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By Sherry Listgarten

No post this week due to distractions

Uploaded: Nov 1, 2020

Dear Readers: I have no climate post for you today. I am guessing that you have better things to pay attention to given the consequential(!) elections this week.

It is also the case that I’ve been distracted from our climate wins and woes by the Palo Alto Unified School District’s “Hybrid” in-class proposal for secondary schools. It promises to halve the instructional minutes for students who want some on-campus learning, while providing no simple backup for those who need to quarantine. (1) It’s taking me some time to understand how we got to a place where we think this is acceptable.

Hang in there for the election news and follow-ons. Fingers crossed for some planet-friendly wins!

Notes and References
1. PAUSD’s proposal for students who want some time on campus is for those students to have small in-person classes two days a week and to teach themselves the other two days a week. (The fifth day is either also self-taught or taught online, it hasn’t been decided.) This nets out to 75 minutes of instruction per class per week (or 105, depending on the fifth day). In a normal year, students have 220 instructional minutes per class per week. With today’s distance learning, PAUSD is providing students with about 80% of normal, namely 180 minutes of live (online) instruction per class per week. The “Hybrid” program would offer 34% of normal, or in best case 48% if the fifth day consists of online teaching.

A lack of instructional minutes is not the only problem with the “Hybrid” proposal. Children who may have been exposed to COVID have no easy way to stay up-to-speed while they quarantine at home. That is a safety problem. The less convenient it is for students to stay current with their classes while at home, the more likely they are to cut corners on quarantine. For example, will a student who came into contact with a COVID case quarantine for the full recommended duration of 14 days if they have no instruction for that period? This lack of continuity during quarantine makes the "Hybrid" classroom a more dangerous place for everyone. If you don't think this matters, read this.

Many private and charter schools handle this by live-streaming classes. Kids can attend half of the classes in-person, or all online, and get the same instruction either way. If a child may be sick, it is easy for them to quarantine at home and continue with their classes. However, our district has ruled out live-streaming because it is not as pedagogically effective as a 100% online or a 100% in-class experience. Classes with all students in one place work better than if they are in two places. Yet the severe “Hybrid” compromises this entails ensure that our district’s foremost option remains 100% online learning for the foreseeable future.

I believe our administration and our school board have a sincere interest in providing some on-campus time for our children. Our county and state are certainly encouraging it. Many teens, cooped up in their homes for months, are desperate for it. Families have worked hard to lower our local COVID rates so kids can go back to school. Yet PAUSD administrators and teachers have not been able to come up with an option to teach our kids a full (or 80%) measure while also fostering some in-person engagement on campus. Our district is left to promote a badly flawed “Hybrid” program with significant educational and safety compromises that few parents or teachers support.

Current Climate Data (September 2020)
Global impacts, US impacts, CO2 metric, Climate dashboard (updated annually)

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