Los Altos to reopen city facilities in September

STORY BY NAINA SRIVASTAVA, PHOTOS BY ARYA NASIKKAR

Public facilities in Los Altos will reopen for in-person service beginning Sept. 2.

Since Mar. 2020, all city facilities — including City Hall, the Police Department and the Maintenance Service Center — have been closed to the public in adherence with county COVID-19 guidelines, offering services virtually instead of in-person. 

Los Altos’s “Return to In-Person Plan” consists of altered facility hours and new safety protocols that align with COVID-19 guidelines.

The new facility hours are as follows.

  • City hall: Tuesday–Thursday, 7:30 a.m.–12 a.m., 1–4:30 p.m.
  • Police department: Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
  • Maintenance service center: Monday–Friday, 7 a.m.–4 p.m. Closed every other Friday.

“We recognize the pandemic is not over and have taken the appropriate steps to reopen our facilities,” said City Manager Gabriel Engeland in a city press release. “We are eager to serve the community in-person again, and welcome residents back to our facilities safely.”

With increasing concern over the COVID-19 delta variant as in-person services resume, facilities will take proper precautions, including the usage of air purifiers and plexiglass dividers.Visitors will be required to wait outside of facilities until called by staff in order to prevent crowding within the spaces, and facilities will continue to sanitize high-touch surfaces, provide hand sanitizer and enforce social distancing.

To ensure safety, staff will be extensively trained and provided with resources and support. Many practices which have been implemented during the pandemic will remain as options in order to maintain accessibility and flexibility in city services, including filing documents online and meeting with staff virtually.

“It is a requirement inside City facilities that all employees and visitors wear masks and practice physical distancing,” Engeland said. “We will also continue offering online services and virtual appointments to lessen the number of visitors to our facilities.”

The city will continue to monitor the current COVID-19 situation, and newly-implemented measures will be reevaluated after 30 days. 

In-person school welcomes a new era of style for Los Altos seniors

STORY BY DANA HUCH, PHOTOS BY ARYA NASIKKAR

After a year and a half minimized to pixel boxes, Los Altos High School students are finally returning to campus and showing off their evolved senses of style. These are a few stand-out looks from seniors the first week of the 2021–2022 school year.

Grace Kloeckl preserved at-home comfort for in-person school with her “Casual PJ Day” look. Caught striding briskly through the quad in baggy red plaid trousers, Kloeckl made a statement with her outfit about her appreciation of both aesthetics and utility.

“I really like baggy clothes because I’m the most comfy in baggy clothes and they’re also just fun,” Kloeckl said. “I feel like you can move with them.”

Paired with her bold pants (Urban Outfitters), Kloeckl wore a white tank top (Urban Outfitters), a butterfly necklace and Reebok sneakers which she called “the comfiest shoes I’ve ever worn.” She added an extra touch of pizazz with her blue mascara inspired by a friend.

“Adding little things like that to your style can really spice it up,” she said.

In the first week of the school year, Kloeckl has witnessed evidence of a widespread fashion evolution.

“I’m noticing that more people have defined styles,” she said. “A lot of people are taking risks.”

Reed Keenan’s passion for New York thrift shopping came through in his Tuesday look, which he titled, “Brown.” He wore a New York Yankees hat, plain black Gilden t-shirt, thrifted brown pants and Converse sneakers. The jacket not pictured was also brown; Keenan said this is “a super underrated color.”

Also underrated is the power of thrift shopping, according to Keenan. He used to shop at only the mainstream stores, but recently the accessible prices and sustainability of secondhand clothing won him over and he is staying loyal to his new style plug.

Keenan’s words of wisdom for novice thrift shoppers are, “Be selective, try different stores and different areas and a lot of it is just luck.”

His newfound appreciation for thrift shopping has allowed Keenan to tap into his unique sense of style rather than following the trends preplanned and by name brands.

“I think that through clothes, you can discover truly who you are,” he said. “I encourage everyone to do that however you want to. You should not care about what other people think about how you dress and it’s completely up to you. Just own it and be yourself.”

Lauren Grady thrift shopped before it was cool, and her outfit featuring preloved treasures shows it.

“My mom has always been shopping secondhand since I was a little kid and she used to be really embarrassed about it so I would always go with her,” Grady said. “I’m glad that it’s popular [now].”

On Monday, she wore a thrifted Giants shirt, off-white baggy “little boys’ pants in a larger size,” Reebok sneakers her mom picked out and a bracelet from a Peru hiking adventure.

Between having moved recently and waking up late, Grady’s outfit she titled, “I set my alarm for 7 p.m. by accident” was a rushed and low-stock invention. Still, her style shines through.

Others appear to be embracing their unique styles, too, and Grady has noticed a new collective confidence across the board with back-to-school looks.

“From what I remember two years ago, people weren’t as bold,” Grady said. “I see a lot of people standing out more.”

You can follow Lauren on instagram @laurengradyyyy.

Mayah Rengulbai’s Tuesday “AP Stats at seven in the morning kind of ‘fit” showed off her creative eye for hidden gems that can be found anywhere — the thrift store and Mom’s closet, namely.

