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Board gives green light to open middle, high schools in January despite opposition

Original post made on Nov 11, 2020

Stark division over reopening schools spilled over again into Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, when board members voted to resume in-person instruction at the middle and high schools over some student, teacher and parent concerns.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 11, 2020, 9:15 AM

Comments (74)

Posted by Mike
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:21 am

Mike is a registered user.

As I understand it, for the high schools, the only change is that some students will be on-campus for a few hours two days a week for English and Social Studies. ALL OTHER CLASSES and all other students will remain "distant learning".

For those kids going to school, they will be in a group of up to 14 other students, and the same 15 students will be in both English and Social Studies classes. To accommodate the on-campus students, the on-line class sizes will increase up to 39 students per class. Additionally, some English electives classes will be dropped to accommodate the changes, and students will be reshuffled into new classes with new teachers for the second semester.

Now what happens later when the county COVID-19 cases go up and we have to shut down on-campus classes? Will the 15 on-campus students now be in a remote class of 15, while the other (previously distance students) remain in larger classes of up to 39 students? Or will they shuffle between classes again?

Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:24 am

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Kids will benefit from being back in school in person, and the safety protocols seem more than adequate to keep us safe. Hopefully the plan can be improved in light of the concerns raised (minimizing schedule and teacher disruption, increasing in-person opportunities) and more certain information on how many kids elect to pursue the hybrid model. One question I did not hear answered was why the school district cannot expand to Cubberley or other spaces in order to be able to bring more kids back for more in-person classes. I applaud the school district for trying to make in-person school work rather than just take the easy "status quo" path. Hats off as well to the teachers working hard to engage with our students in new and creative ways. Thank you.

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:33 am

Facts and Figures is a registered user.


Yes. You are correct. If there is a quarantine or closure, we have DL for all, but the hybrid kids get the benefit of a private school 1:14 ration and the DL kids get a non Palo Alto large less well-funded experience of 1:39 in classes where feedback and discussion is important.

That's what Shounak describes as equity.

The board needs to put on its big girl and boy pants and get streaming on the table and shift these numbers back or HIRE qualified teachers (not sure where you find them)

Posted by casey
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:49 am

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@Jonathan Brown: I think the classrooms at Cubberley are all rented out to outside organizations. Also, to accommodate more students for in-class instruction, I think the district would need to hire more teachers since class sizes are reduced to allow for social distancing. Staffing is limiting factor as well.

Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:57 am

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I wish the conversation wasn't reopen-for-all or close-for-all, but more talk of middle ground opportunities (that get lost in a binary conversation) like bringing back all outdoor sports (even add intramural sports), plan staggered in-person outdoor social check-ins/social-emotional learning events (and access to in-person counselors), bring back high school portions of class lessons that really need to be in person that involve labs and also groups like AVID, robotics, etc. The issue of some kids being home is less a problem as a teacher can have some periods be remote taught, and others live, yet the problem of non-mixing small cohorts is impossible to solve without the major tradeoff of reducing the variety of courses. Any large scale reopening for young adults must require access to testing for both the teens and teachers.

Posted by 3x PAUSD Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2020 at 11:04 am

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"Not coming back is easier. We chose hard. I hope that we're a district that chooses the tougher route every single time." - Don Austin

Choose hard every time? We need a better basis for decisions than this. How about we choose "safe" every time? Or "smart" Or maybe "prudent?"

Austin unwittingly proves what others have accused with regard to this return plan: This is about ego / bragging rights. The fact Austin compares PAUSD against other districts and points out how ours is putting kids on campuses while others are not. At the same time as the country is seeing a spike mounting, Austin and his team are pushing to re-open schools and shaping the feedback mechanisms such that there's little flexibility. Not only do the force families to commit without having a fully-developed plan to present, it sounds like the teachers feel left out of the process, too.

Austing & co. are also digging in their heels when it comes to alternative solutions like live-streaming classes -- though they are careful not to reject it outright, it seems clear they are fixated on their own solution. 'My way or the highway' seems to be the ethos for this whole process.

Typical PAUSD debacle. The inmates are running the asylum. This whole pandemic episode has shown how little the PAUSD leadership is focused on what is best for students, beyond lip service. They want to be seen as "out in front," health consequences for students (and their families) be damned! I suspect there is a lot of career posturing involved for folks at Churchill Ave. It seems to have worked, given Austin's contract renewal and Hendricks' new job.

Posted by Jim
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 11, 2020 at 11:15 am

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Wow... Unanimous support for this plan from the Board? Do not understand this at all. The decision for elementary / middle is OK. But for the high schools it's a mess - the arguments against made last night (and there were a lot) were very sound. What's wrong with this plan:

0. The input from parents/students that decision is partially based on is flawed - people didn't know what they were going to get - I think interest would have been way lower if the program had been fully described
1. They picked the classes that can most easily be done online - English and History and that don't benefit much from being in person. They didn't pick science labs, art, music, clubs, activities.
2. New teachers, new schedules and new mix of kids in classes midway through the year is a really bad idea, especially for juniors and seniors
3. Some of online classes ballooning to 40 kids is a horrible idea for faculty and students
4. If there are kids who need additional help - bring them to campus for tutoring in areas where they are struggling
5. What if 5% of HS students pick this hybrid program - do we disrupt the other 95% who wanted to stay with DL

Posted by Secondary Hybrid is a Travesty
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2020 at 11:22 am

Secondary Hybrid is a Travesty is a registered user.

First, kudos to student reps on the Board who were articulate, strong, fantastic. The Board clearly dismissed you, and as such all students, and that is WRONG. Thank you for speaking so eloquently Mr. Thomas Li and Ms. Medha Atla, you are both very impressive seniors. The Board could be learning from you!

Second, two half days per week is NOT hybrid. It's a joke. And that's only if a student wins the "lottery" since over 60% students want to return in person and this horrid plan only accommodates 30% students. How can it even be legal to offer in person to some and not others who expressly ask for it? Now even if a student doesn't want this insane 2 half days/week in person, and they choose full DL again (by default, because they have two horrible choices), they are stuck with a destroyed class schedule and up to 39 students per online class!

Denying students who want an in person education by lottery is inequitable (and probably illegal). Denying students who choose DL a real Pausd education with 39 students in online class is inequitable and violates class limit sizes ALREADY set by the Board. Teachers, students, parents all HATE this approved plan.

But guess what PAEA teachers, this is on you! If your PAEA union had been willing to START with the hybrid plan that was originally proposed in the fall (2 full days/week in person), when SCC approved return in person, this disastererous hybrid joke plan would've never happened midstream and you would've maintained your student relationships. Way to go PAEA. Now your teachers and all students are all paying the price. Maybe the teachers will FINALLY realize that your PAEA union, that refused to consider Live Streaming (like SJ School District or Redwood City Sequoia District are all doing in order to maintain teachers, students, classes, current schedules) does NOT serve you well! Enjoy your self-created ship show.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 11:34 am

Teacher is a registered user.

Sharon Ofek and Don Austin’s “clarification” that electives always disappear midyear is a gross mischaracterization of the facts. Electives with too low enrollment may not run for a semester, but that’s decided when the master schedule is put together in the spring for the following year. Classes that are already scheduled and populated don’t just disappear. Teachers with 20+ years of experience who TEACH THOSE ELECTIVES have never seen it happen.

