FAQ’s on school reopening with Paly Principal Brent Kline

Andy Robinson, Staff Writer

Principal Brent Kline emphasizes the importance of social distancing on campus in an interview with The Paly Voice. As the school begins the reopening process, Kline says he has a lot of work to do; however, he says he is thankful for a hardworking and productive support team. “This is my first pandemic, and understanding all the precautions, protocols and expectations is endless,” Kline said. “But we have a strong administrative team where everybody is working on their specific tasks and projects to make sure that we’re accomplishing what we need to get done before students arrive, and most particularly before our staff get here later this week.” Photo: Andy Robinson

As secondary schools look to reopen to students next week, The Paly Voice sat down for a virtual interview with Palo Alto High School Principal Brent Kline to discuss questions and concerns about on-campus changes.

Campus Life & Academic Experiences

Q: Are students required to make a binding decision about their return to campus? Can a student attend class on-campus for one of their two designated days per week, for example? 

A: “Of course we’re hoping that they stay with us … for their two solid days. If there are things that happen or … make them unavailable for both days, that’ll be fine. A student can show up the first day and maybe want to stay home the second day. That’s okay, we’re starting this introduction to on-campus learning as flexibly as we can.”

Q: Can students leave campus before the end of the school day as long as they attend their classes on Zoom?

A: “A reason to leave halfway through the day is [that] they could have a prep period, [then] that’s acceptable to leave. But we are asking that students stay the entire day.”

Q: Will students move from class to class based on their schedule or will they stay in one class during their time on campus?

A: “Students will travel from one class to the next, so you’re moving around.”

Q: What materials should students bring to campus?

A: “They should bring a backpack with a charged laptop or Chromebook, possibly a charger if you feel like it won’t last the whole day. I would bring a water bottle because the drinking fountains are not working, but … bottle filler stations are. Bring some food. Although the school district is providing lunch to all kids on campus, you might want to try your own food first to see how that [works].”

Q: What changes to distance learning can students expect to see in their virtual classrooms?

A: “I would anticipate that at first, you’re going to see a similar experience [to being at] home on your Zoom. The only difference is that you’re going to be in a classroom with your other peers and the teacher. I think over time, especially as more and more vaccines [are distributed] and more people are feeling comfortable, then we will start seeing more interactions occurring between the students in classrooms and between the teacher as well.”

Q: Can students visit Town & Country for lunch? 

A: “No … we’re going to remain a closed campus until we get to the orange tier. Then we’re going to lighten up and let kids go off-campus for lunch.”

Q: Will students be able to sit in groups between classes or at lunch? Will teachers or staff be monitoring students in any capacity?

A: “You will have teachers monitoring more in [the] classroom and when it comes to the great outdoors and traveling between classes … it’ll be administration team or security monitors helping you out. But hopefully, we’re going to self-monitor. We have very clear expectations: you wear your masks, you maintain social distance, and until we get to the Orange tier, you [have] to stay on campus the whole time. Three simple things. So if you’re showing up, you need to understand [this is] your responsibility. And of course, we will be here to help remind you, but I’m hoping that we are coming to school with a huge level of self-responsibility.”

Q: How specifically will Office Hours/Tutorial work for students & teachers?

A: “We’re going to work through that as we move forward, [but] long story short, tutorial/office hours, they’ll remain on Zoom. Teachers [who teach] the last period of the day could just stay in their classroom and the students that are [there] could stay as well as for any tutorial/office hours that they need to participate in] A teacher might need to do a private session with the kid, so they might need to move to another location; maybe students might be asked to go somewhere else? We have rooms that will be available for students to access for desks and things, [and there will be] plenty of spaces outside that students can hang out at.”

Q: How will arts programs function, and how exactly will they be altered?

A: “In line with the current guidelines and restrictions in choir, they can sing and play instruments as long as it’s outdoors and maintaining a social distance. Orchestra can play because they [play] stringed instruments so … they can [function with] the appropriate number of students in a room and they can practice together that way or outdoors. With the art programs … I think you’ll see some sort of normalcy, but it will just be more space between you and your fellow students. A lot of that’s going to be determined based on the expertise and the willingness of every single teacher. So, I think that you’re going to start slow and move fast eventually, as we get used to each other and we’re able to learn how to navigate through this.”

