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Wednesday Update from Superintendent

Dear PAUSD Families,

As promised, I am sending some information about school operations and the Covid Omicron variant. Slightly over 500 PAUSD staff members and their families tested on Monday. Additionally, many community members and students tested at our Cubberley testing site on the same day, enduring lines that reached three hours. Take home tests were distributed to elementary students on Tuesday and secondary students received their tests today. Site testing remains in place on designated days and Cubberley operates for the entire community Monday - Friday. Our Covid dashboard is updated each Tuesday, restarting next week with reported cases by site.

The quarantine rules have changed for staff members effective today. Staff members testing positive may return on the sixth day if they have no symptoms and a negative test on the fifth day. This change is consistent with the CDC guidelines and has been approved by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.

Contact tracing was an important part of our work during the first stages of Covid, including our transition to the Delta variant. With more severe symptoms and low numbers, the tracing helped us to notify people of potential contacts. It was never a comprehensive tracing, and did not take into account the numerous interactions staff and students have beyond the school day.

Omicron is obviously different. It is infecting people across the country, state, and region regardless of vaccination status, although vaccinated individuals are reporting milder symptoms. School districts of our size may have weekly case counts in the hundreds for the short term. After calibrating with surrounding school districts and informing the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, PAUSD will suspend contact letters. Instead, we are asking staff, students, and families to operate as if they have daily exposure in their lives. With numbers at this level, families would receive contact letters every day without adding value and predictably creating confusion.

Practically speaking, nothing changes. Students with symptoms need to stay home and test. Additionally, we strongly encourage all staff and students to test with us weekly. It's fast and free. If there is a positive case within your family, please have all members tested and quarantine. Most importantly, communicate with your site principal if you have questions or a positive case.

Athletics are a challenge right now. We expect updated guidance soon. In the short term, teams are likely to be impacted and games may be canceled. Our principals and athletic directors are working with coaches to navigate the month of January. Coaches will communicate directly with families if there are positive cases.

Personally, it wasn't long ago when I only knew a couple people who had experienced Covid in any form. That isn't true now. Most models are projecting a peak at some point this month. Others have an extended projection. We are already reading about new variants in other countries. Scientists are telling us that each variant is weaker than the one before. This seems to be the case with Omicron. I am not a scientist or doctor, but I do meet with a team of them every Tuesday. Health care professionals in positions of authority currently support schools remaining open as long as staffing permits.

Indoor event spectators will be limited to household family members of the participants. This includes athletics and performing arts. Events that can be postponed will be moved to February or beyond. Our primary goal for January is to remain open for the core mission of educating our students.

As your superintendent, I fully understand that some messages will land better than others. There are opinions on each side of every decision. My commitment to everyone is to communicate as clearly, honestly, and definitely as possible. If conditions change or plans are revised, we will communicate that as soon as possible.

Sincerely,
Don Austin
Superintendent of Schools
"Ambassadors of Hope"