Parents say remote learning hurts poor, disabled

Palo Alto parents said at a school board meeting tonight that they are worried remote learning will put children with disabilities or those from poor families at a disadvantage. Parents also said they want more information about how schools will carry out language immersion remotely.

The district had originally planned to have elementary school students at school half the week. Middle and high school students were going to learn online under the plan, but students without a quiet place to study at home or those who need extra tutoring would have been allowed into school buildings.

Those plans were halted by an order from Gov. Gavin Newsom, which banned in-person schooling in Santa Clara County because of county COVID numbers. Palo Alto won’t be allowed to let any students on campus under the current rules.

School board member Shonak Dharap said he is “concerned” that the governor’s order has prevented the district from offering a safe and quiet environment for students who lack such things at home.

Several parents who spoke at tonight’s meeting, which was conducted on the Zoom platform because of the pandemic, said they are worried about how the distinct will support disabled students remotely.

Yanling Wang said the district hasn’t been complying with Individual Education Plans for special needs students since March. She asked whether the district will consider things like sending teacher aids to students’ homes or having aids help over Zoom sessions.

Other parents said they haven’t gotten information about language immersion for the fall. Leah Russin said she has received no clarity on Spanish immersion for next year.

Some parents asked the district to apply for a waiver to allow for in-person learning.

Edith Cohen said education for young children must be delivered in person, especially for poor families.

Superintendent Don Austin said waivers are supposed to be for small school districts in large counties that don’t resemble the rest of the county in any way. He said if it isn’t safe or recommended to open schools, using a waiver seems “like a stretch.”

He said the waiver process also requires a sign off from professional associations and parent groups.
The Palo Alto teacher’s union is opposed to reopening.

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