At a two-hour town hall Zoom meeting on April 7, Palisades High Executive Director Pamela Magee announced that in-person instruction is being planned when school resumes in August.
Two days later, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky said, “Schools should anticipate being open in the fall.”
More than 500 people attended the meeting via Zoom. Parents were allowed to ask questions before the session, which included LAUSD District 4 Board Member Nick Melvoin and PaliHi staff: five assistant principals, four teachers, the business officer, the unification director and the director of operations.
Not all of the questions were answered during the meeting.
Some questions were specific, such as “My 11th grader can’t get a test for XC through LAUSD this week due to a software upgrade that dropped Pali High students off the system. No test/no access to Pali. Is there a backup plan?”
“How are teachers going to be checked not only for safety measures, but also make sure that students catch up?”
“Why are kids being tested weekly for Covid when the CDC doesn’t recommend it — especially if they’ve recently had Covid?”
“When we go back to full time, will the classes still be recorded live so that if anyone is sick, they can stay home and not miss their work? Hopefully that will lead to less infections overall.”
“Will Pali help students readjust to the classroom? (Student has lost ability to communicate.)”
“How will classes be evaluated/changed after the pandemic is over?”
“Is Pali increasing mental health services for students (now and upon return)? Also, might Pali consider a school-wide Mindfulness program (like JAMS) to teach stress management?”
“Why are Pali teachers not required to return now to their classrooms to teach from campus, even if students aren’t yet allowed to be present?”
“An important issue is availability of free testing to students, especially as it’s weekly. It’s not free on site right now. Do they need to get tested if they had Covid or the vaccine?”
Many high schools across the country have been open during the pandemic, and others such as Palos Verdes and Santa Monica, are now reopening with in-classroom learning.
PaliHi has decided to go a different route.
According to PaliHi spokesperson Antoinette Stewart, “After various stakeholder group surveys, and in consultation with our labor partners, PCHS decided to continue online learning supported by our Back-to-Campus (B2C) afternoon program after carefully considering all available options.
“The instructional objective of B2C being an afternoon enrichment program is to provide continuity and consistency for all students in their morning academic scheduling for the remainder of the school year,” she said.
Students at PaliHi will continue to attend classes via their computers from 8:30 to noon, which has been the schedule for the year.
About 700 students have opted in for B2C, which takes place from 2 to 4 on Mondays and Wednesday for freshmen and sophomores and on Tuesday and Thursdays for juniors and seniors. The program started April 12 and will conclude May 27.
“The B2C program provides opportunities for academic enrichment, tutoring and intervention, social interaction, and mental health and wellness support,” Stewart said.
Additionally, 250 athletes have already signed up and are participating in sports at the high school, which include football, cross country, softball, baseball, volleyball tennis, soccer and lacrosse.
Stewart said that teachers “who are working past the regular 3:08 UTLA-PCHS union hours are being compensated for their additional time in planning and instruction” for the enrichment program.
Stewart was asked why teachers have not been providing instruction from their classrooms. “We are just moving from being able to have 25 percent of our student/staff onsite at one time. If all our teachers were onsite teaching remotely, we would not be able to implement a B2C program because of space, classroom accommodations, and the amount of people on site.
At the town hall, Don Purcell, director of operations, stressed that the facility has been thoroughly cleaned, that extra janitorial staff has been added, along with porta-potties and extra hand washing stations.
Masks and social distancing are required at all times. LAUSD is requiring a weekly PCR Covid test for all faculty/staff and students. Proof must be shown upon entering the campus.
The school is offering the free test in the stadium parking lot, Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Before students enter campus, they need proof of a negative test, they need to have a temperature check and need to fill out a symptom check form.
Steward said, “PCHS is committed to providing a quality education and high school experience as possible in these times, while keeping student, family, faculty and staff health and safety at the forefront at all times.”
According to the CDC website, regarding high schools: “A decision to remain open should involve considerations for further strengthening mitigation strategies and continuing to monitor cases to reassess decisions. This should be driven by a ‘classroom-first’ approach; in-person instruction should be prioritized over extracurricular activities including sports and school events, a common source of school transmission, to minimize risk of transmission in schools and protect in-person learning.”
Almost 200 parents have started a Facebook page titled “Pali High Parents Care – Plans to Reopen,” and are unhappy with the slow response by the high school to reopen.
On April 8, an L.A. Daily News news story (“LAUSD Hit with Another School Reopening Lawsuit”) stated that “students and their families continue to suffer ‘irreparable harm’ each day that in-person instruction is not offered, the complaint states.”
California Students United, a grassroots group led by parents, is represented by the law firm Aannestad Andelin & Corn. The group is seeking a temporary restraining order against LAUSD and Beutner to compel them to reopen schools.
The L.A. Times reported on April 8 (“Less Distancing, No Covid Tests: LAUSD Parents Seek Court Order to Force Wider Reopening”):
“’There is no reason Plaintiffs’ children should have to suffer through shorter school days with limited instructional hours and/or two- or three-day-per-week on campus distance learning models while other similarly situated students throughout California — and even in Los Angeles County — enjoy a full schedule of in-person learning five days per week,’ states the complaint.”