Depending on the California legislature, Palo Alto Unified School District may be required to provide virtual learning options for the 2021-2022 school year, and plans are underway.

At the March 23 school board meeting, Superintendent Don Austin and Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Sharon Ofek outlined the three distance learning options being considered for secondary students.

The options include home hospital instruction (offered through a third party vendor to students with medical exemptions), an online curriculum through a third party provider with PAUSD oversight, and a newly developed virtual program based on the current distance learning model (essentially creating a separate digital and in-person school).

“We do believe that any distance program would require real, clear purpose, year long commitments right from the beginning and a predetermined cap,” Austin said.

According to a mid-March survey, 7.6% of PAUSD parents would be interested in a continuation of a virtual program offering for the 2021-2022 school year.

PAUSD parent Bryn Ewen voiced her concerns on the two-school virtual program during the board meeting’s public comment.

“Distance learning has caused an irreparable harm and has disproportionately harmed low-income families, so knowing that, why on earth would you want to focus on creating a whole separate distance learning school?” Ewen said.