Palo Alto schools may reopen sooner than expected

Palo Alto and Gunn high schools.

This story was first published in this morning’s print edition of the Daily Post. To get all of the local news first, pick up the Post in the mornings at 1,000 Mid-Peninsula locations.

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto schools could reopen its classrooms for students in grades seven through 12 as early as March 9 — which is about a week earlier than previously expected.

It all depends on whether Santa Clara County’s Covid cases remain low and the county is able to move from the purple tier, which has the most stringent restrictions, to the red tier by next Wednesday.

This would be an earlier return than the district expected for its upper grades. The district has offered in-person learning two to three days a week for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade students since October. The district’s sixth graders return on Monday.

The teachers union previously told the district they want all teachers vaccinated before the upper grades return
to school, but they have begrudgingly agreed to return to school nonetheless.

And compared to other districts, such as in San Francisco — where the city is suing the school district to reopen classrooms — Palo Alto schools and teachers are on a faster track to reopening on a larger scale than most surrounding districts in the Bay Area. Notably, San Francisco’s teachers union is refusing to return teachers to work until they have all been vaccinated.

Austin said such a vaccination plan is up to the county, and the district has “done our part on that.”

Sports to resume

And while Santa Clara County announced that it would obey the state’s health order and allow high school sports to resume, Austin said other activities such as band, orchestra and choir are still prohibited until further restrictions are lifted.

Yesterday, the county reported a seven-day average of 274 Covid cases. The county reported a a seven-day average of over 1,200 last month. This indicates a massive drop in transmission of the virus leading to a quickly approaching return to lower restrictions on residents and businesses.

Austin said the district will stay with these plans as long as the county continues to maintain a Covid transmission rate of less than seven people per 100,000. The only thing that would change that would be if the county’s cases jump up too high to return to the red tier as planned.

Testing for Covid

The district is still figuring out its official plans to get students, faculty and employees regularly tested — specifically focusing on how frequently they will require tests — and the public will receive a more in-depth update on testing plans by its next March 9 board meeting, Austin said.

“We want to make sure that we fully understand the expectations of school staff in the distribution and receiving of the tests,” Austin said. “We just want to make sure that we don’t over-commit.”


  1. Wow, I guess objective news reporting is a thing of the past. I take issue with your use of the word “begrudgingly” to describe the sentiments of teachers being forced back into the classroom without vaccines, could you be any more transparent in displaying your bias on this issue in choosing such an in accurate and disrespectful adjective? Teachers are not going back to the classrooms begrudgingly, they are going back with fear and consternation at how little regard there is for their safety and protecting their lives. Good luck finding high quality teachers who will want to work in PAUSD in the future, we now know our real standing in the community.

  2. Let me guess. Sally’s a teacher, right? The teachers have been keeping our schools closed long after “the science” said that the risk of Covid transmission in a school was infinitesimally small. Teachers told us over and over that they couldn’t venture into a school, yet they ventured into supermarkets, where the risk of transmission was far higher. The word “begrudgingly” is opinionated but spot on. In my opinion, when the teachers refused to return to work, we should have fired them and replaced them. Their real standing in the community is that they didn’t do their jobs and our kids are suffering because of it. And you know what, I’ll never vote for a bond measure or school parcel tax ever again. When we needed the teachers, they weren’t there.

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