Putting the brakes on car parades

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Town Crier File Photo
Almond School hosted a car parade April 29. The Los Altos School District has since learned that car parades are prohibited under Santa Clara County’s shelter-in-place order.

It was mere hours before the teacher car parade was set to begin – vehicles were already decorated and signs were made – when Homestead High School announced it was canceling the May 1 event.

Administrators had received word from the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety that the planned car parade did not qualify as “essential travel” under Santa Clara County’s shelter-in-place order.

“While it was extremely disappointing, it was something we ended up having to cancel last-minute,” Principal Greg Giglio said.

The school had planned to host a car parade, where teachers drive through the neighborhood, with students and families cheering them on from driveways and sidewalks. Similar parades have been hosted both locally and nationally in recent weeks, including at multiple Los Altos elementary schools.

However, new guidance from the county has clarified that these events run afoul of the health order. A list of frequently asked questions on the public health department’s website now includes information on car parades.

“Parades, ceremonies, and similar gatherings with people outside your household are not allowed, even if everyone stays in their cars,” the webpage reads.

The prohibition on car parades has existed since the initial March 16 health order, according to a written statement from the county’s media relations team.

“Car parades were never envisioned as something that would be allowed, because from a public health perspective, you want to minimize public gatherings,” the statement says.

Clarifying the order

The county declined a request for an interview and did not respond before the Town Crier’s print deadline to questions about when the information was added to the FAQ page. The San Jose Mercury News reported that the information was added last week.

That was after some local schools had already hosted parades, including Springer, Oak Avenue and Almond schools in the Los Altos School District, which all hosted parades last month. Superintendent Jeff Baier said he first heard about the restriction May 1, when he was on a call with other superintendents. He then notified the district’s principals.

“We will of course do everything we can to keep our kids and our community safe,” Baier said. “As the orders and the rules get clarified further, we’ll continue to adjust what we’re doing.”

The schools that hosted parades didn’t contact law enforcement for guidance ahead of time, Baier said, adding that they didn’t think at the time that the event would be in violation of the health order. He said he hadn’t heard from any parents or staff with concerns about the events’ safety.

Los Altos Police Chief Andy Galea said the police department wouldn’t necessarily know about these types of parades, unless someone contacted them. However, he added that they appear to have become more popular, as people hear about them on social media and in the press.

“As these events, such as the car caravans, have started to emerge and evolve, it’s brought to light the behavior,” Galea said. “And as a result of that, we’ve gotten guidance from the county that, no, this is not permissible.”

Galea encouraged local residents to consult the county’s FAQ page, noting it is a great resource for information on the county’s health order.

For more information on the county health order, visit

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