education it's been prone to on all sides of the discussion. (Especially if we ourselves aren't qualified experts in a subject—let's listen to the experts in their respective fields!)

Public health experts and published research DON'T say reopening schools is "safe" or "unsafe." They say it can be done safely with appropriate mitigation strategies in place. They don't say "ZERO SPREAD" as a certain superintendent keeps saying. They say there is some spread but at relatively low and contained levels, possibly underestimated due to undetected asymptomatic cases. A study published in the Lancet in December found that 26 percent of cases in elementary settings were attributable to in-school transmission with safety measures in place, and 39 percent of cases in secondary settings. (Web Link

I spent a lot of time looking through the newly released CDC recommendations to judge the extent to which this District plan adheres to their recommendations. It's...not great? Some recommendations are in place, some are somewhat included but without detail that would give confidence in their implementation, and some are just flat-out missing.

Here's what gives me most pause: the CDC strongly recommends stable cohorts in communities with moderate, substantial, or high levels of community transmission (our county is squarely in the CDC's "substantial" tier right now).

We do not have stable cohorts. At all. We have up to 1,000 students freely mixing throughout the day, every day. Even if 50 percent attend in-person as the District projected, it won't be the same 50 percent. Kids also mix across the two groups, since kids in the middle of the alphabet might be eligible to attend different classes different days. The CDC considers large numbers of students freely mixing a condition of the "highest risk." Yikes!


We're in it together
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Feb 14, 2021 at 11:17 am
We're in it together, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Feb 14, 2021 at 11:17 am

@Palo Alto Resident. I've seen the contract. 99% sure nothing precludes elem teachers from synchronous Zoom in-person. Not sure why Don told them not to; the DO tends to give directives but rarely rationales. Best guess is parents (fairly) complained that Zooming in the classroom wasn't what their kids signed up for (it's instructionally dubious at best).

Folks, the anti-teacher/union screeds on here aren't fair or kind. Many teachers are undeniably working hard to make this year work for the kids. They've adjusted to changing directives and teaching modalities while being belittled by some of their own students' parents and undermined by their own superintendent. The union—which virtually all PAUSD teachers belong to—tried to get them what they need to do their jobs well and safely. That's all.

But if you don't care about teachers on a human level (which, yikes), then at least think about ramifications for instruction:

1) If teachers "should find a new career" if they can't return, that is a vacancy the DO has to fill. There is a teacher shortage. There is a sub shortage. It's not so easy to brush this off when your kid has a rotating door of subs in math class for three months.

2) Decades of research show burnout is real, highly prevalent among teachers, and detrimental to student learning outcomes. (Also: Depression and anxiety occur among teachers at higher rates than average. Compassion fatigue occurs at higher rates than average. Decision fatigue occurs at higher rates than average—research shows teachers make more conscious daily decisions than almost any other profession—like, a few spots down from the top, air traffic controllers.) Gunn's last WASC evaluation said staff wellbeing was a major area of concern—because it impacts students. And that's normal times, not COVID times.

It's shortsighted to think it's teachers vs. students. Assuming teachers care about students and learning (they generally do), their interests are aligned.


Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2021 at 11:21 pm
Palo Alto Resident, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 14, 2021 at 11:21 pm

Why are we disrupting what is working for just 3 months more of Middle and High School? Teachers need to be vaccinated before they go back to school for their own safety as well as their family's. This disease is scary, as one does not know how one's body reacts to it if one gets the virus and also what the long term side effects one could have, if they have had the virus. It can take anywhere between 5 to 6 weeks to build 95% immunity (CDC has said that it can up to 2 weeks to get the mRNA to start working) after vaccinations. The kids and the parents who want their kids to go to school can utilize the PAUSD+ program. Just like the UC's, have everyone return in fall when all of the teachers, admin, custodians etc have been vaccinated.


Roy M
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2021 at 8:30 am
Roy M, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 8:30 am

@Palo Alto Resident, why do you think this is working? Many parents believe it is not working and are fleeing the public schools. I would love to know how applications to private schools are doing for next year, but based on anecdotal evidence I bet they are way up.