She threw together the borrowed green button shirt, thrifted brown pants and Doc Martens before rushing out the door. Mornings without time for hesitation often supply her most original style ideas.

“I feel like [with] spontaneous [outfits], you kind of experiment with that spur-of-the-moment, ‘Let me see what looks good together’ [mindset],” Rengulbai said.

Instincts are the strongest force when it comes to guiding her choices, but Rengulbai also finds inspiration in the creative TikTok fashion community.

“There’s so much ease to just uploading a video and having other people see your style and gaining inspiration from other people online,” she said.

Like many others in her class, Rengulbai has come out of her shell more after the distance learning (and style studying) period.

“I literally wore just leggings and a hoodie every single day of freshman and sophomore year,” she said. “But I think even with [the pandemic], people being at home, really getting to curate their own style and gain inspiration from other influences is something we’ve all been able to do.”

Emelie Enser said that recently, her clothing choices have started to reflect the mood or season of life she is in at the moment. Since gaining stronger footing in who she is, expressing her internal state outwardly has come naturally.

Enser’s “Go Green” outfit featured layered necklaces from family members, a t-shirt with text reading, “Out of this World” (Pacsun), thrifted green slacks and Nike Air Force Ones.

She enjoys experimenting with vibrant colors and layering, often inspired by outfits she sees on Pinterest and TikTok, but Enser said her style “switches up a lot.” The past year has given her a chance to find a balance between comfort and style.

“I was still figuring myself out freshman and sophomore year so I was wearing more regular clothing,” Enser said. “Then over quarantine I was kind of locked by myself for a while so I was trying to figure out who I was and I found clothing that represented that. Now I feel like I’m getting more energy seeing people again and my clothing became a lot more vibrant, so it kind of does express how I’m feeling at the time.”

In a “Mob Psycho 100” hoodie, Vans and double-knee Dickies pants (so they don’t rip when skateboarding), Matthew Hoke was caught for the interview with his pizza. He called his typical uniform “The Big Baller Look.”

“It’s just how it is,” he said.

If Hoke can’t skate in it, it’s a no-go. Concocting outfits isn’t something Hoke spends much time thinking about. Although his clothing shows personal flare, practicality and knee-versus-concrete durability comes first.

“I wear the same thing every day,” Hoke said. “I don’t think about it too deeply.”

Chloe Burcell’s mixed-era look, which she called, “How I’m Feeling Today” featured 90s-inspired baggy overalls (Urban Outfitters), a 70s-style halter top (Urban Outfitters), and a handmade necklace from her grandmother which carries family heritage.

“My necklace is really important to me,” Burcell said. “Culturally, I am white and native American. In California — especially coastal California — native people make necklaces out of abalone seashells. My grandma and my aunties make these necklaces. … I think it’s really cool that it’s made up of all the natural elements from California such as pink abalone, amethyst, volcanic stones and bits of amber.”

Burcell has been a pioneer of bold fashion, making big moves since freshman year, but she feels that more people have been stepping into their own recently.

“Even two years ago, it felt so much more nerve-wracking to make choices and strong statements with our outfits,” Burcell said. “I think it’s cool that people are finding the confidence to just not care and do what they want to do.”

Lately, Aida Yezalaleul has been “in a hat moment,” appreciating how this simple accessory can elevate an outfit. A pop of color among more muted tones has also been a useful tool for putting together a look, she said.

Yezalaleul’s uniquely titled, “Cat Going Out for a Walk Sheep” outfit featured a Brandy Melville shirt, bell bottom jeans from Urban Outfitters and a borrowed baseball cap.

The “serial clothes borrower” brings fresh flavor to the wardrobe she has become accustomed to by using items from family members to reinvigorate her fashion creativity. Sometimes, all it takes is a younger brother’s green-accented hat to lend a new lens and spark inspiration.

“Everybody’s like, ‘I have nothing to wear today,’ even though their closet is full of clothes,” Yezalaleul said. “So, it’s always good to take a peek where you haven’t seen.”

An outfit compliment from Yezalaleul — occasionally called from afar — is a sprinkle of glitter on any person’s day. Yezalaleul said giving and receiving these unexpected moments of appreciation is “a break in routine.”

“You never see it coming,” she said.

Julie Broch’s muted tone wardrobe alchemized into a last-minute, yet effortlessly cool ensemble. She wore a thrifted Michael Kors jacket (Goodwill), a thrifted t-shirt (ThredUp), thrifted trousers (Goodwill), One Star Converse sneakers and layered jewelry (Etsy).

“As long as you have [good basics], whatever you throw together will look fine.”

Through her thrift store chronicles, the seasoned secondhand shopper has learned the elusive skill of pinpointing potential in a heap of randomness.

“It’s kind of a hit or miss,” Broch said. “Sometimes I’ll come back with nothing but the other day I went to Goodwill and came back with like eleven things. So it kind of depends on the day. Just luck, I guess.”

New Los Altos Community Center to open in October

STORY BY NAINA SRIVASTAVA, PHOTOS BY ARYA NASIKKAR

The highly anticipated Los Altos Community Center is scheduled to open on Oct. 2. 

