District to eschew online learning in event of shutdown

Dylan Fu, Tara Kapoor, and

Editor’s Note: An updated article on COVID-19 closures can be found here.

While private schools and universities across the country shift to online learning platforms in order to defend against the spread of COVID-19, Palo Alto Unified School District has no plans to enact such a transition in the event of a school shutdown, according to a press release published Monday.  

“We [the district] will be suspending all instructional and extra-curricular activities in the event of a school closure,” Superintendent Don Austin wrote in the district’s press release.

In contrast to PAUSD’s policy on online learning, nearby Stanford University is canceling in-person classes “until further notice,” according to a statement published by the university. Instead, the university it hosting classes through Zoom, a video conferencing platform with virtual classroom capabilities.

All of the university’s courses — ranging from lectures to discussion-based classes — are continuing through the online platform, allowing students to post live questions. As the university’s third quarter comes to a close, professors are assigning take-home finals, according to a statement issued to students.

According to Assistant Superintendent Yolanda Conaway, implementing a similar system for PAUSD is not an option due to the fact that it could place certain students at a disadvantage. 

“In order to execute a fully operational instructional program, we would need to ensure that every student has access to a computer, internet and home support,” Conaway said. “We just can’t control all of those factors.”

Although some members of Palo Alto High School staff are trained for blended teaching and equipped with online tools to successfully streamline the online effort, Conaway said the current number of qualified leaders won’t suffice.

“While many teachers are well equipped to provide high-quality online support, others have no experience at all,” Conaway said. “This would not be a fair opportunity for all of our students.”

School will remain open as long as no one tests positive for the virus, according to the district’s press release. Nonetheless, in the event of a shutdown, students should expect to be free of schoolwork for the duration of the break. 

“Every student should have the benefit of returning to school and picking up their studies where they left off along with all other peers,” Conaway said.