Last Updated: March 22, 2020

Under the guidance of the Santa Clara Public Health Department and Santa Clara County Office of Education, public schools in Santa Clara County are closed. All of our school offices and district offices will be closed to the public beginning Tuesday, March 17. For communication with school and district employees, please email specific staff directly. Below are some additional answers to questions that have arisen in the past few days.

What Should I Expect?

What's my role as a parent/caregiver?

Should I be actively teaching my child?

Every parent has a different level of desire and ability to work with their children academically. We suggest reassuring your kids that people care about them and that their teachers are doing the best they can during an unprecedented closure. If parents can help, it would be appreciated. Learning some life-skills during the closure is also important. It's never too early to discuss budgeting, how to change a tire, how to hang a picture frame, the art of handwriting a letter, or a million other things that people need to know.

Should I make sure my child does their assignments?

To the extent that any parent has the power to make our kids do anything, we would hope that our parents would encourage kids to take school and provided flexible learning options relatively seriously.

Should I monitor my child's time?

We are typically cautious about providing parenting advice. It's important that we all adhere to the shelter in place order to avoid contributing to the spread of COVID-19. The more structured time is for students, the less likely they will be to engage in behaviors counter to the order.

How are you supporting groups with different needs?

IEP / 504

The entire nation will struggle with how to best support students with IEP or 504 plans. Our team has been working on this topic for some time now. It's premature to share the status, but please know it is a top priority for the staff at PAUSD. Non-public schools are created to serve students with significant needs. For context, they have closed. More information on this topic will be available next week.

Students who need internet access

PAUSD is assisting families requiring service. This assistance is not provided for families traveling during the shelter in place order. To date, PAUSD has solved each reported issue. 

Students who need a place to work from

With the shelter in place order in effect, PAUSD cannot provide space for students to work.

What are the phases/timelines?

Under the guidance of the Santa Clara Public Health Department and Santa Clara County Office of Education, public schools in Santa Clara County are closed through May 1.

Governor Newsom has signaled in his press conferences this week that it is unlikely that schools will resume on April 13, but has not given a new estimated reopening date. Given the uncertain nature and time, Palo Alto Unified Staff has approached the closures in three phases.

Phase 1: Introduction to Flexible Learning Options

This phase has concluded with the end of the first week of school closures, March 13 - 20. The intent was to provide a baseline set of common study guides for elementary students as well as options to continue learning content for secondary students. 

In addition, this phase allowed time for transition, as neither students nor staff had experienced an extended school closure like the one currently underway. Meal delivery, internet and device access, reconfiguration of home workspaces, content organization/distribution, and daily staff communication protocols needed to be set up or reconfigured from the normal operating procedures.

It is important to note that all activities were optional in this phase. No activities or recommendations were intended to replicate or replace classroom instruction.

Phase 2: Enhanced Flexible Learning Options

The second phase of the plan occurs between March 23-April 3. All activities in this phase are still optional, and not intended to replicate or replace classroom instruction. As both students and teachers adjust to new learning environments, technology, and commitments within the home, students and parents can expect additional resources to be provided for elementary students, while secondary students may see an increase in time expectations per course, per week.

Phase 3: Extended closure learning

Home educational options will further be enhanced beginning April 13. Assignments and grading are reevaluated. These plans will build upon the learnings of the first three weeks of this new model and will leverage the best asset of PAUSD: High Quality Teachers. The traditional educational model of Palo Alto Schools is decentralized, one that allows and encourages autonomy of our faculty, while maintaining a goal of high achievement for all students. Because of this autonomy, each classroom and course looks slightly different in our schools today, we can expect a similar rich diversity of resources in the extended closure learning model. Phase III is under development and will be communicated in greater detail as we approach Spring Break.

Will there be a webinar or other way to understand this?

Will parents get to ask questions

Our team is working on ways to take more questions. We are currently consumed with ensuring our staff is up to speed and able to provide the best experience possible.


Will there be lectures or other group instruction?

For some classes or for all?

Students may have some small or whole group instruction prior to Spring Break.  It is very likely that they will have group opportunities beginning April 13.

Is it up to the teacher how it is delivered?  Who decides?

Teachers decide how to deliver instruction, just like they do during typical days. Their decisions will be made through a variety of factors. Their capacity to deliver instruction online at this time, content area, and duration of our closure will all matter.

How do I/my student find what's being provided?

Teachers will post their work using existing platforms.

Will there be regular contact between my student and their teacher(s)?

How often?

At a minimum, teachers will begin routine contact with students starting in week two of our closures.  All teachers will have office hours.  The type and duration of contact will vary by age and content area.

By what means?

Teachers will use a variety of means to communicate with students, including (but not limited to) Zoom, Schoology, Google Docs, phone, and email.

How can my student schedule an appointment or ask questions?

Each teacher will have established and posted office hours.  They can email or use other mechanisms posted by the teacher.

What if the teacher does not respond or is not available?