The 24,500 square foot–center consists of 12 rooms, including a community room, three multipurpose rooms, conference rooms, a dance and fitness room, an arts and crafts room and dedicated rooms for preschoolers, teens and seniors.

“I think it’s been a long time coming that the community, the people in Los Altos have really wanted a new space to gather in,” said Mary Jo Price, the recreation supervisor for the City of Los Altos’ Recreation and Community Services Department.

The space will also feature public art curated by the Los Altos Public Arts Commision and an array of recreational games, including two outdoor bocce ball courts, a play structure and a ping pong table. 

Each room in the community center will be used to host various activities and programming, and all are named after a different tree species, sporting names such as Grand Oak, Manzanita, Sycamore, Juniper and Birch. Larger rooms will have a rental fee, however there will be discounted rates for Los Altos residents.

Environmental sustainability has been a priority throughout the design process of the building, allowing the center to be Leadership and Energy in Environmental Design Gold equivalent. 

“It is all electric, it has 7,500 square feet of solar panels on the roof and those are going to provide 60–90% of the electricity for the building,” Price said. “Everything in the building was created with environmental sustainability in mind, from the shape of the building to where the windows are.”

Representing Los Altos’s rich history has also been important throughout the process. 

“The most exciting thing [is] these two murals that are being painted on the walls of the community center, [which] is going to happen mid-September,” Price said. 

Painted by Morgan Bricca with research and design by Linda Gass, both murals will depict the landscape of Los Altos along Permanente Creek during different time periods, which have been extensively researched by the artist. The first mural will illustrate the landscape of Los Altos during the time which Ohlone inhabited the region, while the second depicts the same area of the creek in 1948, featuring the apricot orchards which once covered Los Altos. 

According to Price, the center’s predecessor, which shared the same location, was originally built in the late 1940s and early 1950s as an elementary school, and was later converted to a community center in the 1970s.

Led by a task force of volunteer Los Altos residents, the pre-planning phase of the community center began in 2017 and lasted two years. Shortly after breaking ground in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic began, which caused a short pause in construction and extended manufacturing delays.

In adherence with COVID-19 guidelines, all visitors will be required to wear masks inside the center. 

“We had hoped to do a big grand opening and just have it be an open house, but we realized that at this moment that isn’t a safe option and we want to make sure that everybody is safe and feels comfortable,” Price said. 

Instead, the opening will be spread over the length of multiple days and only a small group of residents will be permitted to tour initially.

Bocce ball courts and the senior center will be available following the center’s opening, however programming — classes, activities and special events — is expected to begin later in the fall.

“It’ll be exciting that when we’re all ready to do that, in Los Altos, we’ll have this beautiful brand new space,” Price said.

Monday, Aug. 23: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the community center is LEED certified (it’s LEED equivalent) and that it will have a basketball court (it does not). The names of the artists painting the murals have also been added.

Local author to hold talk on the Chinese American gold rush experience

STORY BY AVNI RAJAGOPAL, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR

The Los Altos History Museum will host a talk by Asian American historian Connie Young Yu in a program titled “Journey to Gold Mountain: Chinese and the Gold Rush” on Thursday, Aug. 12 over Zoom.

The program will detail the experiences of Chinese immigrants during the gold rush.

Yu, who has lived in Los Altos for 50 years, is an author who writes about Asian American history. A descendant of a continental railroad worker and an immigrant to San Jose, Yu said she “always felt [she] had the background to write about this.” Although at first she didn’t include her personal family history in her work, the recent rise in anti-Asian crimes inspired Yu to become more involved in writing about the history of her own ancestors.

The reason Yu is interested in the gold rush specifically is because of how meaningful it was to the history of Chinese immigrants — it caused the first wave of Chinese immigrants to come to America. 

Chinese villages heard of Gold Mountain, or Gam Saan, which sparked the dream of finding gold for these immigrants, many of whom simply needed a way to support their family. Yu said she found the emphasis on family fascinating when studying the Chinese gold rush experience.

“When they came, it would be like a small mining company,” Yu said. “And after the first wave of people, there would be an organization … that would greet the next wave and help them … find their way to Sacramento.”

“Chinese mining the Mother Lode Country,” by Jake Lee (courtesy of the Chinese Historical Society of America)

But when the Chinese arrived in California, they were quickly shut off and restricted by discriminatory laws and violence, Yu said. In fact, one of the first legislative acts of California was the Foreign Miners Tax in 1850, which enforced a tax on all miners that were foreign.

“Who would be the most foreign people, the most distinguishable foreign people, but the Chinese?” Yu said. “ Tax collectors … would just go through the camps just to threaten the Chinese.”

Because of this, fewer and fewer Chinese people mined, and they looked for other ways to earn an income, Yu said.

“The whole stereotype of the Chinese as laundrymen and as cooks came from the Gold Rush era, because they couldn’t mine without extreme danger, without being threatened,” Yu said. “Then, of course, because of the fact that they were cheap labor, for the building of the railroad, Chinese were employed.”

Although the Chinese immigrants were critical to the building of the railroad, California legislation continued to work against them. After the Foreign Miners Act in 1850 came People v. Hall, which ruled that a Chinese man could not testify against a white man. This was repealed in 1872.  