Thomas Li pressed Sharon Ofek to clarify what happens if a student’s family member tests positive but the student tests negative. The county health guideline flowchart dictates that student would have to quarantine “until the household member finishes isolation, 24 days or longer.” The cohort would not, however, switch to distance. There is NO PLAN right now to maintain that student’s access to their education for weeks on end. Sharon Ofek apparently misunderstood the question and said cohorts would stick together so there would be no disruption. That does not inspire confidence in her competence or good faith.

These are just two examples of the [portion removed] misrepresentations of Don Austin and Sharon Ofek. With the exception of Jennifer DiBrienza, the Board members have little personal experience or expertise in K-12 pedagogy or school site operations, and it shows when the wool is pulled over their eyes so easily and so often. They’re either willfully or woefully ignorant.

This plan makes no pedagogical sense for virtually any of our kids. There may be a marginal benefit to a vanishingly small number of students specifically struggling in English and Social Studies, specifically because they need a structured work environment, who also want to be in person, AND can safely choose it. But that’s what PAUSD+ is for. And yes, kids who desperately need to get out the house can get a bit of a break.

Is that worth lower quality instruction for everyone? And massive disruptions to schedules, relationships, and routines? Is it worth in-person classes that can’t engage in effective instructional methods like discussion and well-designed group activities? Is it worth enormous class sizes for distance learning? How could that possibly help students who are struggling—is that equity? Is it worth reduced access to electives and special programs? Is it worth teachers who are too overworked, too burnt out, and frankly too demoralized by the district office to do our job as well as we dearly want to?

Teachers are willing to work in person when a plan’s pedagogical and emotional benefits to students outweigh the risks and costs. We love our students and want to give them the best education possible. But this plan ain’t it.

The Board and DO clearly exist in their own echo chamber where facts and reason are sparse. But families—please make an informed decision, and keep sticking up for our schools!

Posted by Jonathan Brown
a resident of Ventura
on Nov 11, 2020 at 11:48 am

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@casey re your two points:
1. >> Cubberley are all rented out to outside organizations.
JB: How are outside organizations able to use the indoor space at this time? My understanding was that facilities were not being rented out now because of the pandemic, and that was leading to a drop in revenue. Plus the school district ought to be able to take back the space. And empty office and other buildings all around could be offered for school use.
2. >> Also, to accommodate more students for in-class instruction, I think the district would need to hire more teachers since class sizes are reduced to allow for social distancing.
JB: Part of my point is that if the spaces are bigger elsewhere, you can have more kids in one class and still have proper distancing. Certainly some of the Cubberley spaces are bigger than ordinary classrooms (or could be made bigger by opening accordian-style walls).

Posted by East coast transplant
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 11, 2020 at 12:41 pm

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I am speechless as to how we got to such a bad place in our school system. We came here from the East Coast and most of our friends with kids in public schools in similarly affluent districts are sending their kids to a 50:50 hybrid model without all these ridiculous restrictions. There are no battles over live-streaming (they just do it because it is so obviously helpful), there are no battles from parents refusing to send their kids back (like >85% of the kids opted for hybrid), there was minimal pushback from teachers....the medically susceptible ones do DL and the rest show up and teach. No plexiglass. No cohorts of 14. No lottery systems to attend for 2 classes a week. The kids there have been in hybrid for weeks/months and it's been totally fine. AND their coronavirus numbers are HIGHER than ours! (I'm talking Westchester County and suburbs of Boston). It's insanity what has happened here in PA and all our kids are suffering for it.

We need to abandon this 14 cohort idea. We need split the kids into 2 cohorts and give them all 50% time in-person and they live-stream into the class when they are home (be it home to quarantine, home for just a cold, home for DL). It is simple and it works and it provides more kids more time in-person. We don't need to reinvent this wheel. The East Coast schools have been doing it successfully since September. We just need to adopt the same model and get moving. Seriously, can someone please explain to me why this is so hard and badly planned here????? I'm ready to move back East so my kids can get a decent education like the friends they left behind!!!

Posted by CA public schools are a mess
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 11, 2020 at 1:02 pm

CA public schools are a mess is a registered user.

East coast: I agree. It is so dismaying. I am guessing the difference is the teacher's union. They decided early on that they would refuse live streaming. The district said fine because the consequences of that refusal were not clear and it needed to strike a deal. Livestreaming was never revisited even when it was clear it was the best option. (No one really debates that, because it's not hard to see.) SF schools are also a hot mess for this same reason. Individual teachers are thoughtful about the situation but their union has done them no favors. It is very, very disappointing. We are writing off a whole (essential) year of high school.

Posted by Paly Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 11, 2020 at 1:32 pm

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The opaqueness of this process is unbelievable.
(1) Ask if kids want to come back with no details on what coming back looks like
(2) Then, months later provide details of a plan that the vast majority of students, teachers, and parents dislike, and
(3) rush through a hasty approval.

Why does this board not listen to its constituents? Why does the board rush a process that has such a significant impact on all students?

I’ve never seen such lack of transparency. I can understand if public meetings were held, inputs were considered, then a decision was made that left some unhappy - that is a reasonable process. But this feels like nearly the entire community has been railroaded.

I’d love to get a post-mortem and understand what drove this rushed and unpopular decision.

Posted by It’s not the union, guys
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 1:36 pm

It’s not the union, guys is a registered user.

You guys realize PAEA is not some nebulous entity? It IS the individual teachers you say are “thoughtful about the situation.“ Its leadership are teachers you and your kids may know, teachers with decades of experience in the classroom and as ILs, and advanced degrees in their fields and education, and awards from this community for their teaching. Who care about their students, I might add.

For the record, the DO abandoned its initial hybrid proposal for secondary not because the union somehow forced them to, but because the DO foresaw the inevitable outcome of the plan was this mess. So they stalled for time, then delivered this harebrained scheme at the 11th hour.

What is your actual evidence that the hybrid they’re doing on the East Coast or live streaming are effective? What’s the research or data to back up your suppositions? I’m also from one of those affluent East Coast districts doing both, and none of the teachers I know—including award-winning teachers with decades’ experience—report that they’re simple, or working, or so obvious that it’s not worth discussing. Their assessment data and professional observations indicate the opposite.

And they didn’t go back without complaint. They went back without PUBLIC complaint, because they are in a right-to-work state and have no recourse.

Tl;dr: the teachers’ union bashing is tired and uninformed.

Posted by East coast transplant
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 11, 2020 at 2:02 pm

East coast transplant is a registered user.

TO It’s not the union, guys - Well, I guess I should have been more specific: the kids and parents I know in hybrid programs on the East Coast are happy with the hybrid model and the live-streaming is working for THEM. I don't know any teachers in those schools, so it is possible they feel differently as you stated. However, I would contend that if the parents and kids are happy then it's probably generally going ok....although it may be harder on the teachers than they would like. So, my quick google search told me that neither NY or MA are "right-to-work" states. So that's untrue. In fact, my friends in Larchmont, NY told me that they were impressed with how the teachers handled the difficult situation. So, while I'm sure PAUSD isn't unique in their teacher push-back, it's most definitely not like this everywhere.

Posted by cmarg
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 2:17 pm

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In listening last night, I must say I am so shocked. The decision to move forward with this plan that is so half baked is just sad. Once again, the Juniors and Seniors are going to suffer. And many of the seniors have gone through 7 principals in 8 years and been a large bubble class. So, why not throw more misery on them.
It is unfortunate that this decision was made prior to the election and Measure O. Sad to add more money into this infrastructure.
Time to move out of here before the home prices really decline once everyone understands that the school district is not what it used to be.
The saddest is that the 2 student reps were the most thorough and had the most amazing questions which were either unanswered or given I don't know responses. They voted NO and shared why yet all the board members voted yes. Perhaps it was to help the middle school students since they could not separate the plans even though there are very very different needs and demands between middle school and high school. Once again, focusing on the few and abandoning the majority.
Only a few more months with our senior at Paly then OOH!

