Los Altos High to offer English language development program next school year

Historically, only one comprehensive Mountain View-Los Altos site has offered English language development classes: Mountain View High.

That’s meant that English learners within Los Altos boundaries — students who don’t speak English as a primary language — have had to travel to Mountain View to access appropriate support, when they would otherwise attend Los Altos High.

Next year, though, that all changes. The board of trustees on Monday night voted to open an English language development program at Los Altos, broadening access to support classes and meeting the needs of the growing English-learner population at Los Altos.

Both an increase in ELD enrollment and the inconvenience of traveling to Mountain View High School were catalysts for the new Los Altos program.

“A typical Los Altos English language learner that attends Mountain View High School [uses] public transportation,” said Associate Superintendent Teri Faught. “We have heard time and time again from these students and their parents [about] the hardships of the transportation of getting to Mountain View High School. … And it has become a challenge to the attendance of some of our English language learners.”

Previously, the district only offered EL classes at Mountain View in order to concentrate resources at one site, Faught said.

At a minimum, the new Los Altos program will include ELD 1-4 classes — which refer to classes for different levels of EL proficiency — and could include other EL content classes like biology and civics depending on enrollment. The budget allocates a maximum of $320,000 for the new Los Altos program.

Any Los Altos EL students currently attending Mountain View will be able to choose between campuses next year, though any incoming Los Altos-boundary EL freshmen and transfer students will attend Los Altos High.

Currently, the Mountain View ELD program actually serves more Los Altos than Mountain View students; of the 168 EL students at Mountain View, 92 are from Los Altos and 76 are from Mountain View.

“I do want to note that although Los Altos does not [currently] have English language development classes, they have done a fantastic job of providing support and skills classes and resources to [support] the EL learners who have chosen to stay at Los Altos High School,” Faught said. 

66 EL students attend Los Altos High, though 38.6% of those students are “progressing toward English proficiency,” as opposed to 53.8% at Mountain View, which Faught pointed to as a testament of the impact of having a dedicated ELD program.

“This is not about Mountain View High School or Los Altos High School,” Faught said. “This is simply about development classes versus no development classes, and communicating how important it is to have targeted classes.”

ROUNDUP: Los Altos girls soccer on three-game shutout streak; Paly girls basketball wins 10th in a row; Mtn. View ekes past Los Altos boys basketball

The Los Altos girls soccer squad hasn’t allowed a single goal in its last three competitions, shutting out Paly and Homestead this week hot off last week’s 5-0 rout over Los Gatos.

Captain and midfielder Esha Gupta said the Eagles moved their fourth defender to the midfield, which she credited for the team’s defensive success. The Eagles (7-4-2, 3-2-1) face tougher competition in Santa Clara (4-4-5, 2-1-3) next week, and Gunn (8-3-3, 3-1-2) the week after; Paly, Homestead and Los Gatos all rank at the bottom of the league.

“We might have to switch back to four [defenders] in the back for Santa Clara because they tend to be more direct, but I think it’s just mentality,” Gupta said. “We are all competing now for the second place spot in the league.”

Both the Eagles (number 3) and Bruins (number 4) are poised to nab Gunn’s number two SCVAL De Anza spot. Mountain View (12-0-1, 6-0-0) has a strong hold on the top spot, with only five goals against the entire season.

Last time the Eagles faced Mountain View they were handed a 1-0 loss, though the Spartans only scored off a direct free kick. 

“Mathematically it’d be difficult to take their number one spot, but not impossible,” Gupta said. “Right now we’re focusing on beating Gunn and Santa Clara.”

In other news:

  • Paly girls basketball (12-1, 3-0) added two games to its now 10-game win streak, with wins over Homestead (10-4, 2-1) and Saratoga (6-8, 1-5).
  • Mountain View senior Joe Brown’s last-minute three-pointer helped the Spartans (12-5, 4-1) eke past Los Altos (13-3, 4-1) in a 48-47 nail-biter.
  • Gunn boys basketball (12-4, 3-2) have kept themselves in the hunt for the top slot in the SCVAL El Camino Division with wins over Monta Vista (9-8, 1-5) and Saratoga (13-3, 4-1).