Then came the passing of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prevented Chinese people from becoming U.S. citizens. This law was only repealed in 1943.

“That created this total exclusion of one race of people,” Yu said.

This discrimination was especially hypocritical because of how important the Chinese immigrants were to America, Yu said. They helped develop agriculture, built roads and were a large part of the daily lives of white people. The Chinese American culture that came out of the gold rush is still a prevalent part of life today.

“If you go to Chinatown, it’s distinct Chinese American culture — in the food, in customs, in the various enterprises,” Yu said. “And it started in the gold rush days.”

Many parts of Chinese culture have become commonplace in America thanks to the gold rush, from the observance of Chinese holidays to recognizing the animals of the zodiac. Asian Americans also united over the shared discrimination that they face, and that unity is something that hasn’t been lost today.

“[Activists] feel this is something we could do that’s positive, by knowing the past and knowing the challenges of our ancestors and knowing how we can challenge that injustice in our society,” Yu said. “The textbooks, for so long … didn’t include the Chinese in the American narrative. And that’s why we have this opportunity to continue to uncover this history and put it back in its rightful place.”

Yu’s talk takes place on Thursday, Aug. 12, from 6:00-7:30 p.m. on Zoom. Sign up here.

MVLA: Respuestas para todas las preguntas que podrías tener sobre el retorno a la escuela durante COVID

ARTICULO DE TOMOKI CHIEN, FOTO DE ARYA NASIKKARTRADUCCIÓN DE RODRIGO SEPÚLVEDA SAGASETA

Esta historia fue escrita y reportada originalmente en inglés. Todas las citas son traducciones.

Click here to read the original article in English.

En una semana, los estudiantes del Distrito de Mountain View–Los Altos harán regresaran al campus por primera vez en 16 meses. Será un retorno completo: pero todo no sera necesariamente igual.

Estas son las respuestas a algunas preguntas del protocolo COVID-19 que podrías tener, lo cuales esperamos alivien un poco de su estrés sobre el regreso a la escuela. 

Nota: Todas las respuestas a estas preguntas se basan en información del 30 de julio. Las precauciones y decisiones relacionadas con el COVID-19, como siempre, están evolucionando constantemente.


Pregunta: Se tiene que usar mascarilla?

Respuesta: Sí, al menos hasta principios de noviembre. Pero no tendrás que distanciarte y podrás quitarte la mascarilla afuera. Aparte de las mascaras en los salones y zonas interiores, la escuela debería parecer bastante normal por ahora.

Pregunta: Tiendo a enfermarme mucho, especialmente durante el invierno y la temporada del influenza. ¿Tengo que quedarme en casa aunque solo sea catarro?

Respuesta: Desafortunadamente, sí. Si estás mostrando cualquier síntoma del COVID-19, muchos de los cuales son los mismos que las síntomas típicas de la gripa, tienes que quedarte en casa.

La asociada Superintendente Leyla Benson, que actúa como la persona designada para temas del COVID-19 en el distrito, dijo que el distrito reconoce que puede haber más ausencias como resultado de esto.

“Queremos tener mucho cuidado”, dijo Benson. “[Pero] si bastantes personas empiezan a tener problemas para obtener acceso a la escuela, entonces tendremos que revaluar.”

Pregunta: Aunque estoy vacunado, todavía tengo que quedarme en casa si estoy enfermo? 

Respuesta: Sí. Esta es una precaución necesaria, especialmente con la evolución de la variante delta, que —aunque se discute la idea de esto— se ha descubierto que todavía se pueden contagiar personas totalmente vacunadas. Sin embargo, se ha demostrado que las vacunas son muy eficientes para prevenir casos graves y detener la infección.

Pregunta: Cuándo podré regresar a la escuela después de quedarme en mi casa enfermo?

Respuesta: Bueno, depende. Si sales positivo para el COVID-19, entonces tendrás que esperar una cuarentena de 10 días, después de lo cual puedes volver a la escuela. 

Si no te da COIVID-19, es probable que podrás volver a la escuela, pero consulte la siguiente pregunta.

Parece que puede haber casos en los que, por ejemplo, si tienes un poco de catarro durante un día y tu médico te aprueba para volver a la escuela, no tendrás que hacer la prueba de COVID-19 para regresar. Pero en general, tendrás que tomar una prueba para el COVID si tienes alguna síntoma.

La escuela debe ponerse en contacto con usted sí toma un día enfermo y la ayudara en el proceso. Y, por supuesto, siempre puede contactar a Layla Benson por su correo: leyla.benson@mvla.net si tienes preguntas individuales. 

Pregunta: Que si tengo síntomas de gripa o influenza, pero salgo negativo para el COVID-19? 

Respuesta: Aquí es donde se vuelve un poco complicada la cosa. (Benson suspira cuando se le hace esta pregunta.) Todo depende del día en el que hiciste la prueba, si habías estado en contacto con alguien con COVID, si tu prueba fue de antígenos o de PCR y lo que diga tu medico.

Así que básicamente depende, y el distrito tomará cada situación caso por caso en consulta con el departamento de salud del condado. Pero lo más importante es que probablemente vas a recibir unas miradas desagradables de tus compañeros de clase si estás tosiendo durante toda tu clase. 

