Two weeks in: What is “1 Palo Alto” up to?

Payton Anderson and Jeffrey Tu

A parent volunteer watches the lunch line along with Campus Supervisor Mayerly Short in the cafeteria. “1 Palo Alto” volunteers have been assisting staff members with their tasks since Jan. 10. Short said the volunteers in the cafeteria have helped her manage the students. “They’re helping me so I can watch everyone because there’s hundreds of students who come for lunch,” Short said. “It’s just helped us, or at least me, to kind of organize everything.” (Photo: Jeffrey Tu)

From watching lunch lines to helping out in the IT department, “1 Palo Alto” volunteers are covering many different tasks in the first few weeks of on-campus volunteer work. 

Charu Gupta, president of Palo Alto High School’s Parent Teacher Association, is volunteering as part of the program and helping to coordinate signups from parents to volunteer. Gupta said many are eager to help keep schools open, with 250 community members volunteering so far to participate in the program at Paly.

Gupta said volunteers help with brunch and lunch distribution, help IT set up equipment, manage COVID testing lines, and other district supervisions. 

“I suspect there would never be more than five or six volunteers on campus at any given time, and most of the roles are outside or behind the scenes and not in a classroom,” Gupta said.

To combat risk of exposure from parent volunteers at schools, the district is requiring that volunteers are fully vaccinated and wear masks on-site, Gupta said. Testing is not required for volunteers, though it is available to them at PAUSD facilities.

Volunteer and Paly parent Pam Morgenfeld said she joined the “1 Palo Alto” program since she wanted to help the community, and so far, the district program has made a major impact on how PAUSD schools are function amid this recent surge in the pandemic. 

“Our community is figuring out how to live with Covid doing things like getting vaccinated and wearing masks indoors,” Morgenfeld said. “The ‘1 Palo Alto’ program is just one piece of the puzzle for keeping schools open.”  

Morgenfeld helps with the on-campus Covid testing clinic, food services, custodial needs, office assistance, and classroom support at Paly. 

“Keeping the PAUSD campuses open for in-person instruction is a top priority for our community, and I’m happy to lend a hand when needed,” Morgenfeld said.

Sharon Tobias is also a Paly parent and “1 Palo Alto” volunteer. She said she has been volunteering in the IT department, where staffing has been especially short. 

“The school district is doing their best to keep the schools open, and the teachers and the staff are likely stretched very thin,” Tobias said.  

Tobias said the shortage of staff remains a major issue at Paly, and “1 Palo Alto” is already doing a great job of addressing it.

“I’m hoping that allowing parents to volunteer to help complete various tasks will allow the teachers and other employees to focus on the more important parts of their jobs — educating the students,” Tobias said. 

Seema Vora is another “1 Palo Alto” volunteer who has signed up for all types of volunteer work, like tech support, administrative tasks, lunch duty, cleaning classrooms and more at Duveneck and at Paly.

Vora said she is volunteering for the sake of student mental health regarding the closure of schools. Vora said she is proud of how the community has stepped up to prioritize PAUSD students in addition to the health of teachers through “1 Palo Alto.” 

“This plan is a call to our community to help at the time of need for our youth,” Vora said. “The call to action for all hands on deck to help get through a few weeks of disruption caused due to this virus is what makes this plan [“1 Palo Alto”] so effective.”