All elementary and middle school students in Menlo Park City School District will learn online from home to start the fall semester, the district board decided in a 4–1 vote at its meeting July 30.
District schools — Encinal, Laurel, Oak Knoll and Hillview Middle schools — will start the year with distance learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, the district said in a July 31 statement.
In its decision, the board said it intended to reassess the health data over the coming weeks and potentially would open schools with a hybrid schedule that alternates weeks of in-person teaching with at-home learning as early as Sept. 8.
“As the board deliberated its decision it kept the health and safety of MPCSD’s students, families, staff, and teachers at the forefront,” the district said. “The concerning health data showing rising cases in San Mateo County was an overarching reason the board made the decision to open in distance learning. Providing clarity and a stable planning runway for teachers and families was also a priority.”
Public comment at the board meeting included many parents who argued for returning students to campus as quickly as possible, citing concerns about academic and emotional wellbeing.
Board member Sherwin Chen said that that it was a difficult decision, and acknowledged that the virus is having “impacts on families beyond our control,” according to the district's statement.
“In the end, the safest decision was to spend at least the first two weeks of school in distance learning with the intent to open schools to small groups of students as soon as possible,” the statement said.
With its decision, the Menlo Park City School District joins a growing crowd of local elementary school districts announcing distance learning to start the fall. Portola Valley, Ravenswood Elementary, Redwood City Elementary and Palo Alto Unified school districts have all announced students will start the fall semester learning from home.
District decisions come amid a rising number of coronavirus cases over the summer, as well as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent decision to require that schools in counties that are on the state’s watchlist can't open until they've been off the list for 14 days. San Mateo County was put on the watchlist July 29 and three days later, had to impose additional restrictions on a range of indoor business operations.