Q: What will PE look like?

A: “When students return to campus, PE will continue but… no locker rooms. It’ll be a different sort of PE experience, but you won’t be asked to change out into PE clothes. You might double up with another PE class of some sort. If there’s two teachers that teach in this period, then one might take all the distance learning [students] or might take all the in-person learning [students]. They’re still having those discussions on how that’s going to work.”

Q: How will school reopening impact clubs and other special events through ASB, etc?

A: “ASB [is] going to start looking at how they can create activities [that] work for both our students on campus now and in distance learning. I would imagine that you’re going to start seeing an increase in clubs meeting after school, just like we have several sports teams that have been practicing for conditioning for the last couple of weeks. I think we’ll just start seeing more and more happening as we continue going forward.”

Q: Will science classes operate in-person labs for students who return to campus?

A: “They want to, [but] when they will be able to do that, I think time will tell. I don’t think we’ll start seeing that immediately, but I would [think] eventually there’s going to be some labs that will start being available. Maybe not until after school, but you’ll start seeing something like that.”

Personal Safety

Q: If a student refuses to cooperate with safety guidelines set in place, for example if a student removed their mask in class, how exactly will Paly respond? 

A: “I’m sure there’ll be a reminder or a warning to put it on. But if it’s ongoing, then we’ll ask the student to return to distance learning. Again … if you’re going to want to be here, you need to agree to the three simple things that we’re going to ask you to do.”

Q: Will PPE (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer), be available to anyone on campus? How will this be distributed?

A: “For students that … need a new mask [or] they forgot one somehow, each classroom has a set of extra materials for students. So it would be available in classrooms.”

Q: If a student, teacher, or a member of their household tests positive for COVID-19, what are the procedures for those on campus?

A: “We would have to go through a whole tracing protocol to see if and when that student was on campus during the alleged positive time. And if [they were], then we would do a tracing to see where that student was in terms of class periods and [by] reviewing past seating charts for [the days] that the person was there. This is because those seating charts are going to change with each group and with each week. And then we’ll determine where that student sat and start having those conversations or notifications to the people just immediately around that person within a six-foot distance.”

Q: How will PAUSD ensure that bathrooms remain safe and secure spaces for all?

A: “Each student arriving on campus for in-person learning is going to receive a green bathroom pass [much] like a business card, and on the outside of each bathroom’s door, there’s going to be slots where you’ll put it in, so that we’ll only have two students in a restroom at a time or the … appropriate number of slots for the size of the bathroom. Generally, it’s only about two. So you go in the restroom, you put your card in, and when you come back you pull it out. That’ll help keep people notified [how many people are] in the bathroom.”

Q: Do students have to wear masks all the time while on campus? 

A: “Yes, except when you’re eating or drinking.”

Q: What are the procedures if a teacher is unable to return to campus?

A: “There’re some teachers with medical conditions and things that are not allowing them to [return in-person]. But eventually, as more and more get vaccinated, we will start seeing more and more [staff on campus]. We’re working through the district and the human resources department to accommodate teachers that need extra precautions. In allowing these teachers to continue teaching remotely, you’re not going to miss your teacher. But … let’s say your third period teacher is still teaching remotely, then we’ll have some designated overflow rooms that’ll allow you to have a desk and a social distance area [so] you can zoom … from that location. We’ll have about four or five of these spots, [and] if you want to sit outside on a bench and access class, you’re certainly able to do that.”

Q: How far apart must those on campus be from each other?

A: “Same, six feet.”

Q: Will COVID-19 tests be offered to students and staff on campus?

A: “It is my understanding that the district is pursuing a third party to facilitate COVID testing for both students and staff, and I believe it’s going to happen sooner [rather] than later. It would happen this year at some point. It’s pretty simple, it’s a self-testing [system]; you pick up the material, take it home, do your test, bring it back, put it in a collection box, and then it’ll get tested.”

Q: Will COVID-19 vaccinations be mandatory for teachers and staff who return to campus? 

A: “No, not that I know of.”