Palo Alto Unified School District will move to a “credit/no credit” grading system this semester and shift to Phase III of its distance learning plan, according to a Palo Alto Unified School District Superintendent’s Update released this afternoon.

This update follows the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s release this morning, which stated that schools will remain closed through May 1 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In the update, Superintendent Don Austin stated that the “credit/no credit” grades will not impact students’ grade point averages. Austin assured that these changes will not negatively affect students as they apply for college.

“Universities across the country have made it clear that students will not be penalized for missing traditional standardized tests or for posting credit/no-credit transcripts for this semester,” Austin stated. “In this case, the shift to credit/no credit grading in the face of a national pandemic will be described and accepted without penalty.”

Online learning expectations for PAUSD students will increase after Spring Break as part of Phase III. Details regarding the full plan for Phase III will be released by March 27.

Five other Bay Area counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, San Francisco and San Mateo — have also extended school dismissals until May 1.

“The safety and wellness of students, school personnel, and the community are the highest priorities of all schools and districts in these six counties,” the Santa Clara County memo states.

During the extended closure, educational opportunities will continue through flexible learning and meals will still be provided, according to the  Santa Clara County memo.

In response to the extended school closure, Palo Alto High School junior Sarika Lansberg agrees that both the district and the county are doing the best they can to adapt to the rapidly evolving pandemic situation.

My initial reaction is that it [extended school closure] is not really unexpected,” Lansberg said. “I think that the whole reason we are doing social distancing is to keep people who are sick apart and since there is no vaccine that has been developed yet, it makes sense that the county wants to continue with social isolation in order to keep the majority of people from getting sick.”

The  Santa Clara County memo reminds Bay Area residents to strictly adhere to the statewide “shelter-in-place” order issued by California Governor Gavin Newsom — if outside for essential activities, residents must practice social distancing.

According to the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, as of March 24 at 5:00 p.m., there are 459 confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the county.

Number of COVID-19 cases by county as of March 25 at 1:00 p.m. Data compiled by the San Francisco Chronicle. Graph by Rachel Lit

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