Gunn

  • Boys basketball:
    • 71-64 W vs. Monta Vista (Tue)
    • 55-37 W vs. Saratoga (Fri)
  • Girls basketball:
    • 52-50 W vs. El Camino (Mon)
    • 59-37 L vs. Monta Vista (Wed)
    • 47-44 L vs. Santa Clara (Fri)
  • Boys soccer:
    • 2-1 W vs. Los Gatos (Wed)
    • 3-0 L vs. Homestead (Fri)
  • Girls soccer:
    • 3-1 W vs. Los Gatos (Wed)
    • 4-0 W vs. Homestead (Fri) 
Los Altos's Andrew Reilly in a 56-40 win over Milpitas on Jan. 21, 2022. (Tomoki Chien)

Los Altos

  • Boys basketball:
    • 48-47 L vs. Mountain View (Tue)
    • 56-40 W vs. Milpitas (Fri)
  • Girls basketball:
    • 41-42 L vs. Los Gatos (Wed)
    • 40-29 W vs. Wilcox (Fri)
  • Boys soccer:
    • 3-1 L vs. Santa Clara (Mon)
    • 1-0 W vs. Homestead (Wed)
    • 3-2 W vs. Paly (Fri)
  • Girls soccer:
    • 2-0 W vs. Homestead (Wed)
    • 2-0 W vs. Paly (Fri) 
Mountain View's Patrick Kane downs a three-pointer against Los Altos on Jan. 18, 2022. (Allison Huang)

Mountain View

  • Boys basketball:
    • 48-47 W vs. Los Altos (Tue)
    • 52-48 L vs. Homestead (Thurs)
    • 37-28 W vs. Cupertino (Fri)
  • Girls basketball:
    • 33-27 W vs. Fremont (Wed)
    • 51-24 W vs. Cupertino (Fri)
  • Boys soccer:
    • 2-1 L vs. Wilcox (Tue)
    • 0-0 T vs. Santa Clara (Fri)
  • Girls soccer:
    • 4-0 W vs. Santa Clara (Fri)

Paly

  • Boys basketball:
    • 59-49 W vs. Homestead (Tue)
    • 50-41 W vs. Santa Clara (Fri)
  • Girls basketball:
    • 48-46 W vs. Homestead (Wed)
    • 59-34 W vs. Saratoga (Fri)
  • Boys soccer:
    • 1-1 T vs. Santa Clara (Wed)
    • 3-2 L vs. Los Altos (Fri)
  • Girls soccer:
    • 2-2 T vs. Santa Clara (Wed)
    • 2-0 L vs. Los Altos (Fri)

Here’s how you can get your free rapid tests and N95 masks

Americans can now order at-home COVID-19 rapid tests for free through covidtests.gov, which launched Wednesday as part of a White House initiative. 

Orders — which only require your name and home address — come in a set of four individual antigen tests and are expected to begin shipping late January through the U.S. Postal Service. There’s a limit of one order per residential household.

The administration also announced Wednesday that 400 million N95 masks will be available at community health centers and retail pharmacies across the country for free starting next week as part of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention effort to properly mask Americans.

The CDC updated its mask recommendations this week, in which it clarified that N95 masks, surgical masks and respirators “provide more protection to the wearer” than cloth masks.

Mountain View High appoints new athletic director

Veteran educator and athletic director Tim Lugo has been appointed to serve as Mountain View High’s athletic director effective next week. Lugo succeeds Shelley Smith, the school’s athletic director, head football coach and physical education teacher for the past 9 years.

Smith is retiring later this year.

“I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Spartans’ athletic family,” Lugo said in a district press release. “I look forward to building relationships with the MVHS community and helping to build upon the sports legacy for which this school is historically known.”

Lugo most recently served as athletic director, head football coach and physical education teacher at Saratoga High School, and previously worked as a physical education teacher, assistant football coach and head baseball coach at Evergreen Valley High School. He has a total of 15 years of experience.

Tim Lugo. (via Mountain View–Los Altos Union School District)

Lugo holds a bachelor’s in kinesiology from San Jose State University, a master’s in kinesiology-exercise science from St. Mary’s College and a teaching credential in K–12 physical education.

 

Two new dog parks are coming to Los Altos

Two new fenced-in dog parks are coming to Los Altos in the near future, following a motion passed by the city council on Tuesday evening. The two parks will be located on Hillview Ave., adjacent to Center Soccer Field, and McKenzie Park West. The project will cost a total of $100,000 and will be complete in roughly three to four months. 

Not all residents will be happy with the project. Last April, the city implemented a pilot program that allowed dogs to be off-leash in the unfenced area of the Hillview baseball field, which solicited a number of complaints from residents.

“Some of the concerns that we heard had to do with upkeep and cleaning up the fields,” said Councilmember Neysa Fligor.  

To avoid eliciting similar concerns, the council used the following criteria to determine the locations of the two new dog parks: size, parking, buffer from residential homes, access to water, not being on a shared-use field and amount of shade. Rosita Park and Heritage Oak Park were considered as alternate sites. 

Although council members unanimously agreed upon the two locations, there was disagreement over whether or not the two parks should open at once. Filgor — the only one to vote against the motion — argued that the McKenzie Dog Park should be established after the Hillview Dog Park. 

“My preference is to do at least one year of Hillview [Dog Park]. Then we can assess, look back, learn, and then move forward with McKenzie,” Fligor said. “That’s why I will not be supporting the motion, because I do not support doing them at the same time.”

