Parent volunteers help keep short-staffed schools open

The S.O.S. went out from the Palo Alto Unified School District and parents answered the call Wednesday.

The district says it has doubled the number of sick calls as usual because of COVID.
That's why Superintendent Don Austin issued a plea for parent volunteers over the weekend. More than 750 have signed up.

The volunteers came in Wednesday to fill the void left by COVID sick calls

"It went pretty good. Easier than I thought. My first time manning the lunch line. It was something new," said Wei Mao, who volunteered at J.L. Stanford Middle School where her twin sons attend.

"The community wanted the schools open. So we are doing our little part of helping the schools stay open," said Vandana Adya, who has twin seventh graders.

Austin says he is overwhelmed by the response from parents.

"Emotional. Grateful. I feel so good. When we asked people didn't blink," he said.
We saw volunteers handing out sports equipment, helping with lunch, and wiping down tables and chairs; jobs that school employees are stretched too thin now to do."

"It's not just teachers. It is our custodial staff. It's our food service. If we don't have enough individuals there, we don't have food going out to the students," says assistant principal Hanisi Accetta.

"Without this, I can't look into the camera and say we are going to be open tomorrow. And with this, I can," said Austin.

Parent volunteers must be fully vaccinated and COVID tested weekly. They are not left alone with a child.

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The volunteers say they are getting as much out of it as they are putting in. 

"I've been hearing a lot about my boys' friends. Now it is nice to put a face to their names," said Wei.

But how do teenagers feel about having their parents hovering around the schoolyard?

"My kids don't want me to be here. I said if you want to go to school they need help. Let me help. And they were fine," said Adya.

While many school districts may not have the same resources or parent availability as Palo Alto,  the program is drawing national attention.