Posted by It’s not the union, guys
a resident of Gunn High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 2:42 pm

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@East Coast Transplant

The teachers I was referring to are in Virginia, in Fairfax County just outside DC. And it’s not about if it’s “harder than teachers like.” I mean, it’s safe to say ALL of this year is harder than teachers like, right? It’s more how they see it affecting kids’ learning. Kids and parents can be content without actually having a more effective learning environment than they had before.

As with any learning model, some kids may like it, some teachers may find a way to make it work, and some parents may feel reassured by it (or appreciate being able to function more easily with hybrid...which I get, I’m working with a kid at home). And some teachers may have just done straight lecture all along, so it doesn’t make a huge difference to livestream. (Not that lecture is very effective instruction for most material.)

But all of that leaves aside the impact on learning itself. I just ask you to consider that there are legit reasons teachers here (and there) don’t think these plans are pedagogically sound.

Posted by Teacher 2
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 3:10 pm

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It is definitely NOT the teacher's union creating these problems.

[Portion removed.] Teachers and ILs were absolutely not "included" in the development of this plan. And Don Austin, still high on the victory of his renewed contract, posturing with bravado that he has "unlimited funds to make this happen" and that a PE teacher or any other teachers who happen to have an English credential can be easily assigned to teach English? And thinking he can easily hire qualified teachers in the middle of a pandemic to teach for a district with a long documented history of completely dismissing its teachers' input in order to further its own political agenda? That's hilarious. It's like watching Fox News. Eerily similar, actually.

Teachers and students spoke up overwhelmingly against this plan, but we got another unanimous approval from the Board, except for the two BRILLIANT student representatives, but their views ultimately were ignored too. I know how they feel.

The only way to avoid this disaster is for parents to select the distance learning model. If almost every family selects distance learning, we might be able to still salvage your children's education. They have sold you a bill of goods, as they say, about what this will look like and how feasible it is to implement even if you ignore the rising COVID cases. Whether your student is in DL or hybrid, the educational experience will be far worse than what we are currently able to deliver in DL.

Good luck with your decisions. I have never been so glad that I don't send my own kids to PAUSD schools.

Posted by Concerned Parent
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 11, 2020 at 4:32 pm

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I am very concerned that Todd Collins, the president of the board, misrepresented the situation with Don Austin's contract.
Firstly, he said this was a routine, expected extension of his contract. How come, then, were all the other contract extensions on the agenda only extended for one year, whereas Don Austin's was extended for two years until 2024? This is not routine, but a shocking overreach of power. If you actually look up Don Austin's contract, which is publically available to access online, there is nothing in it to indicate that he is required to receive a contract extension each year following a satisfactory performance review, and certainly not for an additional two years.
Secondly, Todd Collins said that the ratification of this extension was "customary and routine" and had simply fallen by the wayside due to the pandemic. Again, this is a misrepresentation of the reality of the situation. In June 2019, when Don Austin's original 3-year contract was extended by one year to 2022, the proposal to extend his contract was discussed and debated using the appropriate two-meeting approach. Last night, the board attempted to sneak his contract extension into the consent calendar to have it rubber-stamped, and even when they took it off the consent calendar, they only paid lip service to the many concerns of the public, and unanimously voted to approve it last night. They did not give this incredibly important decision the appropriate two-meeting process. I find their behavior reprehensible.
Don Austin's disgraceful attitude towards teachers and students, and his inflammatory tweets (before he suddenly deleted his account), should have led to a reprimand from the board - not a pat on the back and this patently obvious cronyism. Time and again the board do not listen to the concerns of their constituents; indeed, their attitude to teachers, parents and students is shocking. We must demand more transparency from the board. This is appalling. 

Posted by CA public schools are a mess
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 11, 2020 at 4:42 pm

CA public schools are a mess is a registered user.

Teachers, thank you for weighing in. My impression is that teachers (in general) favor distance learning even when cases are low. Thoughts? Is there any plan, short of 100% in-person, that teachers (in general) prefer to distance learning? At what point would it kick in?

I think that nearly all parents and students believe that hybrid with live streaming is better than distance learning when cases are low. It allows for some in-school learning, some away-from-home and off-screen time, and a safe backup when case counts go up and/or individuals need to quarantine.

One source of confusion may be that teachers focus almost exclusively on the quality and difficulty of teaching. But we also need to consider the many significant impacts, on both children and their families, of requiring all students to stay home and online even when case counts are low. Parents and students see these and care about these. Perhaps teachers do not assign them as much importance because they don't see it as their responsibility? If so, that could explain why the additional work/complexity of hybrid with live-streaming doesn't make sense to them. It may be that teachers consider it to be much more work for a somewhat worse teaching/learning experience than full-distance (I can understand that), and so view it as a worse option.

Posted by East coast transplant
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 11, 2020 at 5:40 pm

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@CA public schools are a mess
Thanks for starting a dialogue with teachers on what conditions for a safe and effective reopening look like from their vantage point. I, too, would like to hear when they think it's safe to return and what that return should look like. You highlighted the clear differences between what kids/parents think is best and what teachers think is best. I suppose the district thought this hybrid plan somehow was a decent middle-road between those two groups, but it wasn't and no one is happy with it. So, is there even a middle-road hybrid plan that could appeal to both parents/kids and teachers or is it impossible?

In more positive news, Pfizer announce very promising results from its vaccine this week, I wonder if PAUSD can start exploring getting doses of this vaccine for all our teachers?? There is no question in my mind that teachers (who are essential workers, after all) should be at the front of the vaccine line in this community.

@It’s not the union, guys - Is the vaccine a game-changer for this debate or no? Just curious...

Posted by @Concerned Parent
a resident of another community
on Nov 11, 2020 at 6:00 pm

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The community just last week re-elected all the incumbents. Voters are satisfied with the current processes?

Posted by Neva Yarkin
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 11, 2020 at 6:50 pm

Neva Yarkin is a registered user.

I have written to the County Health Officer, Palo Alto Superintendent and Paly Principal and talked at City Council regarding the opening of Schools in January.

Regarding COVID and Students going back to school in January. I haven't heard of anyone addressing a plan for students who ride bikes to school, and pedestrians walking in groups of 2 or more. I hardly see any bikers wearing masks, and there is no social distancing happening with students going to Paly.
There will be lots of bikers, waiting for the traffic light at Alma and Churchill to turn green. The students will be bunched together, with no masks, or social distancing going on.
This would be a Super Spreader of COVID before the students even get into the classroom.
Please, someone address this potential problem before the students go back to school. Thank you.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 8:03 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@ those asking about teacher perception of safety, or asking for suggestions:

Since Austin claims he has "unlimited funds" why didn't he buy tents for outdoor classes when we asked for them?

Why did he refuse to hire additional custodial staff when we asked him to?

Why did the district fire the person in charge of facilities?

Why didn't he replace the dilapidated HVAC system at Paly during the 7 months campus was empty?

Why isn't he hiring additional teachers so that each teacher can be exposed to fewer students if teaching in person?

Why isn't the district installing windows that open in classrooms without them?

Why won't the district require periodic testing of students?

