BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
School is unlikely to return next fall as normal, Palo Alto Superintendent Don Austin said yesterday during a Webinar.
He said district officials started brainstorming with principals yesterday about what re-opening the schools might look like in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and the social distancing restrictions that followed.
The district might use a blend of in-person and online learning. Austin said the quality of a student’s education would be reduced if the district operated entirely online next fall.
The county has proposed coming back with social distancing and Gov. Gavin Newsom has suggested only having 12 kids in a classroom, but Austin said it will be hard to implement those requirements.
Austin said it might be possible to maintain space between fourth and fifth graders, but it will be harder for younger kids.
Telling 5-year-olds that they can’t get near their friends or share balls or touch things would be “craziness,” said Austin.
He said thinking that there are simple solutions for the resuming school demonstrates a lack of understanding of the challenges schools face.
The district is trying to figure out how to bring back performing arts and sports.
“Those are the things that we are working on right now, trying to say how can we open a school district back up that resembles anything we love about a school district,” Austin said.
Austin said the district also has to go through a bargaining process with its unions on any changes.
Trying to get more space to spread students out is one route the district is considering.
Austin said schools might try to convert more space into classrooms. He said the district is also interested in getting the former Ventura Elementary School at 3990 Ventura Court back from the city and using more space at the Cubberley Community Center at 4000 Middlefield Road.
The city rents 27 acres at Cubberley from the district and sublets it to a number of nonprofits. The city is considering ending the Cubberley lease. Austin said he thinks that is unlikely to happen but if it did the district would lose $5.4 million a year.