Pregunta: Si pruebo positivo para el COVID, tengo que presentar una prueba de COVID negativa para regresar? 

Respuesta: Hasta ahora, no. Solo tienes que esperar la cuarentena de 10 días. Al final de esos 10 días se supone que la carga viral que desprendes es lo suficientemente baja, que combinada con una máscara, no puede infectar a otras personas. Benson parecía pensar que la duración de la cuarentena podría cambiar porque la variante delta es más virulenta, aunque ella dijo que aún no ha oído ninguna palabra oficial al respecto.

Pregunta: El distrito ofrecerá pruebas de COVID? 

Respuesta: El distrito continuará colaborando con el Hospital El Camino para ofrecer pruebas a los estudiantes (Benson dijo que te pueden regresar el resultado de la prueba de una manera muy rápida), y también analizará otras opciones basado en necesidad. 

Si se necesitan pruebas con mayor frecuencia, el distrito tendrá clínicas de pruebas en colaboración con El Camino.

La prueba Cue COVID-19, una prueba para la casa aprobada por la Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos también es una opción que el distrito podría utilizar en cierta capacidad aunque lo único que es seguro hasta ahora es la colaboración con el El Camino Hospital.

Pregunta: Qué ocurriera si me aproximo a alguien que tiene COVID?

Respuesta: Si estás completamente vacunado y has entrado en contacto cercano con alguien infectado con COVID-19, no tendrás que ponerte en cuarentena — solo tendras que demostrar prueba de vacunación al distrito. Pero si no estás vacunado, o si declinas indicar tu estado de vacunación, tendrás que esperar una cuarentena de 10 días.

Benson dijo que puede haber algunos casos raros en los que un estudiante no vacunado en cuarentena debido a un contacto cercano podría salir temprano si producen una prueba negativa, aunque eso dependería de una serie de factores, incluyendo el día de la prueba, si las síntomas están presentes y lo que decida el condado; sería caso por caso.

Pregunta: Sera mas fácil completar las tareas y el trabajo que me perdería si falto por estar enfermo? 

Respuesta: Debería ser un poco más fácil, sobre todo porque los profesores van a entender. Benson dijo que los dirigentes del distrito discutieron esto, y al menos por ahora, está pidiendo que los profesores envíen cualquier trabajo que se pueda hacer virtualmente a los estudiantes que están enfermos en casa. 

Y, por supuesto, como en cualquier año normal, hay extensiones que los profesores están obligados a dar si tomas días enfermos. 

“Lo que hemos visto hasta ahora es que la gente es muy responsable en nuestra comunidad,” dijo Benson. “Este es el plan actual, [pero] era un plan basado en que el COVID mejorara enormemente y las tasas de vacunación fueran muy altas. Tengo que decir que en las últimas semanas ha habido muchos giros nuevos.”

Como con cualquier cosa, la política actual sobre las tareas y los días enfermos podría muy posiblemente cambiar una vez que comience el año escolar. 

Pregunta: Habra una option para aprender remotamente este año?  

Respuesta: Sí, en forma de la Opción B, el programa de estudio independiente remoto del distrito. Aunque dependerá de la circunstancia específica, Benson dijo que los estudiantes deberían poder cambiar a la opción B con menos problemas que el año pasado.

Pregunta: Qué porcentaje de maestros y estudiantes están vacunados? 

Respuesta: Benson dijo que en una encuesta a los profesores que aún no estaba terminada, el 96,6% dijo que estaban completamente vacunados, el 2,6% no quisieron aclarar, el 0,5% dijo que no estaban vacunados y el 0,3% dijo que estaban a mitad del proceso de vacunación. La encuesta de los profesores se finalizará más cerca al inicio de la escuela, y los estudiantes tomaran otra encuesta cuando regresen.

No tienes que dar tu estado de vacunación, pero si te declinas a declararlo, la escuela tiene que tratarte como una persona no vacunada.

Pregunta: Hay algo más que deberíamos saber?

Respuesta: Sólo hay que saber que todo podría cambiar muy rápidamente — incluso no esta garantizado poder tener una instrucción en persona para el resto del año.

Sin embargo, Benson subrayó que las vacunas siguen siendo la mejor manera de garantizar que la escuela pueda funcionar con la mayor fluidez posible.

“Realmente creemos como distrito escolar que la vacunación para cualquiera que pueda hacerlo médicamente … es nuestra primera línea de defensa,”dijo.

Es importante saber que si el reglamento cambia o la pandemia se empeora, el distrito está mucho mejor preparado que a principios del año pasado.

“Estamos muy entusiasmados con el prospecto de poder regresar,” dijo Benson. “Siempre hemos puesto la seguridad de todos primero. Así que si las señales muestran que [nuestro plan] no va a ser seguro para todos, tenemos muchas opciones que hemos probado y pueden funcionar.”

MVLA appoints special education administrator, assistant principals

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR

The Mountain View–Los Altos Union High School District board Monday appointed Neena Mand to the role of special education administrator, Fabian Morales Medina to the role of Los Altos assistant principal and Marti McGuirk to the role of Mountain View assistant principal.

