This page details many of the common concerns we heard from our members regarding open campuses during the pandemic. Concerns are organized into categories, though of course there is overlap; for example, issues with consistent adherence to safety protocols would have implications for both health and instructional quality. Our hope is that the information on this page will help our community better understand the drivers behind our communications and actions. Focusing on member concerns on this page in no way suggests a lack of concern or awareness regarding student and family concerns regarding the impacts of extended distance learning.
CAMPUS SAFETY - We recognize that PAUSD has undertaken considerable efforts to improve the safety of our schools. It is a task far more complex than most people realize. Even when many plans and protocols have been designed and implemented, there are potential gaps that cause concern, and the stakes with COVID are quite high. - Much has been noted regarding the benefits of open windows and doors to properly ventilate classrooms. Many PAUSD classrooms have no windows, or windows that barely open. Some doors cannot be left open due to safety concerns. We have been advised that our HVAC systems are prepared to mitigate COVID spread, though for teachers who spend several hours a day in a single classroom, the stress is considerable. - Secondary school students will not be in cohorts or "bubbles." Over the course of a week, our secondary school teachers may be spending up to 75 minutes in a room with each student who chooses to attend classes in person, possibly 50, 60, 70 students per week. If the teacher becomes infected with COVID, that many students will need to quarantine. - One component of campus safety plans is controlling the movement of students as they arrive or depart, and move about campus during the day. Our secondary schools are so large that monitoring and enforcing such protocols seems to be a practical impossibility given current staffing.
COMMUNITY MITIGATION EFFORTS - We are grateful to live in an area where there is a relatively high level of compliance with masking and social distancing requirements. Still, when we are out in the community, we see a concerning number of children, teens, and adults not fully complying with safety guidance. When our members have no choice but to take on added risks by being on campuses, we ask community members to make the utmost effort to minimize the risks to everyone in school. No doubt our fellow workers who interact with the public would share in this request. - We are also aware of students in our schools who have traveled but not followed county directives for travel-related quarantine. We have asked PAUSD to provide more support in gathering and sharing relevant information to increase everyone's safety.
COVID-19 - This virus kills people. It can be spread across and among all age groups. (See our Research and Data page). People can carry and transmit the virus while they have no symptoms. People who survive the virus often report ongoing symptoms and health problems of a serious and even debilitating nature. Some new variants of the virus are more contagious than the "original" dominant strain(s), and some variants cause more severe illness. While we can discuss risk in terms of abstract numbers or percentages, the fact is that the more contact we have with each other, the greater the chance that people experience serious illness, or die, or see those outcomes for their family members. As long as teachers and students can engage in remote teaching and learning, each individual has some control over the risks they take (or avoid) with this deadly virus. We know there are risks associated with ongoing social isolation; reopening campuses is not the only means to mitigate that risk for children, and in some cases, it may not be the ideal option either.
INSTRUCTIONAL QUALITY - While mental and physical health should be the top priority right now, we think that part of mental health, for staff and students, is the continuity of the best possible instruction we can provide under the circumstances. Remote instruction via Zoom may not be ideal, but most teachers believe it is superior to instructional models that divide a teacher's attention between remote and in-person students, and require teachers to teach for several hours a day with masks. - With the majority of PAUSD students and teachers in distance learning at any given moment, we've still had dozens of COVID cases, and the resulting disruption of quarantines for those who were in close proximity to the infected individuals. We are about to add many more teachers and students to our campuses, and secondary students will not be in cohorts, meaning a greater risk of infected individuals on campuses of course, and the resulting disruption to the learning and lives of many more people who may have to quarantine.
SICK LEAVE - Some local districts have offered employees additional leave time for vaccination appointments and for recovery time in the event of serious side effects caused by vaccines. PAUSD has not. - PAUSD has offered little flexibility to keep teachers working with students online in the event the teacher is unable to return to campus in person. As a result, teachers who are not currently incapacitated may still be compelled to take a medical leave of absence. Many of us have disability insurance policies intended to provide some financial security, but the policy does not cover medical leave for preventive need, only for actual illness or disability.
TESTING AND TRACING - The resumption of in-person instruction was prioritized over testing and tracing protocols for staff and students. Testing is ramping up for school staff members, with the looming return to on-campus instruction for most of us. There are notification procedures in place as well. - However, for several months, the notification procedures only required reporting for COVID-positive individuals who had been on a campus within 48 hours. That time frame is now 10 days (as of late January), but we almost certainly missed some data with that prior reporting. - There are also situations where household members can be "presumed positive" – a practice which is logical and safe, but which also results in some "missing" data. - Meanwhile, surveillance testing is happening for adults only. Children can catch and spread COVID (see our Studies and Research page); add to that fact the possibility of asymptomatic spread, and new variant strains of COVID, and you can see we why many of us are less than reassured that there's enough data to lead to fully informed decision-making. - UPDATE (4/21) - We're pleased to report that take-home COVID tests are coming at the end of April, for staff and optionally for students. We encourage everyone to be tested when possible.
PAEA Members Form to submit site concerns - please note, this form is not anonymous, and all information submitted is subject to verification. Safety concerns should always be reported to site administrators first, and then members may follow up by completing this form, which serves as a way to notify PAEA leadership of potential concerns we should also be aware of.