STORY AND PHOTO BY TOMOKI CHIEN
Following an increase in staff absences, the Los Altos School District is canceling all in-person classes up to its holiday break, which starts next Saturday, December 19.
Previously, as part of its phased return plan, LASD grades transitional kindergarten through five had had the option to enroll in blended learning, which saw students participate in remote learning for half the week, in-person for the other.
In an email to the community, Superintendent Jeffery Baier cited a “high number of staff absences” as the impetus behind the cancelation.
Board President Bryan Johnson said he supported the decision to halt in-person classes in an email to the Post, adding that an increase in absences during the winter months is not particularly unusual; however, numbers are slightly higher this year as staff strictly adheres to the District’s coronavirus symptom tracker, he said.
“Whereas normally we could compensate by bringing in substitute teachers or moving staff around the District to cover for absences, in our current circumstances this would introduce too much cross-exposure between different school communities and classroom cohorts,” Baier wrote.
At the time of publication the Post was unable to reach Baier for additional comment.
“I do think it was the right decision to move to distance learning for one week, even though this was not an easy decision,” Johnson said. “What creates the enormous and unusual challenge now are the public health requirements to operate our schools safely during the health crisis.”
Johnson added that, at the moment, the District still plans to resume its in-person classes on Monday, January 4, but that’s set to be reevaluated with regard to staffing levels over the break.
According to the District’s coronavirus dashboard, three students and four staff members in LASD elementary schools have reported positive coronavirus tests; three of those staff members tested positive last week.
Not all staff absences are necessarily related to a positive test, and could instead be staffers displaying cold or flu-like symptoms without yet having taken a test.
“We recognize the inconvenience and hardship this move to distance learning will be for many of our families,” Baier wrote. “During this pandemic, we are doing our best to balance health and safety with in-person learning for all students.”
“It is important that our entire community abide by the latest public health regulations so that students can return to campus as planned in January,” Johnson said.