All three were appointed unanimously by the board, and all three are expected to bring their extensive education experience to their new roles.

Mand, who assumes the role of special education administrator, will be responsible for overseeing the district’s special education program and serving students with disabilities.

Most recently, Mand worked as the special education coordinator for the Santa Clara County Office of Education, and has an extensive 26-year career in the field.

“[Mand] will bring to MVLA her vast experience and knowledge,” Superintendent Dr. Nellie Meyer said at Monday’s board meeting. “She also comes with a great sense of humor and a family that I know is very supportive of her … We’re very excited to say that she’s already started and has hit the ground running.”

Mand holds a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Berhampur University; a Master of Arts in liberal studies; and a Master of Arts in education administration and supervision, the latter two from San Jose State University. 

“It’s been a pleasure being here, and like Dr. Meyer said, hit the ground running with all those meetings and [individualized education programs],” Mand said. “I’m so excited to be working with the students and families here, so thank you very much.”

Morales assumes the vacancy left by Perla Passalo, who was tapped last year to serve as the district’s director of student services and equity. As assistant principal at Los Altos High, Morales will provide leadership in managing the school’s curriculum, discipline, facilities and support services. 

Like the other appointees, Morales is a veteran educator with 15 years of experience as a teacher and academic counselor. He most recently worked for the San Mateo Union High School District as an academic counselor and dual enrollment coordinator. 

“Fabian went through a very rigorous interview process and brings wonderful skills including counseling skills that focus on students who are English learners, but also students across the board,” Meyer said. “We’re very pleased to have Fabian here as part of our team.”

Morales holds a Bachelor of Arts in social science from the University of the Pacific; a Master of Arts in counseling psychology from the University of San Francisco; and a Master of Arts in educational leadership from Santa Clara University.

“[I’m] really excited to be here joining a great team,” Morales said. “I think we had a great starting point with freshman orientation and 10th grade orientation … I’m really looking forward to working with our community and hopefully impacting more lives.”

Of the three new appointees, McGuirk is the only one to have previously worked in the district — in fact, she’s spent the entirety of her 22-year career at Mountain View High. 

Functionally, McGuirk’s role at Mountain View will look similar to Morales’s role at Los Altos, bringing leadership to the school’s administration. 

In her career at Mountain View, McGuirk has served as an English teacher, consulting teacher and from 2006 to the present, an academic counselor.

“There are certain people that [kind of embody] this phrase that they ‘bleed gold and black’; they are through and through, heart and soul, a spartan,” Meyer said. “I can tell you in my two years … I’ve been so impressed with [McGuirk’s] ability to work with families, to work with students, her knowledge of Mountain View High School, her passion for the work she does.”

McGuirk holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Master of Science in education from Northwestern University.

“I am beyond thrilled to have this opportunity,” McGuirk said. “Dr. Meyer is right, Mountain View has been my professional home for the entirety of my career, and I do indeed — I feel — bleed black and gold. So I am so grateful to be joining an extraordinary administrative team, to be helping to support and build capacity in a staff full of magical human beings, and to hopefully continue to make a positive impact on our students and our families and community.”

MVLA: Answers to all the COVID back-to-school questions you might have

STORY BY TOMOKI CHIEN, PHOTO BY ARYA NASIKKAR

Haz click aqui para ver el articulo en Español.

In just over a week, students in the Mountain View–Los Altos Union High School District will make a full return to campus for the first time in 16 months. It’ll be a full return: but not necessarily business as usual.

Here are the answers to some pretty specific COVID-19 protocol questions you might have, which will hopefully alleviate some of your back-to-school stress — whether because you’ll have a better sense of what school will look like, or just because it’ll give you something confusing to distract yourself with.

Or, if this kind of stuff just makes you more anxious, do yourself a favor and click out of the tab now.


Note: All the answers to these questions are based on guidance that stands as of July 30. COVID-19 guidance, as always, is constantly evolving.

Q: To get it out of the way — do I have to wear a mask?

A: Yes, until at least early November. You won’t have to socially distance, though, and you can take your mask off outside. Other than the indoor masking, school should look pretty normal for now.

Q: I tend to get sick a lot, especially during the flu season. Do I have to stay home even if it’s just a sniffle?

A: Unfortunately, yes. If you’re showing any symptoms of COVID-19, many of which are the same as typical cold and flu symptoms, you have to stay home.

Associate Superintendent Leyla Benson, who serves as the district’s COVID-19 designee, said that district leadership recognizes that there may be more absences as a result of that.

“We want to be on the more cautious … side,” Benson said. “[But] if it becomes that enough people are having a problem obtaining access to school, then we may have to reevaluate.”

Q: Wait, but I’m vaccinated. Do I still have to stay home if I’m sick?

A: Yes. It’s a necessary precaution, especially with the spread of the delta variant, which — although the prevalence of this is debated — has been found to break through some fully vaccinated people. Still, though, vaccines are proven to be highly effective at preventing serious illness and stopping infection in the first place.

Q: When can I come back to school after taking sick days?

A: Well, it kind of depends. If you test positive for COVID-19, then you have to wait out a 10-day quarantine, after which you can return to school. If you test negative, then you can probably return to school — but see the next question.

