In the face of hundreds of Omicron variant infections, the district has made commendable efforts to keep in-person school running. Programs such as 1 Palo Alto and the dedication of community volunteers and staff members have continued to foster a safe learning environment for students.
But even as Omicron cases begin to decline, The Campanile urges PAUSD and state leaders to consider implementing other safety measures as well, including opening Cubberley Community Center’s testing services to parent volunteers and providing more flexible learning options for both teachers and students.
Though the decision to restrict Cubberley’s COVID-19 testing services to PAUSD students and staff was effective in reducing wait times, it’s unreasonable to initiate 1 Palo Alto while not offering those testing services to the very parent volunteers the program depends on.
Doing so would make testing and consequently volunteering more convenient for the parents helping to keep schools open and would have a marginal effect on wait times.
Volunteers should be able to get tested during school hours, and the decision to extend the clinic’s hours to 6 p.m. provides ample time for most students and staff to use the Center’s resources after school.
Family members of PAUSD staff can access the Cubberly clinic’s testing services, and it’s necessary that volunteers who directly visit school campuses are provided the same opportunity in order to create a safe environment for students, staff and volunteers.
Students would also greatly benefit from more flexibility in these turbulent times, both in terms of their learning environment and class curriculum.
Despite widespread staff shortages and student absences, both the California Public Health Department and Santa Clara County leaders have prevented schools from shutting down and substituting in-person learning with online classes.
After 150 of its 365 staff members either contracted or were possibly exposed to COVID-19, the Hayward Unified School District’s decision to switch to virtual learning could cost them $2.5 million in funding per day, according to ABC7 News.
Considering these kinds of severe situations, California should allow more flexibility for schools to deal with their situations individually and make the mandate for schools to stay in-person a suggestion, not a requirement.
Though online learning has proved detrimental to students’ mental health and incomparable to in-person learning, schools should still be given the authority to use their own judgement to determine whether or not to return to online learning. Each district has unique needs and circumstances, and a statewide mandate prevents schools from quickly responding to emergencies accordingly.
Of course, PAUSD can still support its students in these ever-changing circumstances by providing online lesson plans and academic flexibility.
With COVID-19 frequently taking students out for five to 10 days at a time, it has become more important than ever to provide ways for them to keep up outside of school and transition smoothly once they return. Whether it be by providing Zoom links for students to join classes from home, adapting assignments and lesson plans to be more online-friendly or offering flexible deadlines, The Campanile appreciates teachers who have already taken measures to accommodate quarantined students and encourages those who haven’t to begin doing so.
Superintendent Don Austin recently told The Campanile, “We can’t be everything for everyone, but we’re trying our best,” and the district’s efforts deserve praise.
But by allowing community volunteers to be tested at Cubberley and establishing a more flexible academic environment for students and teachers, PAUSD still might not be everything for everyone, but it can make the lives of a lot of people easier and safer.