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School district and union reach tentative agreement on distance learning, reopening conditions

Original post made on Aug 6, 2020

After months of negotiations over working conditions for the new school year, which starts remotely on Aug. 17, Palo Alto Unified and its teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on a new memorandum of understanding.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, August 6, 2020, 1:09 PM

Comments (26)

Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 6, 2020 at 10:07 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

What a fantastic step in the right direction, and I commend both the School Board and the Teachers' Union for getting here.

As we continue to adapt to the new normal, several essential issues that both our country *and* our city has neglected are raising in status from important to urgent.

Of those, the most important likely is childcare. Our district and/or our City needs to provide childcare to families and especially to teachers, if we expect our schools and our economy to re-open.

Because I have two current/former PAUSD kids, one of whom is entering Paly this month (!), I have had the opportunity to hear directly from PAUSD teachers - which I found extremely enlightening. More than any other challenge that I heard teachers mention is the challenge of insufficient childcare so that they can do the important job they enjoy: teaching. It is indisputable that students cannot succeed if teachers are not empowered to succeed. How will all teachers succeed if they also have to care for children who should be at school, but are not?

Similarly, parents - especially those with young children, children with learning differences, and those who still must work outside of the home, including because they are essential health care providers - find themselves in untenable positions. How can they continue to keep the jobs they rely on (and also often enjoy) in order to live here in Palo Alto, if they also need to be home to make sure that their children are being supervised as they are being taught remotely? It's impossible.

Other cities -- and let's be honest here, other *countries* -- have reached the unassailable conclusion that neither education nor business can return without universal childcare. In fact, many of these countries always provided universal childcare, because the need for childcare has existed far before the current pandemic.

Historically, given gender biases in our culture, childcare has been viewed as the responsibility of the mother. That never made sense, and especially does not make sense in light of the fact that these same gender biases also have encouraged more women than men to pursue careers in any civilized society's most important role: teaching our next generation. Regardless of any truth behind these biases (which I dispute), the bottom line is that both cannot exist concurrently:

Women *cannot* be both the primary caretakers of their own children, as well as the primary teacher of other people's children, effectively, at the same time. We can't.

When schools are open, teachers with school-aged kids (and/or access to affordable quality day care and preschool) always rank amongst the best, most engaging, most creative, responsive, and inspiring of public school teachers -- my own mother was that kind of teacher, for 50 years. But the town where I lived as a very young child started kindergarten for all students at age 4, and there were ample quality affordable preschools that served babies and toddlers.

Palo Alto has the opportunity -- and I believe the obligation -- to solve this problem for our families, students, and teachers. We must provide childcare.

We have the financial capacity to do so by delaying a few of the capital projects that pose no urgent need whatsoever: such as the as much as $20 million that the City Council set aside to renovate the Palo Alto private airport, and the proposed new police headquarters (and also by approving the parcel tax measure for now, and a tax on our largest employers and commercial developers, in the future).

We also have the physical space available to do so, including in the $4 million worth of formerly-leased space that used to be occupied by, ironically, child care centers and nonprofits before the City Council decided to terminate much of their Cubberley lease with the PAUSD last month. Since the previous (mostly nonprofit) tenants already were evicted, perhaps the City can undo some of these actions by filling these spaces with childcare for families and teachers.

The need for childcare is NOT new. Some of us have been working on access to childcare - a service so fundamental to economic and educational justice that it is provided in virtually all other industrialized countries -- for decades if not centuries.

Here in Palo Alto we are unique in having the means and capacity to do the right thing for our next generation. I can understand that the District and City has reasons they perceive make providing childcare impossible. What I cannot understand is why no article I ever read on this issue -- including this one -- even mentions this extraordinarily important matter.

In sum, it always was irrational to view universal childcare as beneficial only to women. Countless studies done by economists and academic institutions as respected as Stanford's Graduate School of Business and Harvard Business School, have published studies, articles, reports, and books establishing that the provision of universal childcare also significantly benefits communities, local economies, and the ability to compete of cities, states, and countries.