Why won't the district agree to close schools (return to DL) if the county goes back to the red or purple tiers? That would even incentivize the community to follow social distancing and mask wearing, inspiring a "we're all in this together" attitude.

Why isn't the district listening to teachers? You are correct, PAUSD could have done better. Don't blame the teachers or the union for this one. We tried.

Posted by CA public schools are a mess
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 11, 2020 at 9:09 pm

CA public schools are a mess is a registered user.

@Teacher, thank you for responding.

It sounds like you want to stay with 100% Distance Learning until classrooms are safe. That makes a lot of sense.

My understanding is that Austin and the Board have assured us that classrooms will meet or exceed all safety standards, as vetted by various health experts (county and Stanford). It sounds like either you don't believe the schools are implementing that standard, or the standard is not enough. You would prefer more cleaning, better ventilation, more testing, fewer students, even outdoor classes. The "safe" classroom is not safe (enough).

I tend to rely on experts for this kind of thing, and believe there is a way to verify the District is meeting those standards. But teachers would understandably be particularly cautious about this. After all, families have an option to stay home while most teachers do not.

If it is the case that you are asking PAUSD to exceed County and Stanford standards for classroom safety, then I can see why there would be an impasse. While you are holding out for more, real harm is being done to students and their families by requiring students to stay at home and on their screens. Months-long efforts to lower COVID rates show no fruit. Parents may not adequately understand the (perceived) inadequacy of the district safety standards, while teachers may not understand the (perceived) degree of harm being done to children and families by the continued forced quarantine.

Is that a fair characterization?

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 11, 2020 at 9:10 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.


Parents have been asking the same questions since April.

A very organized parent group offered student testing organization. It was turned down.

Parents have offered money and time for school safety.

Teachers can strike. What can parents do? There are no spots in private -- assuming you can afford them. There are no spots in charter.


Posted by CA public schools are a mess
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 11, 2020 at 9:24 pm

CA public schools are a mess is a registered user.

I should add that, if/when teachers do believe that classrooms are safe at 50% capacity, then I'd be interested to understand the opposition to live-streaming. It seems to me safer and more comprehensive (more capacity, more instruction) than other hybrid programs. It is for sure harder and less effective to teach a class with some students online and some in person. But without live-streaming there is no easy way to maintain class sizes, maintain instructional minutes, or handle quarantines and easily swap between distance and hybrid. I'm struggling to understand teacher objections to this assuming that classrooms are safe.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 9:31 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@ Facts and Figures: That is news to me. So frustrating. See how little we know about each other's efforts?

FYI we cannot strike. We have a no strike clause in our contract. We have negotiated for months and have made small gains for both student and staff safety. We have also made suggestions which have been ignored or refused. That's why it's so frustrating to hear people bash the teachers' union. Regarding the decisions that were made related not to safety but to education, we weren't consulted in any genuine way, and when we expressed our concerns last night as you saw they were largely ignored.

The parents are the only ones who can change things. The parents voted to keep this Board and the Board voted to keep this Superintendent.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:11 pm

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The teachers are shirking their duty by not being willing to return and teach in person, and by not being willing to live stream and record.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 11, 2020 at 10:43 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@Citizen: Who says we are refusing to return? I don't know of anyone refusing to return. We aren't actually even able to refuse unless we want to quit or retire. So please get your facts straight before you go around town telling people that we are shirking our duties.

What we are concerned about is student safety, teacher safety, AND the many, many negative effects this latest plan will have on students' education and well being regardless of whether they are in DL or hybrid. Aside from safety concerns, this is not a good plan from an educational standpoint either.

Posted by Hybrid Concerns
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 12, 2020 at 7:11 am

Hybrid Concerns is a registered user.

I’ve been considering all that was said at the Board meeting. Austin said during the questioning near the end that really only 15-20% of the students will be allowed to return to hybrid. The priority goes to most at risk meaning Easy Palo Alto kids, spec Ed Ed, and trauma kids. I’m guessing that’s around 5-8%. After that priority will go to others that need it— that means first- kids that are getting poor grades. After that, if we know anything about Palo Alto- the very few select spaces that are left will go to most connected parents- like DeBrienza’s kids, the PTA presidents kids a etc... Basically, if we are bringing back only the most at need those classes will be run at remediation speed. They are bringing back hybrid -mostly remedial classes - a solid portion of these students already have access to In Person instruction through PAUSD+ or their spec Ed programs. Seems a bit ridiculous to push majority of kids into distance with 40 kids in a class! Wow how Palo Alto has fallen.

Separately- I’m grateful they are not live streaming!!! I don’t want my middle school kids out in a corner on a screen getting no attention while the teacher is focusing on person instruction. I want my kids to have the same access to a teacher as everyone else. Most middle school and many high school kids will fail with live streaming and having no teacher interaction or accountability. If my kids are being forced to go distance I don’t want the remedial curriculum streamed to them, not do I want the lack of teacher interaction from streaming.

Posted by CA public schools are a mess
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 12, 2020 at 8:42 am

CA public schools are a mess is a registered user.

The good news is, if what @Teacher and I are both saying is true (about what students, teachers, and parents want), then there is a VERY STRAIGHT-FORWARD path to resolution. The district (re)negotiates with the teachers what constitutes a "safe classroom" at 50% capacity, and then the teachers agree to implement live streaming when case numbers are low enough (e.g., orange tier). This is a win-win-win. Safe classrooms are good for everyone. Live streaming adds a measure of safety for everyone when kids come back (it's easy to quarantine). And live streaming allows the ENTIRE student body to participate in on-campus learning, which is important for equity. Austin says there is ample money, so reasonable measures to enhance (and verify!) safety beyond county standards should be in order. This could all be negotiated over the next two months when cases are sky-rocketing and we could be prepared for a harmonious and productive spring as case counts come down.

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 12, 2020 at 10:05 am

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

@CA public schools are a mess

Yes, why are we forcing administrators to reassign kids and waste all that time. We need to be focused on a true equity model instead of the fake equity model we have now.

The union can and should come forward with this proposal and terms of return that parents want.

Ability to open windows and/or more HVAC
HVAC units
Help with tech
Better access for student voluntary testing ON CAMPUS (a parent group already offered to make this happen)

What else? Parents want this all too. We can get this done for February and keep all classes in place.

But, it is the union that must come forward now. Otherwise, the District will say streaming is off the table (as Supt. Austin sent to many parents and his response was posted all over Facebook).

Please union come forward. Reopen discussion. Please.

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 12, 2020 at 10:11 am

Facts and Figures is a registered user.


If you look at the numbers, it looks like non-parents re-elected the Board (I'm sure some parents did too).

But, it's the PA Weekly's endorsement that non-parent community members read and guess who got elected. I think that the PA Weekly picks the School Board year after year. And, this is a huge problem.

In any case, I think all unions can strike. This is America. Talk to your leadership.

If striking really is a hard no, then ask to make your negotiations public. Right now the Board is blaming the union. If the union really is offering streaming, which is the only way to get equity for access, then parents need to know. This will totally change the dynamic. Is streaming perfect, no, but it might get 90% of our kids in the classroom 50% of the time and we can work on upping the delivery for the other 10%.

Covid-19 is not going away any time soon. We need a more robust solution.

Parents will volunteer and give money for streaming and testing. This is a certainty.

Reopen your negotiations. Ask for them to be public. Let's start getting real work done.

Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 12, 2020 at 11:37 am

Christopher Chiang is a registered user.

The streaming question shouldn't be discussed as yes or no.

