PALO ALTO (KPIX 5) – The Palo Alto Unified School District is speeding towards a reopening of in-person, classroom instruction at all grade levels starting March 1.

“It’s a bit of a relief. I have a full-time job. And so, not having them in school is difficult,” says parent Jonathan Kulpit.

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Superintendent Dr. Don Austin just two weeks ago said it was unlikely middle and high school students would return to campus for in-person learning this school year.

School districts throughout the Bay Area are under intense pressure to develop reopening plans as students and parents’ alike struggle with the challenges of online learning.

Austin said the experience of kindergarten and elementary school students in Palo Alto who’ve been back in the classroom on a part-time basis since October proves school reopening can be done safely.

El Carmelo Elementary School in Palo Alto (CBS)

El Carmelo Elementary School in Palo Alto (CBS)

“We’ve had over 2,100 students back for in-person instruction at the elementary level since October 12th. And during that time, we’ve had zero cases of spread, not one,” Austin said.
Teachers, however, worry that the rush to return to the classroom may come at the expense of their health.

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“Our teachers would really like to be vaccinated before they come back,” said Teri Baldwin with the Palo Alto Teachers Association.

The school system says in-person learning would be optional, a decision made by parents and students.

The district is using a hybrid model that combines both in-person and online learning.

In essence, school would operate at 50% capacity with two groups of students sharing the campus on alternating days.

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“Teachers want to be back. They just want to do it safely. We’re not expendable,” says Baldwin.