What is newly irrational is a discussion of reopening schools and our economies that does not even address childcare at all. This huge omission makes it harder to feel trust that our district will reach a sustainable outcome.


Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 7, 2020 at 10:31 am

Kathy is a registered user.

The proposed PAUSD - PAEA (the teacher's union) MOU agreements described don't comply with the law. SB 98 and the Governor's guidance don't give PAUSD and the teacher's union the right to determine when to reopen in person, or not to reopen before a certain date, or not to reopen for the fall semester if school hasn't been reopened by a certain date.

The State's County watch list (Web Link is the arbiter for school reopening in California and Santa Clara County, along with the Public Health Officer's orders and guidance, yet PAUSD and the PAEA (the teacher's union) apparently think they can buck the law.


Posted by Rebecca - Stay Focused
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2020 at 11:09 am

Rebecca - Stay Focused is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 7, 2020 at 12:09 pm

Paly Teacher is a registered user.

More unsubstantiated claims from Kathy based on what was likely a very cursory reading of the law.

Let's see what SB 98 actually says:

(2) Distance learning may be offered under either of the following circumstances:
(A) On a local educational agency or schoolwide level as a result of an order or guidance from a state public health officer or a local public health officer.
(B) For pupils who are medically fragile or would be put at risk by in-person instruction, or who are self-quarantining because of exposure to COVID-19.

It basically says if A or B are true, then distance learning can be offered. That doesn't mean that if A nor B are met, then distance learning can't be offered. Kathy is using the classical fallacy denying the antecedent. Here's an analogous argument:

If you live in Palo Alto, then you can vote for California's governor. You don't live in Palo Alto. Therefore you can't vote for California's governor.

Now, I'm not a lawyer, but are some offering their opinions:

"Based on the above, an LEA may close an entire site, or an entire district for example, in consultation with public health officers" (Web Link Note is says in consultation with, not with permission from.

"It is important to note, however, that the decision as to what instructional models are 'possible' in the 2020-2021 school year, let alone determining 'the greatest extent' of that possibility, is entrusted to each LEA...Courts are loath to second-guess discretionary decisions of this sort, and generally do so only where the local agency decision is 'arbitrary, capricious, entirely lacking in evidentiary support,' and only where 'the action taken is so palpably unreasonable and arbitrary as to show an abuse of discretion as a matter of law. This is a highly deferential test'" (Web Link

Sometimes laws, especially ones written during an emergency, are ambiguous. Sometimes, they contradict each other. Sometimes, they contract themselves. That's why courts and case law exist.

Bottom line: Statements like "PAUSD and the PAEA (the teacher's union) apparently think they can buck the law" [portion removed] rile up parents and don't offer anything constructive nor meaningful to help our students learn. In fact, making claims without cogent reasoning does the opposite.


Posted by Curious
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 7, 2020 at 12:17 pm

Curious is a registered user.


Posted by Why not?
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Aug 7, 2020 at 12:47 pm

Why not? is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2020 at 1:04 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

@KATHY-
First of all, I personally think it’s disappointing (to put it mildly)that you and others here constantly push for staff to go back to in person instruction without available therapeutics or an available vaccine during an obviously dangerous pandemic.

We already have real world examples of infections taking place in schools in Georgia(and other places) as they reopened. You can argue the infection rates there are higher than here in PA, but it does show what “could happen” if schools reopen.

Web Link

That being said, on to your SB98, “I gotcha post” about the Union and not complying with the law. It is false and it is misinformation.

1. SB98 is a BUDGET bill that was signed into law. It gave SOME requirements for in person instruction and distance learning.

2. SB 98 states that school districts must offer "in-person instruction", and ALLOWS local educational agencies, including county offices of education, charter schools, and school districts (LEAs), to offer distance learning. Furthermore,
SB 98 provides that distance learning may be offered under either of the following circumstances:
On an LEA or schoolwide level as a result of an order or guidance from a state public health officer or a local public health officer(our current situation); or for students who are medically fragile or would be put at risk by in-person instruction, or who are self-quarantining because of exposure to COVID-19.

