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Superintendent's Update - August 7, 2020

BOARD OF EDUCATION AGENDA

The agenda for August 11 includes four significant topics:

  • Introduction of Paly Principal, Brent Kline, and Gunn Principal, Wendy Stratton
  • PAUSD+ scope, purpose, and delivery models
  • Report of elementary distance-only composition and mechanics
  • Special education distance learning program features

PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS OF DECISIONS

Since our Friday updates are now pushed out to a larger audience, I wanted to take a minute to outline some of the challenges and possible solutions ahead.

Among many things we have learned is that every decision seems to lead to a new set of challenges and complexities. The combination of public outcry in the spring for more synchronous instruction and government requirements for the same appeared in alignment. Almost immediately, we received pleas to reduce screen time and limit synchronous instruction. Like many things right now, it is not possible to give everyone what they want. We do believe in this area our teachers will use feedback to adjust as necessary and realistically throughout the year.

We were also advised that requiring a year-long commitment for distance learning or opting for a hybrid option when we eventually return to the classroom felt heavy handed and would create anxiety. Taking that feedback, we allowed families to commit now or delay a decision. We believe that course of action is a fit for Palo Alto. Again, every decision creates another layer of issues. In this case, pulling 5% of our students for distance learning created odd numbers of students in our schools. Since our schools are small by design, they are also more sensitive to fluctuations. We are working through staffing decisions at this time with the goal of creating the most predictable and stable experience possible given our circumstances.

ELEMENTARY / SECONDARY FAMILY WEBINARS

Thank you to PTAC for hosting live / recorded webinars for families earlier this week. Every site principal served on our panels along with many Cabinet members. Questions were submitted by our families. Both webinars are posted to YouTube and can be accessed below:

AUGUST 12 "CHOW DOWN" PAUSD KICK-OFF WITH COMMUNITY

The "opening" of schools will feel different this year. Not everything different is bad and we think our traditional "Chow Down" opening is an opportunity to let all of Palo Alto get a feel for our mission. We are inviting all of PAUSD and the entire community to join us online on Wednesday, August 12, at 9:00 a.m. for our District kick-off event. Our keynote address is appropriate and timely for all ages and for anyone needing a positive shot in the arm. We are launching with optimism and a "can do" mindset. This is NOT a "nuts and bolts" meeting and we will not spend a minute on regulations or agreements. That work will take place at the site levels. This is the launch day for an unprecedented start. Don't miss it!

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DISTANCE LEARNING COMMITMENTS

Roughly 5% of our elementary families have committed to a full year of distance learning. The relatively low percentage of requests may be the result of PAUSD allowing multiple decision points throughout the year. Many school districts required commitments to either distance or hybrid options prior to the start of school and covering an entire year.

DISTANCE LEARNING POINT OF CONTACT AND NOTIFICATION

Nicole Manou will be the point person for the distance-only program. Nicole is a veteran PAUSD educator with experience on all of our elementary campuses through her role as a Teacher on Special Assignment. She has communicated with each of the families and confirmed their enrollment in the program. Students will be listed as Greendell students for the year due to our need to track their progress separately. They will return to their home schools in 2021-22.

Sincerely,

Don Austin
Superintendent of Schools
@DonAustin_PAUSD

Best school closure information found at https://www.pausd.org/school-closure