For PAUSD cohorts that are always at home, it's far better for those students (and for the mental well being of the teachers) for the teacher to deliver those periods via Zoom for the reason of them getting the equal attention they deserve.

Yet there is still a very valid place for live streaming in any PAUSD secondary school reopening scenario, that is for the case of quarantines or self-precautionary quarantines (like after travel or contacts) of students in at-school cohorts. It's too disruptive to have those otherwise live students temporarily join the remote cohort (that meet at different times and may have different activities planned). In-person kids who know they can jump into a live stream of their live classes makes them more likely to be cautious and do self-precautionary quarantines.

Live streaming is also very useful if so many students wish to return to in-person that there is not enough at-home students to field a class period of remote learners.

The public health question of the safety of high school age teens returning to school deserves more attention. Streaming classes shouldn't be controversial and distracts from bigger question on community safety.

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 12, 2020 at 11:42 am

Clarification is a registered user.

@Facts & Figures: Teacher is right--we have a no-strike clause. A strike would be abandonment of job and teachers could be fired immediately and their credential could be challenged.

Also, if you look at the MOU proposals (the district has these posted on its website (PAEA's and their own) over the past 7 months, you'll see that PAEA already has proposed all of the things you suggested (HVAC, tech, testing). The district refused.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 12, 2020 at 12:07 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

I agree with everyone who posted last night. @Clarification: 100% true.

@ everyone else:
1. Strike not an option.
2. PAEA (teachers union) has already proposed all of the above, as have several individual teachers in private emails to Don Austin and site administrators at various sites. All were ignored or rebuffed or rudely dismissed.
3. The union has VERY LITTLE POWER right now. It's up to the parents. If everyone chooses to remain in DL and no one chooses hybrid, then things stay as they are.
4. Sharon Ofek (not PAEA) said NO to streaming. I personally agree with Sharon Ofek that live streaming is not a good pedagogical model, and Stanford Online School recommends against it, and Ofek and Austin said no, so let's not blame the teachers union for that please.
5. And yes, as some parents above (Hybrid Concerns) and teachers have pointed out, I predict most will stay in DL, and hybrid will be filled with kids who are already failing or otherwise at risk.

Posted by Hal
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 12, 2020 at 12:14 pm

Hal is a registered user.

It's not about the majority anymore, it's about the minority. My guess, and only a guess, is that the District fears lawsuits from the special or selective needs people in the community. Remember how many administrators and Board Members lost their positions after the last Special needs fiasco? We will never know as transparency comes in different levels of clarity.

Posted by Paly Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 12, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Paly Teacher is a registered user.

@"Facts" and Figures: The prolificacy of your posts greatly outpaces your credibility.

In a previous article, you said that DiBrienza and Ladomirak earned 20k votes each in the election and Collins got 9k. I pointed to current results which showed them having 19.7k votes, 17k votes, and 13.8k votes, respectively. You then tried to excuse your sloppy memory by saying you were using election night results. Well, DiBrienza and Ladomirak didn't go from 20k votes to fewer over the course of a week. Further, their actual votes were 12,798, 10,785, and 8,749 from the first results posted. Based on your grossly faulty figures, I assume you wanted to make Collins look bad. I don't like his undemocratic practices either, but please try to criticize him with facts.

Further, as many other teachers have posted, the union wanted more safety measures taken and the district balked. They had a presentation which listed five values that were guiding them. The only one that was related to health and safety was something along the lines of following county guidelines. Not health, not safety, but meeting the bare minimum required by law. Stop trying to put the onus on the union to make schools safer to open.

Also, as others have said, the union can't strike or participate in other work stoppages. Read it for yourself: document page 46, Web Link Further, this is America so we can strike? Have you heard about how other states have severely curtailed collective bargaining rights like Wisconsin under Scott Walker?

I appreciate your participation but please do so with an open mind instead of writing you like you know what's going on.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 12, 2020 at 7:05 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@Facts and Figures: Negotiations are public.

Web Link

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 12, 2020 at 8:42 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

@Paly Teacher and Teacher,

By public I mean we can all see the live discussions on a video. If the entire negotiation process are the papers we saw, that is not sufficient.

Again, it is now up to the teachers union to offer streaming in exchange for satisfactory safety measures.

Without streaming, in person is not affordable. It would seem we would need 2x the teachers and 2x the space.

Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 12, 2020 at 9:38 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Interesting...former district parent here...I would think benchmarking with what other similar districts are doing would be best...I always LOVED straight lecture model of learning in HS (Gunn), taking and studying notes, guess I had mostly capable lecturers...why not lifestream the school day?
As permissible (metrics suit, learn from experiences of others who forged ahead with in person high schools):
Outdoors learning with tents: was successful in prior pandemic in FAR colder US climates/cities.
Some attempt at normality would benefit our students, I feel for you!
Hybrid puzzles me -

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 12, 2020 at 11:47 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

@Paly Teacher and Teacher,

There has never been a published MOU version in which STREAMING was proposed with the SAFETY MEASURES. That is the discussion that must be had.

Parents are asking for STREAMING with the SAFETY MEASURES.

Streaming is the only way to resolve this problem. Is it perfect? No, but it's much better at creating live in person access safety than the hybrid model proposed at the high school level.

The union needs to agree to streaming in exchange for safety measures. Safety measures can include
- weekly determinations of the number of students in a classrooms (from 0% to 50%);
- # of Covid-19 cases in a school or per capita
- equipment
- time for cleaning
- testing

Parents have no contract, no bargaining power, and no advocacy group. Site Council was not even included in discussions with the District according to a representative at the meeting. Paly PTA President Charu Gupta is working her tail off to pilot streaming and provide information about streaming, but she has no power. The parent group that offered testing help didn't get District approval.

Sorry union. The ball is your court. Please make this happen. You can keep our entire community safe or you can keep telling parents to do something that is impossible.

If you won't strike, then bargain.

Posted by Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 13, 2020 at 12:08 am

Parent is a registered user.

@Facts and Figures

“Again, it is now up to the teachers union to offer streaming in exchange for satisfactory safety measures.”

What the??? What is this — a hostage negotiation?

Teachers MUST receive satisfactory safety measures, period.

Regardless of whatever you think you’re entitled to in exchange.

Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 13, 2020 at 9:43 am

Christopher Chiang is a registered user.

Other than masks, distancing, and small cohorts, the most important thing PAUSD can do is ventilation, worth parents and teachers being informed, fyi below:

The Center for Green Schools is teaming up with the LEED development team to host three mythbusting sessions about air quality in schools, featuring experts from our USGBC community.
Mythbusting: Natural Ventilation in Schools
Nov 19 from 12 – 1 p.m. PST Web Link

Mythbusting: Filtration and Air Cleaning in Schools
Dec. 3 from 12 – 1 p.m. PST Web Link

Mythbusting: Verifying Ventilation in Schools
Dec. 10 from 12 – 1 p.m. PST Web Link

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 13, 2020 at 9:49 am

Facts and Figures is a registered user.


You misunderstand. Of course, everyone should be safe, but the law requires in person whenever possible for all students.

So, teacher's union needs to put forward its safety terms, all of them, but they must also agree to streaming. It's not a hostage negotiation. Unfortunately the union and district office do not seem to be communicating well, at all. And, the Board doesn't seem to care.

But, the teacher's union can be the leader here and help everyone. Most importantly, right now, the teacher's union is putting its teachers who will be teaching live at risk b/c these safety measures are not all in place and students with Covid-19 exposure (unknown to the school such as a parent or friend not in the cohort) are likely to attend school if they want instruction.

