Screenshot From PAUSD Feb. 9 Board Meeting

PAUSD planning to open all secondary schools in March

All secondary students from seventh to 12th grade could potentially return to campuses for in-person classes by early March, Superintendent Don Austin said at the Feb. 9 school board meeting. Austin said before in-person classes for these grades can happen, Santa Clara County would need to be in the red tier for five consecutive days. 

The board did not vote on this plan because it already voted to reopen schools at its Nov. 10 meeting — a decision that both student board representatives urged the board to reconsider. 

Austin said this plan, which was discussed with the Palo Alto Educators Association, the teachers union, would require teachers to return to classrooms but still teach over Zoom. 

Austin said the plan will accommodate every seventh to 12th grade student who wants to return to campus in a way that requires no schedule or teacher changes and in-person safety measures will be put in place. 

Students do not have to choose between either online or in-person education. They would be split alphabetically into two groups and able to choose if they want to attend classes in person or online on their assigned days. 

The plan says Mondays will remain remote and synchronous for all students, and while at school, students will be socially distanced rather than in separate cohorts — which were proposed in the hybrid plan — when on campuses. 

Teachers will continue using Zoom to teach classes, and the district would leave the option of live-streaming up to individual teachers. Students who choose to attend in-person school will be able to interact face-to-face with their teachers at the end of the period during work time, as opposed to solely through Zoom during class.

Austin said the district is working on details such as purchasing headsets for students to use in classrooms, getting vaccinations for teachers and providing COVID-19 testing stations for students. 

PAEA President Teri Baldwin said teachers are counting on district administrators to keep their promises about implementing and enforcing safety guidelines.

“We’re putting the trust in the district and the community to follow the guidelines and keep everyone as safe as possible,” Baldwin said. “But we would also like to point out research and data from around the country and the world show a variety of risks with opening campuses.”