I found this article from a writer in Oakland which sums up the frustration with the teachers keeping schools closed. Web Link Too much to quote in this post, but she is more eloquent on the subject than I ever could be.

Also, here is a recent OpEd in the Washington Post from a couple of public health professionals that criticizes the latest CDC guidelines saying they will keep millions out of school. Certainly different from two weeks ago when the director said that the evidence suggests that schools can open safely, but that was before the CDC incorporated input from the teachers unions. Below from the article states my overall position on the issue.

"The science is clear: Kids — especially young children — can get and transmit covid-19, but they are less likely to do so than adults. Kids can die from the disease, but the risk of that happening is one in a million; they are about 10 times as likely to die by suicide. Teachers also have lower risk than other occupations and can be kept safe through adherence to universal precautions.

The science is also clear that keeping children out of school is doing real harm: Loss in literacy progress. An exploding mental health crisis. Billions of missed meals. Women dropping out of the workforce. Hundreds of thousands of kids missing school. The effects are compounding daily."

Web Link


We're in it together
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Feb 15, 2021 at 10:01 am
We're in it together, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 10:01 am

@Roy M, Palo Alto Resident points out that students for whom this isn't working have the option of PAUSD+. Students will get the same ability to leave the house, the same ability to have a structured work environment, the same ability to have some contact with peers, and the same Zoom instruction (minus trying to understand people through masks) they get through PAUSD+. What do we gain?

We will be assuming higher risk—and yes, there is risk, even if you believe it's tolerably low—and destabilizing instruction (AGAIN) for...what exactly?

In terms of adequate mitigation, forgive me if I prefer the collective guidance of the CDC to two dissenting public health experts the Washington Post found for a hot take. And what is your evidence teachers unions pressured the CDC into releasing bad-faith guidelines to the entire country?

Regarding literacy loss, there also have been several standardized tests across the country in which middle- and high-income schools have seen slight literacy gains in DL. The D/F list in PAUSD doesn't suggest widespread cause for concern—some students are struggling a lot, but overall there is not a decline in performance. If the DO communicated better with sites, we might have clearer picture about what's actually going on.

Let's not confuse correlation with causation regarding mental health. There are many factors driving the mental health crisis among young people—their entire world and outlook on the future are shaken, whether or not they sit in classrooms two days a week. A study on lockdowns in Spain found the most predictive factors in depression and anxiety was whether a young person lived in a house with a garden or left the house daily.

If you care about women being driven out of the workforce, do you know how many teachers are women who are family caretakers and have no way to make care arrangement in the time their districts have given them?

The science isn't clear. The science is nuanced.


Roy M
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2021 at 10:34 am
Roy M, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 10:34 am

@We're in it together, please see this Twitter thread for the evidence on the politics of the guidance. I meant to add this to my last post.
Web Link

Jake Tapper interviewed the CDC director yesterday. I would add the link but I have too many URLs in my comment.

This article sums up the interview which can be summed up as follows.

Tapper: This is a national crisis. Kids need to be back in class immediately. If that means tolerating a higher degree of risk, shouldn’t we do that?

Walensky: Sorry, only near-perfect safety will do.

Which, coincidentally, happens to also be the position of the teachers unions that own the Biden White House.

Web Link

Separate from the politics, no one is saying there is no risk when schools are open, but even Fauci said in late January that kids are safer from the virus in schools than in the general community. “It's less likely for a child to get infected in the school setting than if they were just in the community,” Fauci said. Web Link

The mental health aspect is real. The New York Times has an article on it.
Web Link

Part of the justification of SF suing its own school board to open schools is around the mental health aspect of it. From Dr. Monica Gandhi of UCSF.
Web Link

I have more, but I still have too many URLs in my comment.


Palo Alto Resident
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 15, 2021 at 10:55 am
Palo Alto Resident, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 10:55 am

@Roy M The reason I say it is working is because I have a kid in high school and my kid and most of my kids friends and peers have adjusted to the zoom classes and prefer to finish this semester the same way as opposed to going to school in-person. As I pointed out, if kids and/or their parents think it is not working, they are welcome to use the PAUSD+ program.


