Palo Alto schools recruit hundreds of parents to cover staff shortage

A school district on the Peninsula turned to parents to help keep schools open when surging COVID cases threatened to shut down classrooms.

Palo Alto Unified is asking parents to volunteer on campuses to help cover staff shortages amid a rise in COVID cases.

"I’m really happy that we have parents that are willing to help," said Superintendent Dr. Don Austin."I'm thankful community that I have a community I know I can reach out to."

The 1 Palo Alto Campaign launched over the weekend and more than 500 parents signed up in the first day, according to the district's website. So far, 670 parents have registered.

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Available roles include helping in school offices, supervising students during lunch and recess, assisting in COVID testing clinics, and helping teachers in the classroom.

The campaign urges families to coordinate carpools to help address transportation concerns related to bus driver shortages.

Parents must be fully vaccinated in order to help at the schools.

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"The first thought was, ‘Oh no. What’s happening?' If they’re asking for parent volunteers that means there’s a shortage of staff," said parent Raeline San Buenaventura who volunteers at Addison Elementary School.

Buenaventura has two children that attend the school, and she began helping out during lunch period prior to the superintendent’s post. She said had she not already been volunteering, she would heed the call and encourages others to do so as well.

"I want to support my kids and their education. And also the community in general, the kids here," she said.

Education experts said using parents to fill work gaps helps promote a seamless educational experience for students.

"We know that districts were really stretched with staffing," said Dr. Heather Lattimer, dean of the San Jose State University College of Education. "So it’s actually not that surprising given what we’re seeing in the rise in case numbers that this is an approach some districts are able to take."

"We’re trying to be prepared for the bad day that hasn’t happened yet. Instead of waiting for that day to occur and then scrambling," added Austin.