Attending Palo Alto High School from the hilly greenland of Bozeman, Mont. would have been impossible a year ago, but for junior Christian Bevan, it’s now a reality.
With school in full distance-learning mode due to the Covid-19 pandemic, students need only a laptop, stable internet and a quiet place to work in order to attend classes.
Because of this newfound freedom, students like Bevan have been attending school remotely from other states or countries; they can travel the world and still stay connected. Bevan’s family moved to their uncle’s place for a little less than four weeks during the months of September and October.
“I think (the transition has) been pretty nice. It’s An hour later, so school starts an hour later,” Bevan said. “I’ve just brought my laptop and a couple notebooks, and 95% of my work has been on the computer, so it’s been pretty easy.”
Though there’s no way to know for certain how many families are traveling and attending PAUSD virtually, it’s clear many families are taking advantage of the ability to leave their home base during distance learning.
Freshman Leah Mershon stayed in Austin, Tex. from September 16-20, to visit some friends. But because she didn’t want to miss class, she attended her last two classes at the airport.
It was really awkward, and the wifi wasn’t great there,” she said. “It was pretty empty there, so we found a quiet space to do it.”
Mershon and Bevan both say they like the flexibility of being able to travel and learn at the same time.“It’s not too difficult to get your work done even when you’re traveling,” Mershon said.
“Doing the actual work, so far, has been not much different from home, but doing all the work online has definitely been one of the benefits of corona,” Bevan said.
However, factors such as added distractions and connectivity issues can restrict the ability of students to fully enjoy the learning outside-of-home experience.
“There were definitely more distractions just because I’m so used to being here on vacation, that I don’t always want to do schoolwork when I’m here,” Bevan said. “I want to hang out with friends and family when I’m here, and there were times when I forgot my books at home.”
“Well, we did have four people using the same wifi on Zoom all this time, and another downside is that if we needed to print something, we couldn’t,” Mershon said.
Students and families may be hesitant to admit to traveling during quarantine, for fear they may appear to not be taking shelter-in-place recommendations seriously.
Erin Mershon, Leah mom said,“Kids — and mostly parents — don’t want to seem like they aren’t being careful.”
PAUSD residency requirements may provide another reason not to admit to travelling during the school year. Residency requirements say a student has to be residing in Palo Alto to attend PAUSD schools..
PTA Secretary Simon Firth,, who compiled an FAQ for PAUSD’s distance learning, said he wasn’t able to get a direct answer from Paly admin about whether traveling out of Palo Alto’s residence zone causes a student to be ineligible to attend PAUSD. Instead, he said he was directed to contact the district office. Barbara Best, the registration supervisor gave her view on students traveling, may affect the PAUSD residency requirements.
“I’m still curious to know if checking in from a remote location renders a student’s PAUSD registration void,” Firth said.
“Enrollment with PAUSD can be maintained as long as the
The family’s primary residence continues to be within the district boundaries (PAUSD, or Ravenswood City School District for Tinsley/VTP students). If a family no longer owns or leases a home within those boundaries, the student can no longer attend PAUSD schools. Or, if the family continues to own or lease a home within those boundaries but leases or sub-leases the home to others during their absence, the home is no longer their primary residence and the student can no longer attend PAUSD schools. This is a California law that applies to all public school districts” Best said.
Mershon, however, doesn’t appear to be worried about this factor.