Vice Mayor Sally Meadows, on the other hand, thought that staggering the opening of the two parks would put too much pressure on one park. 

“I think it’s an unfair assessment to put all of the burden on one site. We saw this in the pilot where all of the dogs were in one place,” Meadows said. 

The council ultimately voted to establish the parks at the same time. 

Pat Burt and Lydia Kou elected mayor and vice mayor of Palo Alto, rotating election system to be considered

Pat Burt and Lydia Kou were elected mayor and vice mayor, respectively, at Tuesday’s Palo Alto City Council meeting. 

Burt was elected into office with a 6–0–1 majority, with all Councilmembers except for Greg Tanaka (who abstained) voting for Kou’s nomination of Burt. Kou, who turned down Councilmember Alison Cormack’s nomination for mayor, was unanimously elected to the vice mayor position. 

A veteran of local government, Burt will be leading the council as mayor for the third time over his roughly 15-year career with the Palo Alto City Council alongside Kou, who will be serving the council as the vice mayor for the first time in her six-year city council career. 

Councilmember Alison Cormack originally nominated Kou, who declined the mayoral nomination, saying she thought Burt was better suited for the job.

“I really believe in the progression system,” Kou said during the meeting. “Pat [Burt] has … 8 years in the planning and transportation commission … he was elected to the city council, where he spent 9 years. [Burt was also] reelected again in 2020, having served 1 year, is on to 18 years.”

Despite the generally undivided votes for the new positions, Cormack raised questions about the efficiency of voting protocols at the meeting.

“This process is opaque, and it’s frankly become odious and it’s unnecessary,” Cormack said during the meeting. “Councilmember Kou every year suggests that we have a rotation process for mayor, and I will be supporting that this year at the retreat as I have before … It’s more straightforward.”

The specifics of such a rotation process are unclear, as different cities have varying term limits and procedures, but the council may clarify the specifics after its annual retreat on Jan. 30. 

(As a side note, Palo Alto residents can input priorities they think are relevant for the council to discuss during the retreat here.) 

Rotation processes in city council elections usually cycle councilmembers through the mayor and vice mayor slots every term,  ncreating a greater possibility of equal mayor terms amongst the council.

Tanaka supported this idea, saying he thought it made “a lot more sense” and resulted in “a lot less drama.” Former mayor Liz Kniss, who made a statement during public comment, also voiced her support for a rotational process for mayor during the election.

“I very much support the idea of a rotation,” Kniss said. “Greg [Tanaka] mentioned it tonight [and] it’s been mentioned many times in the past, maybe this is the year it will happen.”

765 Palo Alto Unified parents volunteer to fill staff absences; superintendent says “we’re staying open”

When Omicron hit Palo Alto Unified schools last week, Superintendent Don Austin was, in his own words, “terrified” — not of the virus itself, but that he would have to shut the doors to Palo Alto schools like March of 2020. Now, though, that terror’s gone. 

He’s confident, and with good reason: 765 parents across the district’s elementary and secondary schools have volunteered to fill food service, COVID testing, custodial, office assistance and classroom supervision roles left vacant by staff out on quarantine, as part of the district’s bid to keep schools open, dubbed “1 Palo Alto.”

“We’re under 100 away from having as many volunteers as we have teachers,” Austin said. “What that’s done for us is it’s allowed us to be able to tell everybody, ‘It doesn’t matter what happens. We’re staying open.’ And we can say that with confidence right now, when not everybody can.”

Austin said that though not all 765 of 1 Palo Alto’s volunteers are needed immediately, the plan’s always been as much about protecting against future contingencies as about filling immediate needs — in some unforeseen circumstance, the district could cover a sudden overnight spike by the next morning, he said.

Today, the district saw some 70 staff absences across its 18 sites.

“I’m asking Google engineers to empty trash cans for us and they’re just like, ‘Great, let’s do it,’ Austin said. “It’s been amazing so far.”

Austin said that shutting classroom doors and switching to remote learning was never much of an option for Palo Alto Unified. 

That’s partially because of the uncertainty of closing doors for two weeks — which became a year and a half last time, he noted — but also because doing so without first meeting strict county standards would be a violation of California education code; the injunctions that allowed schools to offer distance learning last year expired over the summer.

In the absence of an explicit state or local health order, schools can only offer virtual learning through independent study programs, and can’t require that families enroll in that. In fact, it’s illegal for individual teachers to let quarantined students Zoom into the classroom, even if it’s not part of broader school policy.

The only exceptions are if districts shut down using snow or smoke days already built into collective bargaining agreements with the teachers’ union, or if the virus causes a crippling staffing shortage that districts can’t fill (in which case districts must show the county office of education that they’ve exhausted all other options through a long-winded process. Just last week, county health officials, including Dr. Sara Cody, urged schools not to switch to online instruction). 

