English, social studies and special education teachers release open letter asking PAUSD board to reconsider reopening plan

This afternoon, English, social studies and special education teachers sent an open letter to Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Superintendent Don Austin, Associate Superintendent of Educational Services Sharon Ofek, Director of Secondary Education Services Kathie Laurence and the Board of Education urging reconsideration of the newly approved reopening plan. The letter, which was signed by 34 teachers, comes in response to the board’s Tuesday night decision to move forward with a reopening plan for middle and high schools. In it, teachers opposing the plan cite “misrepresentations” of information from the Tuesday night board meeting and outline rationales for reconsidering the current hybrid plan.

The plan will be “pedagogically unsound,” according to the letter. Furthermore, the letter points to the difficulties associated with having both the English and social studies departments adjust to in-person hybrid learning for second semester. “Navigating an entirely new hybrid process while still being asked to undertake the challenge of distance learning will stretch teachers too thin and be a disservice to our students,” the letter reads.

With reasons echoing community backlash to the plan from Tuesday night, the letter cites potential disruptions to educational consistency, class sizes, student-teacher relationships and the impact on Small Learning Communities, the Social Justice Pathway and special electives. It also expresses concerns about the viability of the hybrid classroom environment.

The letter also highlights the administration’s lack of transparency and questions the district’s decision-making process. “We should be a district that makes the hard decision to choose wisely, to choose reality over what is politically easy,” it reads. “We all want our hallways to ‘sound like school again,’ but the appearance of school is not the same as real public education—one committed to principles of equity—and we know that student learning is what matters most.”

Neither the administration nor the board has issued a response yet. 

View the complete letter here