New Trier is a comparable high school (or was thought to be for many years), and they are streaming. Why can't we?

Posted by CA public schools are a mess
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 13, 2020 at 10:01 am

CA public schools are a mess is a registered user.

The classrooms will be safe, meeting the standards of our county health department. The district additionally brought in Stanford experts to address lingering teacher concerns, thereby exceeding county standards. These measures have been well documented. However, teachers are still saying that it is not enough to make them feel comfortable in the classroom.

Meanwhile, students remain at home despite strong county and state guidance that they return to school when cases are low and health standards in the classrooms are met.

So, we are at an impasse.

Teachers are partly responsible because they are demanding the district exceed health standards while lobbying hard in the classrooms and outside against any effort to bring children back.

The district is responsible because they have failed to bring parties together to a shared resolution.

The tragedy is that OUR CHILDREN are caught in the middle.

PAUSD teachers and the administration, both, need to be the adults in the room, put aside their differences, and come together to form a shared solution that will get our children back in schools when case counts are low. We have time. Use it.

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 13, 2020 at 12:11 pm

Clarification is a registered user.

Question: What do folks think live-streaming actually looks like? How is it different from Zoom? Who actually is doing the live-streaming--teachers live-streaming into a classroom where the students are? Or students viewing camera streams from home? Sincere questions!

Posted by Citizen
a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 13, 2020 at 12:37 pm

Citizen is a registered user.

Yes, the teachers (union) are shirking their duty. They refuse to agree to live stream or record and the union concocts a plan that is so unpalatable that students are forced to remain at home to get a reasonable prospect of instruction. Nice win for the union by not providing instruction for students. Provide instruction, through all means. Or don't get paid.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 13, 2020 at 11:27 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

Please come to the PAEA community forum Monday @ 5pm.

Web Link

Posted by East coast transplant
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2020 at 12:08 am

East coast transplant is a registered user.

Can anyone here explain to me why Hillview Middle school was so capable of reopening in a timely manner with a proper 50:50 hybrid model and we cannot do the same for our middle schools? Hillview is not much smaller than Greene or JLS and may be bigger than Terman. Their hybrid model is so logical! Science, electives and PE in-person. Math, social studies and English at home. It’s basically the exact opposite of PAUSD plan. I still don’t understand how we got this so wrong. ITS NOT THAT HARD.
Can a teacher on here please explain why we cannot so what Hillview is doing (or something similar)????

Posted by Former Student
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 14, 2020 at 12:25 am

Former Student is a registered user.

If remote students are watching a livestream of an in-person class, it's going to be much harder for them to participate compared to their in-person peers. I'd consider watching a livestream of a class and asynchronously watching a recording to be pretty similar. Consider the analogous situation at work when someone dials into an in-person meeting. Most of the time they're just listening, with maybe the occasional comment.

I'd be interested to see if there's any way to implement a lecture+discussion format for some high school courses. Then lectures could be streamed / recorded, while discussion sections could be either on Zoom or in person and tailored to the specific platform. I know this is how some college courses are handling the situation. It does put more responsibility on students though to actually watch the lectures. That said, several teachers were already using the flipped classroom format before COVID so I don't think its particularly far-fetched.

Extending opportunities for "office hours" could seriously help bridge the remote learning gap as well. Students most often have questions when they're working on homework, which tends to be after school. I'd imagine being able to log onto a call and ask a teacher a question in the moment would be quite helpful. Implementing something this would take some creativity and possibly scheduling time outside of the normal school day.

I also believe part of the problem is trying to apply a blanket policy to all high school courses. Some subjects and courses are taught very differently than others. For example, advanced math courses like Analysis, BC, etc are almost entirely lecture based. Live-streaming and recording these courses for students to watch asynchronously would work fine. Nor would it be all that different from how the course is normally run. Obviously other courses like world languages are much more interactive and would benefit from discussion time.

Doing things differently creates logistical challenges, but I think with some planning and coordination that could be overcome. Supposedly we are the innovative and trailblazing district that is PAUSD. Maybe I've been at college for too long though.

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 14, 2020 at 9:00 am

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

@East Coast Transplant,

Hillview has its own union and district leadership.

In PAUSD, teachers blame the district. The district blames the union.

Citizens did just re-elect the board who just renewed the Superintendent. So, in the end, the citizens of Palo Alto are responsible.

Posted by East coast transplant
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 14, 2020 at 9:47 am

East coast transplant is a registered user.

@Facts and Figures
I realize Hillview has their own leadership and unions. My point was just that if it’s safe to do it there, it should be safe to do it 2 miles away. So, the bottom line is we have a union and administration who cannot agree on anything and our kids are paying the price. As a parent, this feels so incredibly selfish and unprofessional to me. It’s just mind blowing. I’m curious, Facts and Figures, how you think a different school board would change this dynamic? I was thrilled when the current board voted to open elementary schools, which was obviously the right thing to do. Why can’t they get it together now to force live-streaming and a 50:50 hybrid? And do you think a different board would do a better job convincing the union to actually do what’s best for our kids?

Posted by Dismayed
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 14, 2020 at 3:43 pm

Dismayed is a registered user.

How do we give Austin a vote of no confidence? Can we get a petition going to remove him now?

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 14, 2020 at 4:20 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

Another misleading statement from Don Austin in yesterday's Superintendent's Update:

"As we have seen in elementary schools, students in hybrid will engage in discussions, can be placed in small groups, and will not be forced to sit in front of a computer."

The Superintendent does not have control over teaching choices such as group work, discussions, and computer use. And how would students work in small groups if they can't sit within 6 feet of each other?

My hybrid students won't be doing group work or discussions, and will be working on computers. Safety is paramount.

Posted by @Teacher
a resident of another community
on Nov 14, 2020 at 7:50 pm

@Teacher is a registered user.

Your comment, "My hybrid students won't be doing group work or discussions, and will be working on computers. Safety is paramount."

Teachers across the country have found innovative ways to teach 6 feet apart, while the safety concerns are real, and teachers should speak up on that, if you do have to teach in person, I hope you open your eyes to the creative ways teachers have gone about hybrid teaching. Don't punish the kids.

Posted by Palo Verde Parent
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 14, 2020 at 11:30 pm

Palo Verde Parent is a registered user.

@east coast transplant - I may be missing something but I thought the reason the district abandoned the 50/50 hybrid model had to do with constraints from the county, including the number of students that can be on campus at one time and that students need to be in cohorts..

I think that Hybrid with live streaming may very well look a lot like distance learning except some students are actually in the classroom. New Trier (a school that people often compare to Paly/Gunn) is doing Distance Learning and Live streaming and they say in their plan that "The key principle underlying hybrid learning is that it looks more like an online class enhanced by in-person instruction rather than a traditional in person learning experience with some online components"
The reality is our classrooms are not set up for live streaming at this time. Teachers would have to zoom from their computers and then I am not sure either group would get the teachers attention. I am not saying it wouldn't work, I am saying I don't think it is as easy as just turning on the zoom camera on the computer.

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2020 at 10:19 am

Facts and Figures is a registered user.

@Palo Verde Parent,
Thanks for acknowledging you did not look up the rules. For Secondary, the County does not require cohorts. Having a 50/50 split meets the requirements.

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 15, 2020 at 12:35 pm

Clarification is a registered user.