3. Letters submitted to the Senate Journal from Senator Holly J. Mitchell and Assembly member Philip Y. Ting provide that it is NOT the INTENT of the legislature to limit LEAs to those two scenarios. The letters state it is not the intent of the legislature to require an LEA to seek out or receive approval from a state or local public health officer prior to adopting a distance learning model. Finally, rather, the INTENT is to GRANT FLEXIBILITY to an LEA to determine what instructional model the LEA will adopt during the COVID-19 pandemic, "taking into account the needs of their students, staff, and their available infrastructure, provided the model adheres to an applicable STATE OR LOCAL public health order or guidance."
So technically, PAUSD and PAEA do not need to adhere to the local public health officers recommendations or even the state’s watch list if they feel the needs of their staff, students, and infrastructure is better to stay in distance learning, if they can provide evidence of adhering to a STATE health order. It is not the “arbiter” of a return but instead it is guidance. Again, the INTENT of SB98 was to GRANT FLEXIBILITY during the pandemic. It is NOT a “you are breaking the law if you don’t do this” mandate.

4. Finally, SB98 states that if an LEA wishes to pursue a distance learning model outside of those listed in bullet point #2, the LEA must be prepared to show how the needs of students, staff and/or infrastructure were taken into account in making the decision as breaking compliance to SB98 could lead to LEA FUNDING risks. So again this “breaking of the law” by PAEA and PAUSD can at worst lead to funding risks since SB98 is a budget bill.

5. Lastly, my points 1-4 leads into this whole first statement of yours being false. “SB 98 and the Governor's guidance don't give PAUSD and the teacher's union the right to determine when to reopen in person, or not to reopen before a certain date, or not to reopen for the fall semester if school hasn't been reopened by a certain date”
First, the union has already negotiated due to this same granted flexibility that there will be no in person return until at least October. Second, with the same granted flexibility of SB98 the union is currently negotiating “potential return dates” ***if*** health permits based on the needs of the staff, students and infrastructure which they DO HAVE the RIGHT to do. Keep in mind also, that if most teachers don’t feel comfortable to come back in person, the union ***could*** try to negotiate new terms based on STATE health orders since that is the needs of staff if they can find a way to make it applicable. Finally, for you to think in terms of “oh great we are off the state’s watch list let’s go back to school the very next day” is actually not the correct line of thinking. Also, even if a potential tentative return date was signed off on, if a best case scenario miraculously happens, both sides could meet again and possibly determine an earlier return dates. Sorry, SB98 does not block the union from negotiating a tentative return date based on health and staff and student needs, and unions do have the right to negotiate and determine a potential return date. No one is “bucking the law.”


Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 7, 2020 at 3:11 pm

Kathy is a registered user.

@Paly Teacher and @ Voice of Palo Alto and to parents:
SB 98 states that school districts must offer "in-person instruction", and allows local educational agencies, including county offices of education, charter schools, and school districts (LEAs), to offer distance learning (in certain circumstances). SB 98 defines "in-person instruction" as "instruction under the immediate physical supervision and control of a certificated employee of the LEA while engaged in educational activities required of the student."

In summary, and in light of the above, Section 43502 states that LEAs are required to offer in-person instruction during the 2020-2021 school year.
Web Link

SB 98 (Education Code § 43502) contains a statement that LEAs “shall offer in-person instruction and may offer distance learning, pursuant to the requirements of this part.”
SB 98 (Education Code § 43504) contains a statement that LEAs “shall offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible.”
These provisions express a strong legislative preference for in-person instruction, while the phrase “to the greatest extent possible” suggests substantial limits on distance learning.
Web Link


Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 7, 2020 at 3:16 pm

Kathy is a registered user.

Education Code:
43502.
(a) For purposes of calculating apportionments for the 2020–21 fiscal year, a local educational agency shall offer in-person instruction, and may offer distance learning

43504.
(a) The compulsory education requirements described in Section 48200 continue to apply for the 2020–21 school year.

(b) A local educational agency shall offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible.


Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 7, 2020 at 3:20 pm

Kathy is a registered user.

[Post removed; excessive posting.]


