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Superintendent's Message - Elementary School A/B Schedule

The Palo Alto Unified staff has worked to create an elementary school schedule for the fall that aligns with the county health guidelines, while still providing a high quality education. The schedule proposes that the students are in one of two cohorts, A and B. Kindergarten students have to have 180 minutes a day of instruction, grades 1-3 have to have 230 minutes, and grades 4 and 5 have to have 240 minutes. Based on that, a schedule was developed where the elementary school students will come to school 2-3 days per week, and on the days that they are not in school they will be doing at home learning. Students at home will be provided with asynchronous instruction lessons. All students will connect with their teachers every day so that those who are at home have some type of instruction in the afternoon over zoom.

Assistant Superintendent, Education Services-Elementary, Anne Brown, states that after a few versions of the schedule, this is the best option because, "it is really important to keep the connection with students. We would love to have everyone back but it doesn't seem possible." Previous versions of the schedule included all students returning, however this raised concerns about the health and safety of the students and teachers. The main concern is to maximize instructional time while minimizing the potential spread of the virus.

Having students return to school, at least partially, is to return to some form of normalcy. Parent and fifth grade teacher Jen Aza Alan also highlighted this and said that because the A/B schedule allows for smaller class sizes, "which is extremely valuable not only in everyday transition but the students can connect in a more normal way." Even so, the fall will look different than previous schedules. The school day will be shorter in terms of minutes on campus in order to allow for teachers to connect with the students at home. Students will receive a 20- minute recess as well as a 45-minute lunch to eat and play. To maintain the highest level of safety, students will remain in their own cohort. Additionally, there will be fewer students to interact with in the classroom and on the playground; throughout the day they will have to remain in their designated zones to limit the amount of interaction.

This is undoubtedly a difficult transition for students to make. In order to support them, Principal Danae Reynolds hopes to do "some type of video as a staff to say hi and talk about the expectations so that students and parents are prepared." This would also include introducing students to their teacher both with and without masks on, which would hopefully provide some comfort. Similarly, tying in previous discussions and hygiene and safety teachers had with students before quarantine will be helpful for the students. We know for sure that "we need to increase our focus on the social emotional needs of the students after COVID-19, especially our most marginalized," according to Anne Brown. In order to make sure these needs are met, there will be a psychologist four days a week. The key to supporting students will rely on practice, explanation, and patience.