Uncertainty is everywhere these days. There’s a good chance that the last YouTube advertisement you watched began with “In these uncertain times … ” But for many Paly students, the only thing more frustrating than an unskippable ExxonMobil ad about pioneering climate change solutions is the uncertainty of when will campus reopen, and more importantly, how it will be done.
According to a memorandum of understanding between the Palo Alto Educators Association and district administrators, PAUSD secondary schools, including Paly, can reopen classroom doors as early as Monday, Oct. 12, as long as Santa Clara County has been in the state’s Red Tier (Tier 2) for at least 14 days in row by that date.
With the potential reopening of schools just weeks away, it’s notable that little to no information has been passed from the school or district along to students.
The Campanile understands the unpredictable nature of the novel coronavirus and its infection rate: a surge in Santa Clara County cases could place the county back in the state’s Purple Tier (Tier 1) and reset the clock for when campus could hypothetically open. But with so many students counting the days until they can be reunited with their peers, The Campanile thinks the reopening process should be clearly explained to the student body so that no one is left in the dark on how the decision will be made.
One way to effectively communicate this information would be to devote an Advisory period to explaining the reopening procedure and answering questions students have about returning to Paly. If this would interfere with the advisory schedule, an alternative could be for school administrators to host a Q&A session during tutorial for students to attend after school. The reality is that many students (and their families) remain concerned about their safety and want to know what precautions the district will take in the event classes return in-person before the end of the semester.
Because of this, the district should be transparent not only about the decision-making process, but also about whether or not any confirmed cases of COVID were traced back to students or staff in the final days of spring semester last year.
The district should accurately present the risks of in-person learning to students and parents so that families can make informed decisions. During the fourth quarter last year, rumors led to speculation that multiple PAUSD students had been in contact with people who tested positive for COVID, and it was impossible not to notice that parents had begun to keep students home despite assurance of meeting County safety guidelines.
The confusion surrounding the conclusion of last semester should not be allowed to occur again. Students want to know who within the district or county are making the final decision to return or not, and on what criteria this decision will be based; others will want to know how they can have their voices heard during the process.
It’s likely that in-person classes may not start until January. But this should not be an excuse to postpone explaining the return-to-campus process to students in an honest and transparent manner — one that rules out uncertainty while staying pragmatic.