Palo Alto Unified School District events of over 100 people have all been either canceled or postponed through the end of the school year in light of COVID-19, the novel coronavirus, although schools will remain open, according to a memo released today.
As stated in the Superintendent’s Update released earlier today, classes will continue as normal, although significant changes have been made to the schedule for the rest of the school year.
All field trips and dances have been canceled, including major trips such as the scheduled Palo Alto High School instrumental trip to New York City and the dance and robotics teams’ trips to upcoming competitions.
Originally, both Paly’s and Henry M. Gunn High School’s proms were canceled. However, as of later this evening, Austin backtracked, stating that both proms have merely been postponed pending further discussion.
The update sparked concern from some students.
“I think that if they found it necessary to cancel events like field trips that are specific to certain groups, they should start having online options for school because the virus is more likely to spread in an environment that every student is forced to go to,” Paly junior Emma Cudahy said. “It doesn’t make sense for the district to tell us that going to school events puts us at risk but we still have to go to school.”
Numerous senior events, such as baccalaureate and other graduation ceremonies, have not yet been canceled, but Austin stressed that spontaneous changes can still be made.
“These events may be canceled given the dynamic and rapidly evolving situation,” Austin stated in the memo.
Schools remain open
In his update, Austin confirmed that PAUSD schools will stay open, as recommended by the Santa Clara County Public Health Department.
“If a staff member or student in a specific school is confirmed to have COVID-19, the Superintendent and local public health officials will consider, based on the specific facts and circumstances of that case, whether closure of that school is warranted,” Austin stated.
He added that the Santa Clara Public Health Department’s recommendation stems from youth being at a lower-risk for serious illness from the virus.
The district will not provide instructional support for healthy students who have chosen to stay home. If school were to close, there would be no online learning program and all instructional activity would come to a halt, according to the update.
On top of district-wide event cancellations and postponements, Austin established additional restrictions in an effort to limit the exposure of the virus in the community.
One such change is that parents and visitors are not allowed on campuses during school hours.
In addition, adjustments have been made to sporting events to limit risk of exposure. Events will be held exclusively in the largest facilities available to minimize person-to-person contact and attendance will be limited to 100 people.
Despite these new changes, Austin writes that health guidelines remain the same as before.
“The rapid development of COVID-19 has created significant challenges and stresses for our district family,” Austin stated. “I want to reiterate that making our schools a healthy and safe environment that provides a high quality education to all students is our primary goal.”