School Reopening Disparity on Display in the Bay Area

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As parents, teachers and students in Palo Alto cheer the full reopening of classrooms, other local districts say this is the latest example of the gap between districts that are well-funded and those that are not.

The Alum Rock Union School District (ARUSD) in San Jose is still in the "we're considering it" stage when it comes to reopening classrooms. One of the main road blocks is money. The district doesn't have the money or the infrastructure yet to welcome all students back.

"It might not be the politically correct thing for me to say, but here it goes: I think this was designed to support districts who are already affluent and able to reopen," ARUSD Superintendent Dr. Hilaria Bauer said.

All of the schools in the Palo Alto Unified School District are once again open for in-person learning. The last wave of students – high school and middle school students – were allowed to return on Tuesday.

"I'm going to leave it to them to be here for whatever it is that they need to be here for: to be with their peers, to get closer to their teachers or just to get back on the campus," Palo Alto High School Principal Brent Kline said.

Meanwhile, just miles away in San Jose, most of the classrooms remain empty. Bauer said Palo Alto has a tax base that dwarfs her district, so she feels it already had the funds and resources in place to reopen.

Bauer said her district needs $9 million to make schools safe for students to return. The state gave the district $3 million.

"We don’t have all the resources that we need, so we need to kind of roll this out in a very soft way," Bauer said.

ARUSD plans for most students to finish the school year via distance learning, then have a robust summer in-person program planned, followed by some normalcy in the fall.

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