Austin noted that 1 Palo Alto could’ve very well made it harder for other districts to say they’ve exhausted all staffing options when filing to switch to remote instruction.

Also key in the district’s bid to keep doors open through the Omicron-driven surge has been its COVID testing sites.

Yolanda Conaway — the district’s associate superintendent who manages its testing sites — said that because the district started expanding to offer testing to the broader community prior to the Omicron surge, it was prepared for the increased volume when students returned from the break.

“Without even really knowing it, we were planning for the increase, although in our minds what we were doing [was] planning to expand our service to the broader community,” Conaway said. “The shift was about shifting resources, not having to create new avenues. So I think the challenge was not as great as it could’ve been.”

The district has restricted testing at the Cubberley Community Center, which was previously intended to primarily serve the broader community, to district students and staff only. Still,, the district has been able to keep all its testing sites open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day, and even expand Cubberly’s hours to 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Mondays.

Lines are longer than before because of limited staffing, Conaway said, but thus far the district has been able to keep all its testing sites open throughout the day. Neighboring Mountain View–Los Altos Union has had to halve its testing hours due to staff shortages.

Conaway said that the district is even exploring the possibility of a second vaccine booster clinic for students ages 12 and up later in January; the district will release more information on that early next week or sooner.

“I don’t know what direction [Omicron is] going to go in, or whether there will be a new variant,” Conaway said. “But every time there is this shift, we learn more. So each time we do things a little bit better, a little bit smoother. We’re kind of always ready for the next thing.”

PAUSD pledges to continue in-person instruction, calls for parent volunteers amid COVID-driven staffing shortages

In response to Omicron-driven staff shortages, the Palo Alto Unified School District is calling for parent volunteers to aid the district in keeping schools open in a move dubbed “1 Palo Alto.”

“Our biggest challenge is staffing right now: [keeping] people doing the jobs that we do,” Superintendent Don Austin said in a video message. “We can’t keep up; there’s no labor pool. No amount of money can solve this issue. We need your help. My request is that until the surge passes, we need our community, ‘1 Palo Alto,’ to volunteer like never before.”

Data from PAUSD’s COVID clinic between Dec. 8 and Jan. 5 show that 141 individuals, including students and staff across all elementary, middle and high school sites, reported testing positive out of 6,001 tests administered.

“Look, we’re all tired of uncertainty and may be nervous about school districts closing,” Austin said. “So I want to be clear, unless we’re compelled by an outside agency with authority, PAUSD will remain open. We will not close. … ‘1 Palo Alto’ will make this happen.”

“1 Palo Alto” calls for parents to volunteer in COVID testing clinics, food services, custodial and office assistance, supervision and classroom support across all elementary, middle and high school campuses, through an online form.

High school students may also participate in roles that are “appropriate and do not conflict with their school schedule,” according to the “1 Palo Alto” website. All volunteers must submit their vaccination status.

The district’s own COVID clinic operates one day per week at each school site. Its daily site at Cubberley Community Center was recently closed to the general public, but will continue operating Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. exclusively for PAUSD staff and students.

CA public health shortens school COVID quarantine to 5 days

California students and teachers can return to campus five days after testing positive for COVID-19, provided that they’re fever free, symptom free and test negative (a rapid/antigen test is sufficient) the California Department of Public Health announced today.

Any asymptomatic person who contracted the virus last week and has already been isolated for five days can test negative and return to school tomorrow.

If still testing positive on day five, students and teachers can retest daily until a negative result — or return after day 10 regardless of testing. Quarantine should continue so long as an individual has a fever.

MVLA staffing at “critical juncture”

The Mountain View–Los Altos Union district is at a “critical juncture” for staffing, with just shy of 40 staff members quarantining with COVID district-wide, Associate Superintendent Leyla Benson said this morning. 

At the moment, state education code only allows school districts to switch to remote learning if they can demonstrate that there’s insufficient staffing to run in-person instruction, and that they’ve exhausted all other staffing options.

Benson said that thus far, the district has been able to cover all staff absences with substitutes and peers — which isn’t “necessarily a sustainable solution” — and that she’s unsure if the district will reach a point where it can no longer staff its classrooms.

She was also unsure of the likelihood that the district will be forced to transition to remote learning.

“Other districts have said they’re at that [critical staffing] juncture and yet [have] not been approved [by the county],” Benson said. “I don’t know what the criteria is — it’s unclear. And I don’t know if our trajectory is continuing to increase. I don’t know where we are on the curve.”

Benson will address the board at its regularly scheduled meeting tonight in a COVID update. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the district board room at 1299 Bryant Avenue, Mountain View, CA 94040.

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that 100 teachers were quarantining district-wide. The figure is just under 40 staff members.