They don't have enough staff to cover more than 40% return for hybrid, unless they dropped the in-person days to 1 day a week. This is one of the reasons they're capping the number of kids who can go hybrid. PAUSD had a sub shortage before the pandemic, so we don't have folks who can fill in for a class or two, and we've had a teacher shortage/fewer applicants for PAUSD for awhile now. Besides, I don't think students who want to return are looking for a substitute teacher-led class. The district can hope some teachers will pick up a class for 120%, but I highly doubt staff will be willing, and the few who might be wouldn't be enough to cover what they need--not because they want to punish students or the district, but because that means another hour and half of exposure.
No teacher I know is looking to punish students. Some of the projections we've seen is even with masks and ventilation, if the teacher is covid-positive and talking for most of the class, after an hour, someone else in the room will contract the virus. I cannot imagine being responsible for infecting one of my students and then possibly their family. I would feel horrible for the rest of my life.

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2020 at 12:54 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.


Streaming solves this problem.

30% of kids who really need it could start in 6-7 classes per day and create no schedule changes with no need for PAUSD+ to continue.

If classes have about 30 students now, then, there should be about 9 students per class in person (30*30%), so this would leave 5 additional spots for others who want to attend on alternate class periods streaming and in person), which would mean 30%+ more students could benefit (5+5=10) bringing to total up to 60%.

If there is a surge or quarantine, the number of students allowed to attend would drop.

Posted by East coast transplant
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 15, 2020 at 1:02 pm

East coast transplant is a registered user.

@ Facts and Figures - WILL YOU RUN FOR SCHOOL BOARD????

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 15, 2020 at 1:33 pm

Clarification is a registered user.

@facts: So we'd return to the 7 period-day schedule? I currently have 150 students, if 30% of them come back, that's 45 students day I'd be exposing. Like many of the teachers at my school, I live in a city with significantly higher rates than Palo Alto. Something to consider regarding requests for 7 period days vs. alternating block.

Live-streaming: I asked earlier but I'm not sure I received a response (but maybe someone did and I missed it!)--What do you envision for live-streaming? I'm curious because if I'm teaching in-person students, I simply cannot engage with students who are viewing from home while still providing a safe and quality education to the students who are present. I suppose if all I'm doing is pointing the camera in a place I'll mostly be if I'm lecturing (the most dangerous activity for students for a teacher to do during Covid), then I could do that, but I can't imagine that's what students would benefit most from? For full disclosure, I'm also protective of my students who will be present. If, according to the district's plan, those students are our most struggling students (PAUSD+ participants, students with special needs), they don't need to be in a fish-bowl for students who are home to watch and potentially record without my ability to monitor what's happening on the live-stream because my focus is on the in-person students or divided at best. So this leaves me with what another teacher mentioned earlier--worksheets, online content, and mostly silence. This is a real quandary to be sure--and one to consider if you're going to take your recommendations to the folks who are able to act (School Board, District office). If there's another way to do it that doesn't prevent me from doing my duty to fully supervise and educate the students "present" (in-person or digitally), then I'm not to prideful too say I'll need serious professional development to learn it.

Please read the above with the sincere tone in which it was intended. I've appreciated your engagement in this thread.

Posted by Facts and Figures
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 15, 2020 at 3:50 pm

Facts and Figures is a registered user.


If you are masked and follow guidelines, you are not exposing anyone. Live instruction is the baseline required by law. Why? Because students need it not only to learn, but also for their mental health. That's why peer interaction is required in the definition of daily live interaction for distance learning requirements.

All students who want in-person should have access. Cohorts are NOT required for Secondary in Santa Clara County. That requirement was added by PAUSD and it makes it practically impossible to schedule a full day of classes.

Re Streaming, Sharon Ofek did not provide a thorough research report explaining why live streaming couldn't work. She simply took it off the table. It is her job to bring in experts on both sides and share that with the community. She's provided nothing except opinion.

If you don't want to single out the 30%, then invite 100% back with 40% attendance allowed for everyone, so they attend class in person 4 out of every 10 days. Then this 30% group would be getting more in person than currently is planned.

The problem is inertia. We can't get better at streaming if we don't start. Your issues sound like the exact same issues we heard about distance learning last spring. Telling parents it won't work is just saying NO. If you are not willing to try streaming, then why not expand the flipped classroom model? Paly already has flipped classrooms. Record your lectures and classes can be all discussion with students at home in their own break out rooms. Let up to 50% of the students in the classroom at a time alternating for discussion, so they get in-person interaction.

Oh, and what's the plan for 2021-22. This?

So in your world, unless we get 2x the teachers, some students just get up to 39 kids in a class distance learning and some get 15 in-person? Most students change their peer group and study groups in their classes? No student is promised she keeps her teachers? Did I get all that right?

Posted by Annoyed Elementary Mouse
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Nov 15, 2020 at 5:24 pm

Annoyed Elementary Mouse is a registered user.

Hi Facts and Figures,

You make some interesting points. You may be right that streaming is a better option. You're also talking about an "ideal" world. The part that @clarification is leaving out is the poisonous environment created by 25 Churchill. If you'll remember, the plan presented on Tuesday had a lot of details "to be determined" and Sup. Don answered many questions with the response that the answer is a "site based" decision. Every unanswered question and detail creates a stressful seed of doubt in the minds of teachers. Will the "site based" solution create a situation that is not possible in my classroom? The "you figure it out" style of planning is putting an enormous strain on site admins. @clarification brings up valid pedagogical concerns, that you don't seem to address, which is fine- you're not a high school teacher and that's not your lane. Let's consider what an "ideal world" rollout of this type of technology entails. You seem to imply the teacher will turn on the camera and talk. In the real world, would a presenter of content also be the Audio/Visual tech? Of course not. So, the ideal rollout would be a dedicated person in each classroom to handle the camera, sound (oh yeah the teacher is going to need a dedicated wireless mike) and Zoom meeting. It is not cognitively possible for a person to do in person teaching, Zoom teaching AND manage the tech. Get real. Stop talking like this would be a simple rollout. We don't have the personnel, the hardware or the software sufficient to make this happen. Talk to admin about why they never considered making these purchases. Let alone the fact that in person and online teaching are two completely different pedagogies, but that's not really your lane. Streaming is not some panacea. There is not capacity in our district to make this happen.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 15, 2020 at 5:37 pm

Teacher is a registered user.

@ Facts & Figures: Yes, you got that right. The plan is awful. Getting new teachers in the middle of the year is terrible for students. Teachers didn't create this plan. Teachers and students have begged them not to move forward but they are doing it anyway. We have written letters, sent emails, signed petitions, and spoken up at Board meetings. Austin, Ofek, and the Board are pushing forward anyway.

The district isn't offering live streaming, nor is it equipped to deliver it. Education experts advise against it. Sharon Ofek is against it, probably for good reason. Either way, that decision wasn't made by the teachers. It was made by the district. I don't think it's helpful for parents to continue to demand it. Rightly or wrongly, it's clearly not going to happen.

I also agree that there could have been a better plan if the district had included the PROFESSIONAL EDUCATORS in their decision making. They did not. They have ignored us, fought against us, and dismissed us over and over again. They have misled the community and misrepresented the facts to promote their agenda. This is the most dysfunctional, combative climate I have ever worked in. I suspect Austin and Ofek will continue to try to blame the teachers and PAEA for the failures to come. Sad times.

