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Superintendent's Update - September 17, 2021

The Board of Education calendar is tentative and subject to change prior to official posting. The calendar can be found HERE.

I had the opportunity to meet with several of my colleagues from counties affected directly by wildfires. The last few hours have been important and impactful when listening to their stories. Some of the districts remained open with air quality index ratings over 1,200. Every district in the area remained open for students with numbers in excess of 500. While this is certainly not ideal, it showed that the investment in ventilation allows schools to stay open in conditions that would once have seemed impossible.

This was also a reminder that while the air quality in Palo Alto is important, we should not lose sight of the fact that other communities lost homes, closed schools, and had tremendous loss. There is a difference between smelling the smoke, and losing your structures in the actual fire. These leaders made it clear that they will come out of this strong on the other side, despite it being a very challenging time for their communities. We are fortunate in many respects, and should not lose sight of that as a community. As we consider service to others, I would suggest that we think about how we can help communities affected by these terrible wildfires.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought tremendous transformation and challenges to school nutrition programs. Last month alone, we served over 60,000 meals to PAUSD students, an all-time high. While the pandemic highlights how much we can accomplish under periods of great stress, accommodating both free meals for all students who are in-person and distance learning, it also reveals supply chain challenges related to instability for food and paper products.

PAUSD Food Services is experiencing ongoing supply chain and labor shortage issues impacting numerous other industries. As with school districts throughout the state, our District is facing food product shipping delays, as well as receiving off-schedule weekend deliveries. We are doing all we can to minimize impact and maintain the level of service parents and students are accustomed to. However, these circumstances greatly affect product availability, which in turn affect our planned menus. Each day we provide multiple entrée options for students throughout the different grade levels. We do our best to provide students with the entrée option of their choice. However, due to supply interruptions, there may be instances when we run short of their first, or maybe even their second, meal choice.

While we cannot predict when these circumstances will change, we can assure you that your student will be provided with a nutritious meal that meets the National School Lunch Meal Program requirement. No student will go without a meal if they desire one.

We thank you for your ongoing flexibility and continued patience as we navigate these challenges and find unique solutions during these unprecedented times.

The PAUSD has partnered with Learning Ally, an online platform that provides human-read audio textbooks and literature titles to eligible students. As we fulfill our promise to create inclusive access to grade-level text, this tool which was rolled out in spring 2021 at the secondary level, is now available for eligible 3rd through 5th grade students.

The elementary reading specialists, who were recently trained in the program, will support classroom teachers in assigning books to readers. Students will listen to grade-level books while reading the text online using a highlighting feature to see the phrasing. The student can control the voice speed (making it read faster or slower) to support their visual tracking and comprehension. During book clubs, students can use an online feature to track their ideas, jots, and vocabulary terms that they are learning. Students may prefer to listen to the audio online while reading the actual book or text. At their meeting on Monday, Reading Specialists shared ways to share this technology with classroom teachers to begin connecting students with this new tool.

This year marks the 9th anniversary of PAUSD's Districtwide participation in Unity Day. While this event has typically been associated primarily with Bullying Prevention, its broader goal is to accomplish that by promoting kindness, acceptance, and inclusion. We continue to partner with PTAC, site PTSAs, and CAC to make this day an impactful event for students. Unity Day is scheduled for Wednesday, October 20, and additional information about school specific activities will be shared in the upcoming weeks.

There will be no school on Friday, October 1, as PAUSD will be hosting a Professional Development day for staff.