360 parents respond to PAUSD’s call to volunteer to keep schools open

A frame grab from the video Palo Alto school Superintendent Don Austin sent out to parents asking for their help to keep schools open.

Most school districts are discouraging parents from coming to school during the omicron surge to prevent schools from closing. Palo Alto Unified Superintendent Don Austin sent out an all-points bulletin, pleading with them to volunteer in schools to keep them open.

“We need your help to volunteer as never before,” he said in a video that was emailed to parents with a form they could fill out that would be sent to their children’s principals. “If you are able, please answer.”

The email went out Sunday at 9 p.m. By 9 a.m. Monday, 360 parents responded, Austin said. Jobs include support for Covid testing, signing in students at lunch, recess duty, light custodial duties, work in the office preparing materials and classroom support.

“The jobs won’t be glamorous, Austin said. “Many of the essential jobs we perform every day for your kids aren’t glamorous.”

As in other districts, Palo Alto has been hit hard with teacher and staff shortages. Austin pledged to keep the schools open unless authorities force the district to shut down. That’s unlikely in Santa Clara County. Dr. Sara Cody, the county public health officer, and Mary Ann Dewan, Santa Clara County superintendent of schools, sent a notice to superintendents Friday urging them not to close during the surge and switch to remote learning.

“We’ve learned that in-person education is what (students) need, and remote learning doesn’t support their mental health, emotional health and academic well-being nearly the way that in-person learning does,” Cody said.

Under the strict rules that the Legislature imposed in this year’s state budget, districts that close schools due to Covid must document that they consulted with county officials before seeking reimbursement from the California Department of Education.

With parents’ help, “we’re going to tell (students) they don’t have to worry about closing for staff shortages,” Austin said in the video. —By John Fensterwald of EdSource, a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization focusing on education.


  1. Hopefully the parents don’t pass Omicron to the kids or visa versa. The reason why it spreads so fast is that it is most contagious a few days before the carrier realizes they have it.

    • Haven’t you learned anything the past two years? This virus rarely spreads between kids and adults, and when it does, it’s a low dose (from child to adult) and harmless (from adult to child). The best type of spread is the low dose type from child to adult – all the more reason shutting down schools was completely idiotic.

  2. The story doesn’t really say why the staff isn’t working. Are they sick or is this an attempt b the teachers union to force the district to go to remote learning so they don’t have to go to work anymore?

    • Parents of high school students are mostly in their 40s and 50s, a very low crime group. Background checks are overrated and like face masks, false sense of security. 9 of 10 convicted pedophiles had no priors, for example.

  3. What a pathetic situation. All they had to was go online for the first few weeks after the holidays and the come back after the surge. Instead administrators order everyone back, while the WFH or hide in their offices (and make 250k/year). Teachers, students and parents have to take the risks.

  4. You assume it’s easy to simply disrupt schedules for all school kids and their families, and if I recall from March 2020: Just 15 days to slow the spread has turned into 650 days, get the vaccine or lose your job, and show your papers to enter public places. Risks? The variant is like a common cold.

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