I don't think you and I will ever agree about how safe or unsafe this plan is for students and for teachers. Either way, teacher safety has not been a priority and the recent changes to the reopening plan further increase teacher exposure. It's difficult to listen to Don Austin brag to that he has as unlimited funds to implement his plan when teachers have asked for tents for outdoor classes, new HVAC, new windows, smaller cohorts, and shorter class periods and been told there's no money for that. It's also difficult to hear that when a teacher verifies that they have a legitimate medical condition that puts them at higher risk of dying from COVID, the district suddenly has money to replace them, telling them they will have to go out on medical leave. Go figure.

Posted by The Voice of Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 15, 2020 at 11:32 pm

The Voice of Palo Alto is a registered user.

“ If you are masked and follow guidelines, you are not exposing anyone./Yes. You are correct. If there is a quarantine or closure, we have DL for all, but the hybrid kids get the benefit of a private school 1:14 ration.”

On one comment you tell Clarification who had legitimate concerns about exposing students to Covid that if they were to wear a mask and followed the guidelines they shouldn’t have any worries because you want a return to school but in a previous post you gave facts and figures about potential quarantines. Well which is it? If everyone wears a mask why would there be quarantines? Right now medical professionals are telling families to not even gather for the holidays together, yet you see no problem with Clairfiaction servicing 45 different students from 45 different families each and every day if it means the schools are open. No. You are wrong and Clairfication is correct. [Portion removed.]

“Covid-19 is not going away any time soon. We need a more robust solution.”

False. A vaccine with a potential 90% efficacy is now on its way. It’s impatient people like you who demanded all along the schools to be open because of “the law”, which again isn’t a law but instead is a Bill about funding that gives some guidance and flexibility during COVID. Everyone please read up on SB98 that this poster swears by as law. No one will be arrested. Here is the link:

Web Link

The worst thing that would happen is funding would not be given. Instead of being obsessed and putting people in danger how about we stay safe and get the teachers vaccinated and then open up?

[Portion removed.]

“@ Facts and Figures - WILL YOU RUN FOR SCHOOL BOARD????”

On one hand my reaction was “what a terrible choice that would be!” On the other hand, my 2nd reaction was, “well I guess they can’t be any worse than Todd Collins!”

[Portion removed.]

“How do we give Austin a vote of no confidence? Can we get a petition going to remove him now?”

I don’t know but yes please! Some posters felt that Don Austin was “bravely taking on the mighty teachers union” when all he is trying to do is to prove that “he found a way” and “under his great leadership PAUSD was able to reopen during a pandemic.” A lot of you fell for it. Open your eyes. I would be highly concerned about leaving the safety of my family in the hands of the person who gave “the football speech” about “choosing the hard route.” How about listening to the teachers? How about choosing the safe route? Where is the leadership?

This leads me to my final thought. I read all summer false comparisons about how teachers are like grocery store workers or like medical workers, how other countries(with way lower transmission rates) have opened schools up so we should reopen, and how everything is the teacher’s fault or is the fault of the pesky teacher’s union. I railed against everyone’s nonsense. You are welcome teachers. Well parents, the shoe is now on the other foot. There are already documented COVID cases at the elementary schools. I hope it doesn’t happen to anyone, but be prepared to quarantine or to get tested at a moments notice once those middle and high school doors open back up. We are currently all living through potentially the largest mass causality event in the history of the United States and the pandemic is currently accelerating. I hope everyone stays safe and that no one gets COVID.

Posted by Teacher 2
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 16, 2020 at 3:15 pm

Teacher 2 is a registered user.

@ The Voice: Yes, and since Austin and the Board are perfectly agreeable to Newsom's 5% COVID threshold, that means that if high schools reopen, 100- 110 teachers and students WILL get COVID before Austin closes the schools. So it's very clear to me how little we are valued by the current Board and Superintendent. Also tells me he's a risk taker and that he doesn't think COVID is a serious problem. It's going to be a long hard 3.5 years under his leadership.

Posted by Steve Raney
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 17, 2020 at 6:13 pm

Steve Raney is a registered user.

Kudos to PAUSD’s Carolyn Chow and Eric Holm for developing an in-depth understanding of COVID transmission prevention, and for clearly communicating their tactics. Public health orders are still a bit too vague and overly-focused on surface transmission.

Web Link may be one of the nation’s better such documents. Other school districts are watching PAUSD closely.

Starting with the January 24 Guangzhou restaurant case study, there is unambiguous evidence of superspreading caused by small airborne virus particles. PAUSD has a dataset of all of their classrooms and they certify that classroom HVAC is safe before allowing students in. Combined with 100% mask-wearing, their comprehensive solution should be very safe. Hopefully, we can create an international dataset that builds safety evidence, where we can begin to better define the edge of more versus less safe.

PAUSD requires roughly 3.7 virus-free outdoor air changes per hour - many classrooms change more air. Where a classroom doesn’t have sufficient airflow, they supplement with portable HEPA air purifiers. These are noisy when set to their most-effective fan level. They purchased the quietest models that are 59 decibels whereas others are higher than 70 decibels. Not all follower school districts will have access to quieter models.

Posted by Dick D.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2020 at 2:19 am

Dick D. is a registered user.

I don't want to display my ignorance by opening my mouth and proving it, but didn't the latest set of restrictions address directly the matter of opening schools not now opened? I am under the impression that our schools haven't been opened so they may not open now until who knows when.

Thus, rather than a goodly number of the teachers and many parents and some others saying DON'T open vs. some teachers and some parents and administrators and the school board saying OPEN, our Governor has said for our county, if it's not open now, keep it closed.

Now the "yes folk" and the "no folk" can get at somethings they need to do, not thrashing further on an issue taken off their hands and minds.

Posted by Laguna Beach
a resident of another community
on Nov 18, 2020 at 8:18 am

Laguna Beach is a registered user.

I worked at Laguna Beach unified school district when Don Austin was there. He is described above by many posts as vindictive, divisive, dismissive, disgraceful, inflammatory, and a crony. Let me add a few more...bully, demeaning and arrogant. He is a big man but a very small person. Palos Verdes parents and teachers described him much the same before he went to Palo Alto. Good luck.

Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 18, 2020 at 11:42 am

Teacher is a registered user.

@Dick D: Austin will still open high schools in January if he can. So if the county goes back to the red tier he will open them, and he will then keep us open even if the county moves back to purple just as he is currently doing with elementary schools. I am very relieved to not have this constant distraction from my teaching but I suspect the "fight" may resume in January. Unfortunately, the Board and Austin have now burned so many bridges between teachers and the district that I foresee a permanently damaged working relationship, which is never good for our students.

@Laguna Beach: Yes, and he hasn't changed. This is the most combative and disrespectful superintendent I have ever worked for. Some of us are thinking we might leave the district for kinder, more peaceful, less Trumpian pastures. It was devastating to watch the Board renew his contract without discussion. I'm glad you are free of him. I can only hope the community speaks up and stands up for us and gets rid of him, but that's doubtful.

Posted by Clarification
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 18, 2020 at 12:16 pm

Clarification is a registered user.

@Dick D: Schools in the district have been considered open since elementary went back with hybrid and PAUSD+ students returned along with the students in the Futures/Moderate-to-Severe programs. According to the state, the only things that can close them to in-person learners (even after we return to purple tier):
1. 5% of a school campus contracts covid.
2. After 25% of a district's school sites close, the whole district closes.
3. County/state close or a lockdown.
4. Superintendant/School board make the call.

Posted by Helen Does
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Nov 18, 2020 at 12:27 pm

Helen Does is a registered user.

Why do we keep re-electing the same disappointing people? Blowhards! Austin is a weakling, focused only on the optics for his career. Thanks, School Board. NO INCUMBENTS, EVER!

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