Concerns over the safety of upcoming school field trips are rising as COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, continues to spread both globally and locally.
Palo Alto Unified School District administrators are caught between trying to honor learning activities — including long-planned field trips — with growing parent concerns and rapidly evolving advice from Santa Clara County officials.
In an email to parents on Friday, PAUSD Superintendent Don Austin said that the district’s new guidelines regarding field trips and group activities will be released by March 9.
“While we had planned to provide answers regarding field trips, group activities, and other topics by March 12th, we are accelerating the work and will have new PAUSD guidelines available by the evening of March 9th,” Austin stated. “The PAUSD guidelines will be posted and pushed out before 6:00 p.m. on March 9th.”
According to Austin’s Wednesday “Superintendent’s Update,” PAUSD field trips within the United States will not — at this point — be cancelled.
“Our county has advised against cancelling domestic field trips. I am not sure that this advisement will hold up for much longer.”
— Don Austin, superintendent
“Our county has advised against cancelling domestic field trips. I am not sure that this advisement will hold up for much longer. If individuals do not want to send their children, we should all respect their wishes,” Austin stated. “It is possible that conditions could change that would lead to a change in our District position, but that is not the case at this time. Field trips will be reevaluated daily.”
At the moment, Paly Robotics students are in Salt Lake City at a regional competition. On Thursday, approximately 100 JLS Connections Program students left for a trip to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.
On Wednesday morning, Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School music students departed on the annual SoCal Tour, in which they travel by bus to Los Angeles and spend several days at the Disneyland theme park. In an email to parents Tuesday evening, Greene Principal Valerie Royaltey-Quandt stated that, although the trip would not be canceled, teachers and chaperones would be taking extra precautions to keep students safe.
“All students and adults attending the field trip will have their temperature taken before boarding the bus tomorrow. Due to an abundance of caution, any person with an elevated temperature will not be allowed to attend. Please prepare yourself and your student for this possibility,” the email stated. “All chaperones will be given a packet of information, hand sanitizer and protocols.”
Annemarie Lekkerkerker, a Greene parent, chose to send her child on the trip.
“There was no immediate risk of getting infected as there is no confirmed case of COVID-19 in the PAUSD district,” Lekkerkerker stated in an email. “Hence no reason to assume he would get infected at the trip from that perspective. I’m also not worried for any enhanced chances of getting infected at Disneyland with diligent hand washing and not touching face, etc.”
Lekkerkerker said she strongly agrees with the district’s decision to keep schools open.
“I think the district has been very responsive (maybe even over-responsive as taking the kids out of class of the parent that was exposed to COVID-19 but not confirmed infected was not a CDC recommendation as far as I know),” she stated. “I think the district has great communication on the subject and provides sufficient background resources.”
“I think the district has great communication on the subject and provides sufficient background resources.”
— Annemarie Lekkerkerker, Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School parent
On Wednesday night, Paly band and orchestra teacher Jeff Willner met with parents to discuss the status of the Paly Instrumental NYC Tour, which is planned to begin on March 26 in New York City. 22 Paly journalism students are also set to travel to Nashville, Tennessee for the JEA/NSPA 2020 Spring Convention on April 16.