Posted by Kathy
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Aug 7, 2020 at 4:00 pm

Kathy is a registered user.

Fyi -
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave the go-ahead Friday to schools to prepare for reopening classrooms and bringing back students this fall for in-person instruction.

"By our infection rates, every school district can open," Cuomo said in a conference call with reporters Friday. "Every region in the state is below the threshold we established."
Web Link


Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 7, 2020 at 4:57 pm

Paly Teacher is a registered user.

@Kathy: I applaud you for improving upon a superficial reading of the law, but your arguments still have more holes than a slice of swiss cheese.

You quoted a source (Web Link as "In summary, and in light of the above, Section 43502 states that LEAs are required to offer in-person instruction during the 2020-2021 school year." Literally the next sentence reads "However, it is unclear whether in-person instruction must be offered for the entirety of the year (from the first day till the last day), for all grade levels, or for the entire instructional day in order to meet the requirements of SB 98."

Thus, if the district offers some form of in person instruction during spring semester, they may be in compliance of the law. Not offering it in the fall doesn't not mean they're breaking the law [portion removed.]

You quoted from the same source "These provisions express a strong legislative preference for in-person instruction, while the phrase “to the greatest extent possible” suggests substantial limits on distance learning." Again, literally the next sentence reads "It is important to note, however, that the decision as to what instructional models are “possible” in the 2020-2021 school year, let alone determining “the greatest extent” of that possibility, *is entrusted to each LEA*, in light of their individual circumstances, subject to some legal limitations (discussed below)" (my asterisks for emphasis).

Basically, yes, the state prefers in person instruction, but LEA (i.e., school districts) are entrusted to make the final choice of whether and when to open.

As for New York opening, so what? Their positivity rates are <1% throughout the state whereas California's is much higher. Best source I could find say it's around 6% (Web Link Best I could find for SCC was around 4% (Web Link Plus, now we don't even know what the positivity rate is: "The State has informed us that counties have received incomplete information regarding test results, which affects our ability to...accurately report the testing positivity rate in our community..." (Web Link Also, we teach our kids the quote sandwich: introduce the quote, write the quote, explain the quote. Give it a shot and make a clear argument otherwise you're just throwing everything you can find to the wall and hoping something sticks.

Readers, Kathy is trying to take the very complicated issue of how to teach our kids in the middle of a pandemic and overly simplifying it so that she can false claim the district and union are trying to ignore the law. [Portion removed.]


Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 7, 2020 at 5:48 pm

Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

Please stop posting MISINFORMATION. Spreading misinformation is the way tyrants sow mistrust and division, and we've got too much of that already.

To clarify this exact point about SB 98, the CA Assembly and Senate bill sponsors filed identical "Legislative Intent" letters when the bill passed, that included this:

"[These provisions were] not intended to prevent an LEA [i.e., school district] from adopting a distance learning, hybrid, or mixed-delivery instructional model to ensure safety. Instead this section is intended to grant flexibility to an LEA to determine what instructional model the LEA will adopt during the COVID-19 Pandemic, taking into account the needs of their students and staff, and their available infrastructure, provided the model adheres to an applicable state or local public health order or guidance.”

So, according to its authors, SB 98 does not require PAUSD has to open in person. Other districts, from Cupertino to Long Beach, have also set future "will not return from distance learning before" dates to provide predictability to students and staff. ALL school districts reserve the right to decide for themselves when it is safe and appropriate to open in-person.

Please, let's talk about real issues, not this manufactured narrative.


Posted by Curious
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 7, 2020 at 7:16 pm

Curious is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 7, 2020 at 7:27 pm

Paly Teacher is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2020 at 7:40 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

The CDE has posted very clear guidance re SB 98. Web Link

See #4: The intent is that LEAs offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible. However, LEAs can, and in some instances must, offer distance learning and/or hybrid models of learning under certain circumstances during the 2020–21 school year [Education Code Section 43503(a)(2)].

Live Instruction is the baseline. If the State/County determines it unsafe, then distance learning or hybrid is offered. No one else decides.

Santa Clara County allows Waiver applications for K-6, but PAUSD has not applied.