We're in it together
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Feb 15, 2021 at 2:04 pm
We're in it together, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 2:04 pm

Dear @Roy, did you read the CDC transcript that Twitter thread links? Here's what it actually says, unedited. Web Link

"WALENSKY: THANK YOU SO MUCH, BEN, AND THANK YOU TO ALL OF YOU FOR JOINING US TODAY.SINCE BECOMING CDC DIRECTOR, I HAVE STRESSED THE IMPORTANCE OF BRINGING BACK K THROUGH 12 STUDENTS SAFELY TO IN-PERSON LEARNING, SINCE WE KNOW THE BENEFITS THE CLASSROOM SETTING AND THE SUPPORT SERVICES DELIVERED BY SCHOOLS PROVIDE TO OUR STUDENTS. ESPECIALLY, THOSE FROM LOW-RESOURCED, RACIAL AND ETHNIC-MINORITY COMMUNITIES, AND CHILDRENS WITH DISABILITIES. I RECOGNIZE THAT THE DECISION, ON WHEN AND HOW TO BEGIN IN-PERSON LEARNING IS ONE THATMUST BE BASED ON A THOROUGH REVIEW OF WHAT THE SCIENCE TELLS US WORKS.AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE LIVED EXPERIENCES, CHALLENGES, AND PERSPECTIVES, OF TEACHERS AND SCHOOL STAFF, PARENTS, AND STUDENTS."

"FIRST, DR. WALENSKY, YOU SAID THAT THE NEW GUIDANCE WAS FREE OF OLITICAL MEDDLING.DID THE WHITE HOUSE REVIEW WHAT — YOUR REMARKS OR THE GUIDANCE, ITSELF? MY SECOND QUESTION IS FOR MS. HARRIS AIKENS.I DON’T HAVE TO TELL YOU HAVE A LONG RELATIONSHIP WITH THE NEA.IS YOUR PRESENCE HERE, SORT OF, A SIGN TO THE UNIONS, THE NEA, THE UFT, THAT THEY SHOULD BE LESS RELUCTANT TO REOPEN SCHOOLS?

WALENSKY: MAYBE, I’LL START. WE HAVE PRESENTED PIECES OF THIS GUIDANCE TO THE WHITE HOUSE, SO THAT THEY KNEW WHAT WE WERE PLANNING.BUT THEY HAVE NOT REVIEWED MY REMARKS.

HARRIS-AIKENS: AND ON YOUR SECOND QUESTION, OR WHAT I PERCEIVE TO BE YOUR SECOND QUESTION, NO, MY PRESENCE HERE IS NOT A MESSAGE TO ANYONE. MY EMPLOYER IS THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, AND I REPRESENT THEIR VIEWS. WE HAVE TALKED TO A VARIETY OF STAKEHOLDERS.AND LOOK FORWARD TO CONTINUING OUR ROBUST ENGAGEMENT WITH ALL SORTS OF STAKEHOLDERS, NOT ONLY IN THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY BUT IN THE COMMUNITY AT LARGE. THAT INCLUDES SUPERINTENDENTS, PRINCIPALS, CIVIL-RIGHTS GROUPS, AND ALL SORTS OF OTHER FOLKS."


We're in it together
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Feb 15, 2021 at 2:34 pm
We're in it together, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 2:34 pm

Dear @Roy, I saw that NY Times article, too. And read several of the studies it links. The one on lockdowns in Spain I cited is among them.

I never denied the mental health crisis and I completely agree addressing it is a top priority, but it's reductive and logically dubious to say that it's just school closure that is the cause, or that just by opening schools we will solve it. It is undoubtedly a major contributing factor for many kids. It is an important but partial solution to the problem. I think we take comfort in a simple solution that feels more within our control, but we have to be realistic and accept the complexity of the situation in which we find ourselves.

What is your evidence that teachers unions "own the Biden White House"? (I mean, really? If teachers unions had SO much power, teachers would be driving Teslas and living in Palo Alto, not priced out of buying a house anywhere in the Bay Area.)