If you are not getting a response or if appointments are not met after a reasonable amount of time, please contact your site principal.

Is my student expected to teach themselves from the textbook or other resources?

Without classes or homework, how are they expected to learn the material?

Every school district is going to struggle with this topic. PAUSD is working tirelessly to put programs in place to help our students learn. This is an area requiring some space for teachers to discover and share best practices. Students should expect a significant evolution of the instructional program after Spring Break.

Why is the time expectation reduced?

Are learning expectations also reduced?

The time and learning expectations are greatly reduced in the first week and will grow with each following week.  Families need time to get situated and PAUSD did not want to promise more than can be guaranteed in the early stages.  Already, other school districts are discovering the downsides of overpromising.  We are expanding at a rate that the staff and students can handle.

Will my student get homework assigned?

If how, does it need to be turned in?

Distance learning is, by definition, homework.  Teachers will share methods for submitting work if the closures extend beyond Spring Break.

Will it be graded?

As a District, the first three weeks will not be graded.  Beyond Spring Break, we will need to make decisions consistent with our region.

Will it be returned?

When work is required and submitted, we would expect it to receive feedback. That would likely not occur until after Spring Break.

What about projects and papers?

Teachers are already developing learning opportunities in the event of an extended closure.

Should my student be using outside resources to learn the material, like watching outside lectures?

If so, can you tell us which ones are best?

PAUSD has a resource page posted for people looking for additional activities.  The page will grow over time.  There is nothing wrong with reading books or learning practical things around the house in addition to traditional academic activities.

Why are other schools providing online instruction?

We can't want to speak for other school districts.  For the most part, districts have made press releases and issued promises.  Implementation of promises may not match.  Some districts have already pulled their online programs in a very short period of time.  Some are claiming online learning while simply posting packets in PDF files.  We aren't interested in chasing press releases from others.  The PAUSD approach will be top tier within the next few weeks.

What should I do if we are not getting the support or instruction we expect / think we need?

First, please assume best intentions as many teachers are just getting started in an online or distance learning format.  Contact the teacher first.  If you do not get a response or improvement, please contact your site principal.

Is schoolwork now optional? Does my student need to do schoolwork anymore?

Technically speaking, schoolwork is always optional, although there are consequences!  We would encourage everyone to invest in their learning, even before we shift to grading at some point in time.

Will there be daily attendance taken?

Great question.  We don't know yet.  This will be something we need to figure out down the line.  For now, we are trying to create the best system possible. 

Will there be a standard daily schedule?

Teachers will post daily schedules and it will largely depend upon the grade level of the student.  Teachers have meetings blocked out each morning from 9:00-10:00.  There are pros and cons to flexible learning times.  Some students / families crave schedules.  Others will enjoy some freedom.  The secondary schools are discussing ways to ensure, to the best of their ability, that "classes" aren't required to meet at the same time.  We should expect some bumps here.  It is the online version of a homework / test stacking discussion that has gone on for a long time.  It will improve in some time.

How will courses be graded?

If the closure extends beyond Spring Break, we will provide answers to the topic of grading courses.  We are not alone in this area of concern.  It is possible that traditional grades will be difficult, if not impossible, to issue.  We will lean on our Instructional Leads and educational partners for advice.  There is no doubt that this will be tricky.  At our core, we don't want to rush to a system that could hurt our students in any way.

Will my child complete their course and learn the material they are supposed to (state standards)?

It would be irresponsible to promise that learning will occur at the same level as classroom instruction.  The State Superintendent was asked the same question and also had no answer.  We will have to evaluate the duration of closures and the expected impact.

How will my child meet requirements?

For graduation

Seniors will graduate.  Hopefully everyone can breathe a little easier. That doesn't mean they don't have to participate and get through our modified classes.  It means our students won't be penalized for a shortened year. 

For UC / college admissions

Colleges don't have an answer for this yet.  Again, we are all in the same boat.

For future course pre-requisites

We will have to work through gaps in instruction.  There is no honest answer yet.


Will we be told when students or staff are diagnosed with COVID-19?

Community transmission is ongoing in Santa Clara County. As the community follows the Health Officer Order to Shelter in Place issued on March 16, 2020, notification regarding potential contacts to cases will no longer be provided, and school districts are not required to provide any notifications. Everyone, except for those providing or receiving essential services, should be staying home, especially anyone who is feeling ill. Anyone who develops symptoms of COVID-19, should call their healthcare provider for further guidance before going to the doctor. Only the severely ill should seek care at an emergency room and should, if at all possible, call first.

Should community members use the school sites while school is closed?

No. As of March 19, PAUSD facilities are closed to the public.

Will there be summer school available?

We can't address summer school until our regular school is reopened. We are looking at options to extend learning during the summer, but traditional summer school is unlikely at this point. If conditions change, we may have a different answer.

Will there be childcare available?

Santa Clara County has issued a shelter in place order that is in conflict with efforts to provide childcare. If the shelter in place order is lifted during school closures the topic will be reevaluated.