Superintendent Don Austin cautions secondary schools “highly unlikely” to reopen given Santa Clara County’s purple tier status

In a Tuesday press conference with The Oracle staff, Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Superintendent Don Austin cautioned it was “highly unlikely” secondary schools would be reopening due to Santa Clara County’s recent move into the purple tier of COVID-19 cases. According to Austin, middle and high school students will be notified by early December if the hybrid plan will proceed as expected.

On Monday, following a statewide surge of COVID-19 cases, Santa Clara County was moved from the red tier of California’s COVID-19 monitoring system to the purple tier. As a result, schools that are not currently open will not be allowed to open until the county has moved back into the red tier for at least 14 consecutive days. PAUSD elementary schools, however, will remain open. 

“Moving into the purple tier was a real shot to our reopening plans,” Austin said. “I’m not pulling the plug on [the reopening plan] yet, and our board is going to want to have a discussion about it, I’m sure. But the chances of reopening on the path that we had hoped for is hurt.”

But according to Austin, the reopening survey for second semester will continue as planned. “We’re still collecting responses for [students to choose distance or hybrid learning], just in case,” he said. 

While middle schools may be able to reopen at a later date—that is, in the middle of second semester—high schools beginning second semester in distance learning will have to remain online for the rest of the year, given the logistical difficulties of switching between distance and hybrid learning, according to Austin.