If and when Santa Clara County is off the Watch List, our County Health Officer sets the rules by which schools open, but SB 98 preserved money for teachers pay and prohibited layouts on the assumption that teachers would be doing live instruction. Also, instructional minutes were reduced, not in anticipation of full distance learning, but of a blended and more complicated model.

My focus is on a portion of SB 98 that no one seems to be discussing in PAUSD. Distance learning is supposed to be substantially equivalent in challenge and quality as in-person. So, teachers, whatever your position on in-person vs distance, please instruct well and give our kids one full year of instruction, not 2/3 or 3/4 of instruction. Yes, I'm asking for you to instruct more than the baseline minimum provided by SB 98. No law says you can't teach the FULL instructional minutes. Maybe your kids don't need all the minutes, but many many do.

Let's do that. Teach the full instructional minutes in 2020-2021. Distance or in-person. All the minutes.


Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 7, 2020 at 8:32 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

This part of the story illustrates the power differential and why it is laughable to believe that teachers (or at least the union or even the district for that matter) truly care about the education that is being provided. "Teachers will be "strongly encouraged" but not required to complete an additional 12-hour training related to distance learning by Aug. 10 for a stipend or earned units toward salary advancement."

Teachers have complained that they were not given proper training, but now that is is being offered, they are pushing back on being required to take it. Similarly, everyone acknowledges that the teachers need some sort of education in order to improve on the performance in the spring, yet the district doesn't mandate that all teachers be trained.

Bottom line, this fall, the teachers have no excuse for not providing a better educational experience than occurred in the spring. Every other profession seems to have adapted.


Posted by Minutes
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 7, 2020 at 8:34 pm

Minutes is a registered user.

The schedule that PAUSD has set up, at least for secondary, doesn't allow for full minutes of teaching. The teachers need to be online for full minutes, but a decent amount of that is "office hours". Austin explicitly said that parents should not expect a full year's worth of teaching. He said the teachers will be doing the "essentials". I expect the best teachers will be able to help kids go at the pace that's right for them, but the majority of kids and classes will be going at the minimum allowable pace covering the minimum allowable set of material.


Posted by Get Your Facts Straight
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2020 at 9:08 pm

Get Your Facts Straight is a registered user.

To all who are worried about in person school:
1. COVID-19 will not go away -- Fauci - chance of vaccine being highly effective not so great

Web Link">Web Link

"The coronavirus is so contagious, it won't likely ever disappear."
Dr. Anthony Fauci
Web Link">Web Link

2. Germany schools opened:
Web Link


Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2020 at 10:27 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Hi again - I am going to return to my initial point, which is that teachers cannot come back until and unless the true reasons that they don't want to come back are addressed. I saw above that someone made a post that was removed (thankfully) before I saw it, but I got the general point, that purportedly arguing about trivial matters like childcare -- and, for that matter, working laptops and testing/contract tracing -- is "off topic."

The bitter personalized disputes above make me feel even more strongly that the district needs to find out exactly what are the concerns of the teachers, and if those concerns are reasonable - like the need for childcare, or working computers - it is the obligation of the district to make those things happen. For sure the provision of working laptops would cost a heck of a lot less than the amount of money that the district is paying litigation lawyers - again - to write lengthy memos that serve no one.

School starts in one week. People on both sides of this have dug in their heels. As they - posters above - become more and more positional in their quest to be factually and legally correct, our children are going to start school in a week with a fraction of their former instructional minutes, with teachers who constantly have to be briefed on what is and what is not required during any given week .... and with all of the very genuine needs of the teachers and the needs of the students being unmet. This is a terrible waste of time that is hurting our kids. And even if I did not have a child entering Paly this month - which I do - I would be mad about the current state of affairs.

To solve these problems, we need to look away from the statutes, regulations, and case law, and look straight at each other. The district and the union *both* have to get out of the way and allow parents and teachers to communicate directly with each other.