It sounds like there may be cases where, for example, you have a minor sniffle for a day and your doctor clears you to return to school, so you won’t need to test. But by and large, expect to have to take a COVID test if you have any symptoms.

Your school should contact you if you take a sick day and help you through the process. And of course, you can always reach Benson at leyla.benson@mvla.net if you have individual questions (she responds to her emails, like, really fast).

Q: What if I have cold and flu symptoms, but a negative COVID-19 test?

A: This is where it gets a little tricky. (Benson let out a big sigh when asked this question.) It all depends on the day you tested, whether you came in contact with somebody known to have been COVID-positive at the time, if your test was an antigen or PCR test and what your doctor says.

“Like, did you just get randomly sick, and then you went and got your test, it’s an absolute PCR test, and you’re fully ruled out from COVID? Then the answer is yes, last year you could return,” Benson said. “If you were actually exposed, you have these symptoms and you tested on day four when you’re really supposed to test on day five, then I want you to go back … and take the test again.”

So basically it depends, and the district will take each situation case by case in consultation with the county health department. But the bottom line is, you’re probably going to be getting some nasty looks from your classmates if you’re hacking and wheezing through seventh period chem.

Q: Wait, hang on. If I test positive for COVID, do I have to show a negative test before returning?

A: As of now, no. You just have to wait out the 10-day quarantine. At the end of those 10 days, the viral load that you shed is supposed to be low enough that, especially when combined with a mask, you can’t infect other people. Benson seemed to think that the quarantine length could be subject to change because the delta variant is more virulent, although she said she hasn’t heard any official word on that yet.

Q: Will the district offer COVID tests?

A: The district will continue to partner with El Camino Hospital to offer testing for students (Benson said they’ve gotten “really fast” at getting the results back to you), and will also look into other options as needed.

If testing is needed more prevalently, the district will host on-site testing clinics in partnership with El Camino.

The Cue COVID-19 test, a Food and Drug Administration–approved at-home and over-the-counter test is also an option Benson said the district might look into using in some capacity, although that would bring its own set of challenges; the only thing that’s certain as of now is the partnership with El Camino Hospital. 

Q: What happens if I come into close contact with somebody who has COVID-19?

A: If you’re fully vaccinated and you’ve come into close contact with somebody infected with COVID-19, you won’t have to quarantine — you just have to show proof of vaccination to the district. But if you’re not vaccinated, or decline to state your vaccination status, you’ll have to wait out a 10-day quarantine.

Benson said that there may be some limited cases where an unvaccinated student in quarantine because of a close contact could exit early if they produce a negative test, although that would depend on a number of factors, including the day of the test, whether symptoms are present and what the county decides; it would be case by case.

Q: Will it be easier for me to make up the work I miss on sick days?

A: It should be a little easier, mostly on merit of teachers being understanding given the circumstances. Benson said that district leadership discussed this, and at least for now, is asking that teachers send whatever work can be done virtually to students who are sick at home — essentially what staying home sick looks like under normal circumstances.

And of course, there are built-in extensions that teachers are required to give you if you take sick days, as in any normal year.

Benson acknowledged that district leadership has discussed the fact that having to make up work is a big disincentive to staying home sick. 

“What we have seen thus far is that people are very responsible in our community,” Benson said. “This is the current plan, [but] it was very much a plan based on COVID vastly improving and vaccination rates being very high. I have to say, in the past few weeks there have been a lot of new twists.”

So as with everything else, the current policy about making up work from sick days could very possibly change once the school year starts. But seriously, when it comes down to it, it’s going to be up to you to do the right thing and stay home when you’re sick. 

Q: Is there a remote learning option this year?

A: Yes, in the form of Option B, the district’s third-party remote independent study program. While it’ll most likely depend on the specific circumstance, Benson said that students should be able to switch to Option B more seamlessly than last year.

Q: What percentage of teachers and students are vaccinated?

A: Benson said that in a survey of teachers that’s still being completed, 96.6% said they’re fully vaccinated, 2.6% declined to report their status, 0.5% said they weren’t vaccinated and 0.3% said they were midway through the vaccination process. The teacher survey will be finalized closer to the start of school, and students will be surveyed upon return.

You don’t have to give your vaccination status, but if you decline to state it, the school has to treat you as an unvaccinated person.

Q: Anything else I should know?

A: Just know that all of this could conceivably change very quickly — even having full in-person instruction for the rest of the year isn’t necessarily a guarantee.

Regardless, Benson stressed that vaccines continue to be the best way to ensure that school can operate as smoothly as possible.

“We really do believe as a school district that vaccination for anyone who can medically do it … is our first line of defense,” she said.

And, know that even if guidance does change or the pandemic swings in an unexpected direction, the district is far better prepared than it was at the start of last year to deal with these issues.

“We are very excited at the prospects of a return,” Benson said. “We have always put the safety of everyone 100% first. So if these signs show that [our setup is] not going to be safe for everyone, we have now a lot of tried and true options.”

Any questions I missed? Email me at tomoki@gmail.com.

Sunday, Aug. 1: This article has been edited to include new and updated information.

