LASD prolongs pause on in-person classes, set to resume Jan. 11

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Zoe Morgan/Town Crier File Photo
Los Altos School District students are scheduled to return to classrooms Jan. 11.

The Los Altos School District has extended its pause on in-person classes until Jan. 11, from a previously planned return on Jan. 4.

The district initially decided to put in-person instruction on hold last week, because of a high number of staff absences. Students were set to return after winter break on Jan. 4, but district administrators have decided to push that out by a week.

“We are committed to in-person learning, as we have been from the very start, being one of the only public districts in the county open,” Superintendent Jeff Baier said at a Dec. 14 board of trustees meeting. “But … we need to be sure it is safe.”

Because of the pandemic, staff and students are required to stay home if they report any possible COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. While few have ended up testing positive for the virus, the protocols have meant more staff absences than in a typical year.

Staff across a variety of positions, including teachers, supervisors and maintenance staff, have been absent. That staffing shortage meant that the district wouldn’t have been able to abide by state and county health guidelines, including cleaning and sanitizing protocols.

Kindergarten through fifth-grade students who have opted for in-person learning are set to return Jan. 11. Sixth-graders had previously been scheduled to start in-person classes for the first time that day, but their return is now being pushed to Jan. 20, the same day seventh- and eighth-graders are slated to return.

At the board meeting where Baier presented the plan, trustees emphasized the importance of families abiding by health protocols over the holiday break, and minimizing the number of people they see, so that schools can reopen safely in January.

“For us to be able to do this successfully, it’s going to require families to maybe do the holidays differently than they have traditionally done them,” Trustee Steve Taglio said. “We need to alter our behavior if we want to maintain live delivery of classes with kids in classroom.”

The current regional shelter-in-place order Santa Clara County is under prohibits all gatherings with people from other households, subject to limited exceptions. Health officials are urging the public to stay at home during the holidays, and connect with loved ones virtually.

LASD is recommending that all students get a COVID-19 test before returning to campus in January. The district is hosting free testing events for staff and students on school campuses, in partnership with El Camino Health.

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