Until last week, most parents had no idea that so many teachers have not been given high quality computers, and that they often lack reliable internet service. Until last week, I did not have the opportunity to hear directly from a couple teachers that they are in an impossible situation with young children at home without childcare while they attempt to do their jobs of teaching our kids. Until last week, I didn't have the opportunity to hear the full extent of the lack of childcare on single mothers with kids in the public school system, and especially parents of kids with learning differences that make it extremely difficult/impossible to access education online (although there is a forthcoming program called PAUSD+, until it is up and running, many families are in impossible situations), and until last week, I had not understood the full extent of the need for 'learning centers' so that our large percentage of families who lack equipment, bandwidth, and a quiet place for children to access distance learning -- needs all that as it stands, 10 days before school starts, have not been met.

Even if the School District and the Teachers' Union reach a mutually beneficial compromise before school starts, neither that contractual compromise nor the signatures that follow will do ANYTHING immediately to solve the problems of lack of childcare, quiet places for kids to learn, provision of quality equipment to teachers, and accommodations for students with disabilities. None.

THAT is why I am working on actual solutions rather than legal interpretations or contractual provisions. It's been a constant problem of the district - now for decades - that they spend far too much time and money fighting over whether or not they are obligated to solve problems, rather than just solving them.

This is one of those times. Please, District, just put down the 200-page memos you paid the too-many-too-litigation-oriented law firms to write for you. The answer is NOT there. The answer is right in front of you.

Listen to what the teachers reasonably need -- childcare, computers, internet access -- and give it to them. And: listen to the families with kids whose lack of resources and/or learning differences require in-person school sites, most of which can handled by staff other than credentialed teachers. Learning centers and therapeutic in-person opportunities present little or no risk to teachers. Please provide them.

Please, just remember: Students cannot succeed if teachers are not empowered to succeed. And, teachers cannot succeed if students are not empowered to succeed.

This is not a zero-sum analysis; it very clearly is win-win. Let's win-win and not lose-lose. You know, for the kids!


Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 7, 2020 at 10:33 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

@Rebecca,

Gentle reminder that ALL kids benefit from in-person instruction.

Great to get those with special needs and childcare issues in the door, but opting out for a pod doesn't work in high school. Let's follow County guidance and the the roughly $5M in extra funds from the state (yes to PAUSD) appropriately.

So many activities and sports are cancelled. Let's move those $ to PPE and cleaning.


Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 7, 2020 at 11:03 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

To clarify, in-person education clearly is superior to distance learning.

But right now, in-person education is against the law by state and county law. It just is. And the only way we will change that is by exercising best possible social distancing and mask-wearing behavior, getting tested regularly, and possibly signing up to become trained to be a contact tracer. There are many open jobs for contact tracing.

Fighting about whether schools *should* be open or not will not change things. Schools are closed. Honestly, fighting in this forum over whether those legal decisions were correct or not is likely one of the least effective ways of changing that reality, which we must face.

So what we know is that schools are closed, and we all are disappointed. But what we do not know is how PAUSD will make distance learning successful.

I also want to take issue with the description of "special needs" and "childcare" as irrelevant. The special needs situations I describe amount to anywhere between 10% and 15% of our school student population. The pandemic has hit families hard, and children who formerly were home-stable now are not, and some families that formerly had no problem putting food on the table, qualify for subsidized meals. And there are a lot of other families hurting in ways that no one - especially not them - expected. Even if it were not both a federal and state law requirement that schools educate all children - not just the wealthy and most able ones - the law, per above, doesn't really matter when compared with the fact that taking care of our community is the right thing to do.

Finally - it's terribly frustrating how misunderstood and underestimated the childcare crisis is right now. Although we public school families hate discussing this, the truth is that an extremely important benefit of public education is the childcare it offers so that parents can make living. In the majority of families -- even here in Palo Alto -- both parents work at least part-time.

For wealthier families that can afford (and choose to use) pods or whatever that is being called, they have solved a lot of their childcare needs. But for families who cannot afford pods and private tutors -- and especially families with single parents -- taking away the in-person aspect of their children's schooling literally puts their entire family's financial security at risk.

