Board to vote on plans to reopen school, kids will wear masks

Daily Post Staff Writer

Palo Alto’s school board is scheduled on Tuesday to give final approval to the district’s plans to reopen as the coronavirus wanes.

The  plan is to have kids in kindergarten and first-grade come back Oct. 12, second- and third-graders return on Oct. 26 and fourth- and fifth-graders come back Nov. 9. Middle and high schoolers won’t return until next semester.

Parents can choose to keep their kids at home if they want.

Parents of kindergarteners and first graders were supposed to declare by today (Sept. 28) whether their kids will return to school. Superintendent Don Austin said 40% of families for the district’s 1,238 students in kindergarten and first-grade had responded as of this afternoon. Of those families, 70% said they want their want kids to return to campus.

Under the current plan, kindergarteners will come to school every day, but half the kids will only come in the morning while the other half only comes in the afternoon.

Older elementary students will be broken up so half the kids come Monday and Tuesday while the other half come Thursday and Friday. Everyone will attend class on Zoom on Wednesday.

Classes such as music, PE and art, which are normally taught to kids in different classes by one teacher, will take place over Zoom on days kids are at home. Only kindergarteners will get these classes in person.

Kids will have two or three live classes on two of the days they are at home. Other classes will be asynchronous, meaning kids learn the material on their own.

Assistant Superintendent Anne Brown said at last week’s board meeting that all students will have to wear masks on campus.

She said recess and lunchtimes will be staggered for elementary school kids. The principals of each school will designate entrance and entry points for each classroom to try and prevent large groups. Parents won’t be allowed on campus and will have to stay in their cars during drop-off.

Assistant Superintendent Yolanda Conway said the district is looking into getting routine COVID testing for teachers but doesn’t have a final plan yet.

The district has met resistance from teachers who say they feel unsafe coming back to work.

Teri Baldwin, president of the teachers union, said at last week’s school board meeting that a union poll found that 83% of elementary school teachers feel unsafe coming back. Baldwin said she is concerned about smoky air days when it will be unsafe for classroom windows to be open which will reduce airflow.

Parents also have concerns about the plan.

Stephanie Tully, who has a first-grader, said last spring was a disaster because asynchronous learning doesn’t work for little kids. She said the fall has been better because the district is using synchronous learning. Tully said she is concerned that if kids go back to school they will have to do asynchronous learning at home, which she said will be especially bad for kids who don’t have parents to help them.

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