PAUSD to offer remote learning option for 2021–2022 school year

STORY BY MELODY XU, PHOTOS BY ARYA NASIKKAR

The Palo Alto Unified School District will offer students a fully remote learning program for the 2021–2022 school year.

While all students are expected to attend in-person instruction in the fall, PAUSD’s new Remote Independent Study (RIS) program — introduced to district parents and guardians in a July 20 email — is intended for students and families who believe their health would be compromised in returning to campus.

The program will consist of “weekly synchronous instruction” for its high school participants. According to the email, these students “may likely not be taught by a PAUSD teacher,” as PAUSD plans to make use of a third-party education provider. 

Otherwise offered programs like language immersion will not be available to RIS students, and high school Advanced Placement and honors courses “may be limited or non-existent.” The district is still reviewing whether or not RIS students will be prohibited from school affiliated extracurriculars like athletics.

If necessary, RIS students will be allowed to return to a district school within five days of their request to do so.

“Every effort will be made to return students to the home school pending space availability,” the district wrote in the email. “If space is not available, the student will be considered for another school selected by the district.”

As for in-person students in the fall, a mask requirement will take place indoors regardless of vaccination status, per the California Department of Public Health. However, face coverings will not be required outdoors, and social distancing will not be enforced on campus.

As a preliminary gauge of community interest of the RIS program, a non-binding interest form was sent out to the community. A final version will be sent within the next two weeks.

Un grupo de padres del distrito MVLA busca impulsar a estudiantes Latinos

ESCRITO POR RODRIGO SEPULVEDA SAGASETA, FOTO DE ARYA NASIKKAR

Este artículo fue originalmente reportado en Español

En un distrito escolar con un 25.8% de estudiantes Latinos, el grupo Latino Parent Outreach (LPO) busca apoyar a un número importante de estudiantes Latinos y sus padres que de manera desproporcionada enfrenta dificultades en su aprendizaje.

Al compartir experiencias y trabajar con el distrito para mejorar los recursos disponibles, los padres voluntarios de LPO esperan darle accesibilidad a los estudiantes Latinos a una mejor educación.

LPO se fundó hace cuatro años con la misión de encontrar y abordar el origen de los bajos promedios y asistencia escolar en estudiantes Latinos y en particular sus calificaciones en matemáticas.

Los padres involucrados se reúnen mensualmente en los llamados  “Cafecitos” para discutir temas de interés e intercambiar conocimientos, de esta manera se aseguran de que los padres con dudas puedan obtener consejos de los padres con más experiencia.

La organización realiza eventos “celebrando las diferentes culturas y países que hay en la comunidad hispana”, dijo Marilu Cuesta, una voluntaria de LPO. Estos eventos incluyen celebraciones importantes como el Día de los Muertos y La Posada.

“El objetivo de nuestro grupo como padres es abrir nuevas oportunidades para los estudiantes Latinos y asegurarse de que vayan a la escuela sintiéndose felices y cómodos, sabiendo que pueden tener éxito aprovechando de todos los recursos que la escuela y sus maestros les ofrecen,” dijo Cuesta.

En marzo, en un esfuerzo para contrarrestar el bajo rendimiento académico entre los estudiantes Latinos, el grupo envió una carta al distrito escolar proponiendo 16 puntos clave.

“El distrito siempre ha sabido de estos problemas, pero en realidad, nunca se ha hecho lo suficiente para cubrir todas las necesidades,” dijo Semi Gurbiel, la futura presidente de LPO. “Esperamos que puedan ayudarnos con las ideas que les hemos dado, y que acepten y puedan trabajar con nosotros para cubrir todas estas necesidades que tenemos y hacer que nuestros muchachos se gradúen exitosamente.”

Estos puntos incluyen garantizar un servicio de Internet confiable para todos los estudiantes, aclarar los recursos disponibles y sus requisitos para aumentar la participación de los estudiantes Latinos y ampliar el apoyo a la salud mental. La petición también sugiere planes prácticos y sin costo, como instituir programas de tutoría entre estudiantes ejemplares y estudiantes más nuevos para ayudarlos a lograr sus objetivos.

Esta carta es el resultado de la colaboración de los padres de LPO y de un análisis de los problemas que enfrentan los estudiantes Latinos. También sugiere recursos como becas y oportunidades con empresas de tecnología como Google y Facebook,  que podrían ayudar a combatir las disparidades.

En la renovación más reciente del Plan de Rendición de Cuentas con Control Local (LCAP) del distrito, se implementará un mejor acceso al Internet para todos los estudiantes, un mejor asesoramiento académico, servicios de salud mental y “educación culturalmente relevante” lo cual refleja algunas de las ideas sugeridas en la petición de LPO.

“Enfrentamos muchos retos, pero yo creo que los retos principales que tenemos es el reto socioeconómico y la barrera del Inglés,” dijo Gubriel. “Tenemos padres que tienen que trabajar en dos o tres trabajos y no pueden apoyar y orientar a sus hijos académicamente como lo puede hacer otros padres. Viendo las estadísticas académicas de los estudiantes Latinos en nuestro distrito nos inspira y nos hace querer darle mejores oportunidades a nuestros niños y nuestra comunidad.”