P.S. Coincidentally, that Twitter thread is run by a group in the county where I grew up, and my mother taught K–6 in FCPS for 25 years—just retired two weeks ago. They have gone back and forth between being open in hybrid and closing when the numbers get too high. Anecdotally, she's said the school day in (their version of) hybrid is pretty inefficient (SO much time monitoring each kid washing hands, fixing incorrect mask-wearing, etc.), and about a third of her kiddos did do better in-person—typically students with chaotic or under-resourced homes. She's really, really happy for her kids who benefited from reopening, but it was not a panacea.


Roy M
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2021 at 2:37 pm
Roy M, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 2:37 pm

@We're in it together. You left out this quote from the transcript.

WE HAVE CONDUCTED AN IN-DEPTH REVIEW OF THE AVAILABLE SCIENCE AND EVIDENCE BASE TO GUIDE OUR RECOMMENDATIONS, AND WE HAVE ALSO ENGAGED WITH MANY EDUCATION AND PUBLIC-HEALTH PARTNERS, TO HEAR FIRSTHAND FROM PARENTS AND TEACHERS, DIRECTLY, ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES AND CONCERNS.

She clearly changed her report after talking to teachers. The new recommendations are not what she thought prior to joining the CDC.

Below is an email she sent last July to the mayor of Newton, MA when asked about guidance for school openings. She was at Harvard at the time.

From: Walensky, Rochelle,M.D.,M.P.H. <[email protected]>
Sent: Friday, July 17, 2020 10:30 AM
To: Ruthanne Fuller <[email protected]>
Subject: RE: Schools
[DO NOT OPEN links/attachments unless you are sure the content is safe. ]
Thanks so much, Mayor, for staying in close touch.
I wanted to ensure you were aware of a publicly available document that has been assembled by folks in my division and others that has compiled the best data available on many issues of interest. It is also being updated about every 1-2 weeks. You may find it helpful. Web Link
I do think if people are masked it is quite safe and much more practical to be at 3 feet. I think this is very viable for the middle/high schools and even late grade schools and would improve the feasibility. I suspect you may want to be at 6f for some of the very young kids who can’t mask.
I’d be curious as to who your consultant is…only to see if I know him/her.
My best,
Rochelle
Web Link

I encourage you to look at the library she mentions.

If you think the teachers unions don't affect policy over the science, I don't know what to tell you.


Roy M
Registered user
Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2021 at 3:00 pm
Roy M, Downtown North
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 3:00 pm

@We are in this together. It is not the Biden White House per se that is under the influence of the teachers. Teachers unions spent $43M in the most recent election, all to Democrats and liberal groups. Biden's campaign received $232K, more than any other individual campaign. That at least gets them a seat at the table.

Web Link
Web Link


We're in it together
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Feb 15, 2021 at 3:20 pm
We're in it together, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 3:20 pm

@Roy M, so...she can't change her recommendations based on everything researchers have learned since JULY—since we got a semester of data based on hybrid and full in-person learning to inform public health recommendations?

I didn't leave that quote out to be deceptive, but it doesn't really prove your point, either.

So she says "we have engaged with many education and public health partners to hear firsthand from parents and teachers, directly, about their experiences."

I'm curious how you read that and conclude the teachers or teachers unions made her change the CDC recommendations in an illegitimate way?

First, how would they even make her and the entire CDC do that? Do they have so much power? Or do she and the CDC have so little integrity? It's a cynical take to suggest that she or the CDC would go so egregiously against public interest or their own missions.

Second, why should she NOT include teachers in information-gathering? They are, after all, the ones with firsthand knowledge of how this actually looks and works on the ground. Do you not admit the possibility that information teachers can provide about day-to-day classrooms has a legitimate place in informing public health experts' decisions about how day-to-day classrooms can best work?

Lastly, there's this implication in your remarks that teachers are some nefarious group that doesn't care about their students. I hope that's not how you feel. If teachers were so awful, why would anyone want kids to be around them all day?


