Grades 7-12 could return to school in March

Palo Alto and Gunn high schools.

This was first published in the Saturday, Feb. 6, print edition of the Daily Post. To get all of the local news first, pick up the Daily Post in the mornings at 1,000 Mid-Peninsula locations.

Daily Post Staff Writer

The Palo Alto school district could reopen schools for students in grades seven through 12 as early as next month, Superintendent Don Austin said yesterday (Feb. 5).

These students have been participating in distance learning on home computers since March.

The re-opening will depend on whether the number of new Covid cases remains low, Austin said.

In October, the district partially opened pre-kindergarten through 5th grade classes to some 2,100 pupils. Some weeks, kids go to school three days a week. Other weeks, two days. On the days they’re not in the classroom, they’re participating online.

Palo Alto is one of only two public school systems in Santa Clara County to provide any in-person learning. The other is Los Altos elementary. Now other districts are looking to follow Palo Alto’s lead in reopening.

The county is currently in the purple tier of Covid regulations, the most restrictive level in the system set up by Gov. Gavin Newsom and enforced by the county Department of Health.

If the county moved into the red tier, the second-most restrictive level, that will open the door to in-person instruction in more grades.

“Our progress toward moving to the red tier went much faster than anyone expected,” Austin said. “So we think there will be a path there early enough that it would make sense to return.”

He said if the county maintains a transmission rate of about 25 cases of Covid per 100,000 people, then “a move and a shift to the red tier looks imminent.”

Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is in favor of opening the schools. In an interview with ABC News on Nov. 29, Fauci said the nation should “close the bars and keep the schools open.”

“The default position should be to try as best as possible within reason to keep the children in school, or to get them back to school,” Fauci said.

In Palo Alto, there hasn’t been any contact-traced student-to-adult, adult-to- student or student-to-student cases of Covid since the elementary schools reopened, not including possible instances of a sibling giving it to another sibling, Austin said in late January. He said there have been very few cases of adults giving it to other adults in the school system.

“Personally I believe students should be in school and we’ve proven that we can do it safely,” Austin said.


  1. Science has shown that schools can be opened safely and SHOULD be opened for all grades. Those students who want to stay home or who have to stay home will have that option. Those students who want to attend school in-person should have that option too.

  2. Absolutely not sending my child back until the pandemic is under complete control and the majority are vaccinated. We have high risk individuals in this household and we will not risk it after being so careful for the last year. Absolutely not.

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