And this applies *also* to teachers - our children's teachers - who usually are not paid enough themselves to afford private pods and childcare (despite what the perception of teacher salary may be, it is far below the median of Palo Alto salaries). With the closure of schools, it is not just the schools where the teachers teach that are closed -- but ALSO the schools that those teachers' children attend are closed too. If the District - *either* District, does not provide childcare for these teachers, the teachers *cannot* be expected to teach up to full capacity.

Why do I insist that Palo Alto, rather than the Districts where teachers live, should provide this childcare? Because we in Palo Alto are one of the most wealthy districts in the state (if not country), and frankly, for most teachers, if they could afford to live in Palo Alto, they would -- hence the need for teacher housing at Cubberley, which was killed in part because it was going to be *too much in demand* (!!!). So the teachers live where their teacher salaries allow, and for a lot of them (most of them?) that is not Palo Alto, and is likely a district that is less well funded than Palo Alto, because virtually no other school district is as well funded as Palo Alto.

So here we are, the District with the biggest capacity to make this monumental improvement that would align us with the European countries that are doing the best job at being able to reopen their economies ... with a population that has a material population who actually hail from these very successful European countries and have seen first-hand the economic and educational benefits that are derived from the provision of universal child care.

Yet we, in Palo Alto, when asked to consider this essential service that is not even questioned in the same countries that are kicking our tushes in every aspect of the covid-19 war -- we consider it "trivial" and "off topic."

Even the Trump administration admits that child care is essential to economic growth and our country's well-being: Web Link

We *will* reach that answer in our country too. Why not, in Palo Alto - the the innovation capital of the US - take a lead in this issue? For sure there is no risk that our current back-to-school plans would be worsened from these efforts, right?


Posted by Curious Parent
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 8, 2020 at 11:44 am

Curious Parent is a registered user.

@Rebecca Eisenberg

Rebecca, you make a bunch of good points, but I'm so confused about the idea of paying for teacher's child care. Am I correct that you are advocating that PAUSD set up or pay for learning PODS for the teachers' kids so that PAUSD teachers can teach PAUSD students online? And these learning PODS would be staffed by workers who accept the risk of COVID? Why wouldn't we just skip this whole step and have PAUSD set up learning PODS for the PAUSD students?


Posted by S_mom
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 8, 2020 at 1:03 pm

S_mom is a registered user.

@Curious "Why wouldn't we just skip this whole step and have PAUSD set up learning PODS for the PAUSD students?"

Great idea, and we could call those learning pods "school." ;-)

Joking aside, I think the answer to your question is that people think that having a few in-person classes at school (for PAUSD+ or for teachers' children) is less risky than having all the classes (or half, in the hybrid model) because it will be fewer overall kids at the school with the potential for accidental pod mixing in the bathroom or at recess etc.


Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 9, 2020 at 6:35 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

Here is a fantastic article summarizing some of the points I have made repeatedly regarding the impossibility of opening schools safely:

Web Link


Posted by @The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2020 at 9:53 am

@The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

We need to stop asking all schools to reopen, and stop asking all schools to close. First lesson for a teacher is to see everyone's unique differences.

Let's look at age-based risk, vulnerability to students (both health and academic), community COVID-19 numbers, and preparation for safety equipment and plans. Doing so will likely lead to a smarter approach that opens some classrooms for some students, sooner, rather than later in some regions, but not others, and for some older students, not opening at all until the pandemic is fully over.

Regarding the article, they say that nurses must do their job in person, and teachers don't. I agree middle and high school can be done very well remotely if we try. Kindergarten, or any lower grade with families that can't provide close attention, I think remote learning does not work the way the article suggests.

I also disagree with you and the article that assumes that reopened schools are destined to be sad places when many who have reopened classrooms and day cares show otherwise. The teacher in the article lost my respect when they dramatically said reopening will "traumatize" students when one of the greatest tragedies of closing is that reports to Child Protective Services is down 50% since teachers are first-line reporters. The real trauma are those few students facing now unseen dangers at home.

Further, many essential workers will be sending their kids to daycares where the community risk and child's risk are still present, it's just the teacher removed from risk, but all others continue to face the same.

I agree we should close schools for most in an outbreak, but we need to allow for exceptions.


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