We're in it together
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Feb 15, 2021 at 3:37 pm
We're in it together, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Feb 15, 2021 at 3:37 pm

@Roy, to put the campaign donations in perspective, the top three donors to Biden in 2020 are the PACs of and individual donors within the following groups:

1. Bloomberg LP, 93.5 million (the Bloomberg whose news outlet is pro-opening and anti-teachers unions)
2. Future Forward Property, 61 million
3. Asana, 45.9 million

Even Google's parent company gave 5.2 million. It is a very large table, indeed, for $232K to buy the teachers' union a seat at it.
Web Link


Person
Registered user
Southgate
on Feb 16, 2021 at 8:16 am
Person, Southgate
Registered user
on Feb 16, 2021 at 8:16 am

My son's response to the question, "will you opt to go back in march?" was "no way, that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard."


hmmm3
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Feb 17, 2021 at 10:43 am
hmmm3, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2021 at 10:43 am

I am glad to see a robust discussion regarding this important topic.

I came here to add my voice: I believe the science shows we should reopen the schools now. I do empathize with teachers, and the fear they must feel, the reality is that we must follow the science and not our fears. Oddly, we have data uniquely for schools: surveillance testing has been done rigorously.

At some point, one must become infuriated that public services unions have so much power that they drive our policy, instead of managers or the people who elect them. I'm not just talking about the Teacher's unions, I'm taking about the Police unions. And, yes, I am very tired of hearing that these unions care about either students or public safety, when they give lip service only - we see it with our own eyes.

To the PA school board: the state has a community infection limit of 20 cases per 100,000 per day. You are adopting a stricter number, and there appears to be NO justification. Justify it. If you are worried about marches and strikes by the teacher's union, I will be out myself (double masked of course) on behalf of our students and parents to keep the schools and the people who matter - our next generation - the top priority.

To the teachers and teacher's unions. You are very important. You hold in our hands the future of America and humanity. If you need someone to say it, I'm happy to scream that from the rooftops. However, in order to be teachers, you must teach, and that means obeying the government, scientists, and administrators. If you want me to be blunt, your safety is NOT the first priority, teaching is the first. SECOND is safety, it's very important, but it's not first. These are not unreasonable requests from cruel masters - the science is available to all and sound. If you are so deeply afraid of COVID, I'm sorry that you might have to quit the profession, COVID has upended many lives, but it is with us and we must deal.


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 17, 2021 at 10:51 am
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2021 at 10:51 am

A progressive parent’s rant about the politics surrounding school reopening

Web Link


The Voice of Palo Alto
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Feb 17, 2021 at 12:42 pm
The Voice of Palo Alto, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2021 at 12:42 pm

“If you want me to be blunt, your safety is NOT the first priority, teaching is the first. SECOND is safety.”- False. Worker safety is always number 1. [Portion removed.] If schools were not safe for kids, they would be shut down immediately. Yet another post demanding the working class needs to return prematurely for day care purposes so the financial elite can return the parents to work for profits. The vaccines are here. Let teachers be vaccinated. Your child is your responsibility and stop the rush.
“If you are so deeply afraid of COVID, I'm sorry that you might have to quit the profession..”-The teachers will all hold their jobs and return in person when it is safe. Please blame the response of the federal government instead of blaming teachers and the unions for protecting the workers. [Portion removed.]
“20 cases per 100,000 per day”-20 cases per 100,000 extrapolated across the United States population of 328,000,000 would be 262,400 cases per day. Another dangerous and arbitrary number for an unsafe return to school.
“I do empathize with teachers, and the fear they must feel, the reality is that we must follow the science and not our fears”- You are SO empathetic but then stated teacher safety isn’t #1. But the science says it is safe? Which is it? Health experts don’t work in schools.
“Oddly, we have data uniquely for schools: surveillance testing has been done rigorously.”- It was one study in rural Wisconsin under near perfect conditions. The second part of this study isn’t as widely circulated. If you have different data of this rigorous testing, please post a link. This is the pseudo-science everyone on your side of the debate latches on to that exists in a “perfect scenario” but what it will really all boil down to is “make this work teachers!”


Me 2
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Feb 17, 2021 at 1:51 pm
Me 2, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Feb 17, 2021 at 1:51 pm

I knew that posting would cause TVPA to restate talking points (again and again). Hilarious!

Like clockwork.


Hal
Registered user
Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 19, 2021 at 11:04 am
Hal, Leland Manor/Garland Drive
Registered user
on Feb 19, 2021 at 11:04 am

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