Palo Alto Unified School District

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Palo Alto Unified School District
25 Churchill Avenue
Palo Alto
, California, 94306
United States
Coordinates37°26′18″N 122°08′56″W / 37.438350°N 122.148860°W / 37.438350; -122.148860Coordinates: 37°26′18″N 122°08′56″W / 37.438350°N 122.148860°W / 37.438350; -122.148860
District information
EstablishedMarch 20, 1893; 129 years ago (1893-03-20)[2]
SuperintendentDon Austin[3]
NCES District ID0629610 [1]
Students and staff
Students10,754 (2020–2021)[1]
Teachers641.19 (FTE)[1]
Staff756.07 (FTE)[1]
Student–teacher ratio16.77:1[1]
Other information

The Palo Alto Unified School District is a public school district located near Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. It consists of twelve primary schools, three middle schools, two high schools, and an adult school.


The district itself was founded on March 20, 1893, with the first school opening in September of that year.[4] Enrollment grew until it reached a peak of 15,576 students in 1967. Afterwards, enrollment declined sharply, forcing the district to close many schools.[4] Enrollment was at its lowest in 1989 with only 7,452 students.[5] Jordan Middle School was reopened when enrollment increased again. Barron Park Elementary School was added in 1998, and Terman Middle School was reopened in 2001.[4] In 2013 the district had 12,268 students.[6]

All district schools were closed on March 16, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[7] A plan passed on September 29, 2020[8] to reopen elementary schools on October 12, and high schools on January 7, 2021, caused widespread debate, including criticism from teachers and staff citing safety concerns.[9][10][11]

Cluster suicide[edit]

Palo Alto high schools received national attention in 2009 after five of its students committed suicide over a span of nine months, mainly by walking in front of trains at a local crossing.[12] As a result, steps have been taken to limit access to the tracks.[13] Attempts have since been made to try to improve the emotional health of students attending the schools. As of 2015, cluster suicide has remained a problem in the district's high schools.[14][12]

In February 2016, a team of suicide prevention specialists from Epidemiologic Assistance (Epi-Aids) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) paid a two-week visit to the area to determine risk factors.[15][16][17] In July 2016, the Epi-Aids team released preliminary findings.[18][19]

High schools[edit]

Gunn High School[edit]

Image of the front sign of Gunn High School
Gunn High School

Henry M. Gunn High School is one of two public high schools in Palo Alto. The school is named after Henry M. Gunn (1898–1988), who served as the Palo Alto superintendent from 1950–1961. During his tenure he saw the district expand from 5,500 students to 14,000, adding 17 new schools, and is credited with the establishment of De Anza College and Foothill College, two local community colleges. In 1964, the Palo Alto Unified School District announced it would name its third high school after him. Its first class graduated in 1966. The school's mascot is Timmy the Titan. The student newspaper is The Oracle, part of the High School National Ad Network. There is an internal student-run television news show called theTitan Broadcast Network.

Palo Alto High School[edit]

Palo Alto High School

Palo Alto Senior High School, known locally as Paly,[20] is among the oldest high schools in the region. Founded in 1898, its enrollment today is over 1700 students. The school draws high-achieving and scholastically-minded students due to the demographics of its location in the heart of Silicon Valley and its proximity to Stanford University. In 2002 Newsweek ranked it among the top 200 public high schools, based on test scores. In 2007 U.S. News & World Report ranked it #85 out of over 18,000 public high schools. Palo Alto High also carries on a distinguished athletic tradition, marked in recent years by a rivalry with crosstown foe Gunn. Titles won by teams from Paly include California State Championships in Boys Varsity Basketball in 1993 (during which the team went undefeated) and 2006, and a California State Championship in Football in 2010 (as well as CCS Championships in 2006 and 2007). The Paly Girls Varsity Volleyball team won back-to-back state championships in 2010 and 2011. Palo Alto High School also received a multimillion-dollar performing arts center, officially opening on October 1, 2016.

Middle schools[edit]

Greene Middle School[edit]

Greene Middle School

Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School, formerly David S. Jordan Middle School, is located at 750 N. California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94303.[21] The school mascot is the jaguar.[22]

The 2018–19 school year had 1,050 students in attendance.[23] The student population was 54% male and 46% female.[23] Its racial makeup was 40% Caucasian, 30% Asian, 14% Hispanic, 2% African American, and 13% Other (including multiple races).[23]

Named after Stanford University president David Starr Jordan,[24] Jordan Middle School was founded in 1937. It was closed in 1985 due to lack of enrollment in the district, then reopened in 1991 after remodeling. A bond was approved by the city of Palo Alto in 1995 to allow for further technological upgrades to the school.[21]

The school mascot from 1937–1985 was a dolphin. When Jordan reopened in 1991, the students voted to have the jaguar become the mascot. In 1999, the students voted to have the dolphin returned to its status as co-mascot with the jaguar.[25]

Due to Jordan's involvement in eugenics, the school was renamed beginning in the 2018–2019 school year after venture capitalist Frank S. Greene Jr.[26]

J. L. Stanford Middle School[edit]

J. L. Stanford Middle School

Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School, formerly Ray Lyman Wilbur Junior High School and known locally as JLS,[5] is located at 480 East Meadow Dr., Palo Alto, CA 94306.[27] The school mascot is the panther.

The 2018–19 school year had 1,137 students in attendance. The student population was 54% male and 46% female. Its racial makeup was 44% Asian, 32% Caucasian, 12% Hispanic, 1% African American, and 11% Other (including multiple races).[28]

The land that Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School and the adjoining Fairmeadow Elementary School now sit on were once owned by three farmers. The farmers sold their land to real estate developer Joseph Eichler, who later donated the land to the district.[5]

Founded in 1953, the school was originally named after Ray Lyman Wilbur, one of the early presidents of Stanford University. After Jordan Middle School closed due to lack of enrollment in 1985, the two schools were merged at the Wilbur school location and it was renamed Jane Lathrop Stanford after Jane Stanford, co-founder with her husband, Leland Stanford, of Stanford University.[5]

Fletcher Middle School[edit]

Fletcher Middle School

Ellen T. Fletcher Middle School, formerly Terman Middle School, is located at 655 Arastradero Road in Palo Alto. The school mascot is the tiger.[29]

The 2018–19 school year had 668 students in attendance. The student population was 54% male and 46% female. Its racial makeup was 38% Asian, 30% White, 16% Hispanic, 12% Two or More Races, 1% Black and 1% Native Hawaiian/ Pacific Islander.[30]

The original name of the school located on the site was Terman Junior High School (named after Lewis Madison Terman), unrelated to the school currently at the site. It was closed in 1978 due to declining enrollment in the district.[29] The district placed a new middle school named Terman Middle School at the site in 1999 to deal with rising enrollment. The first school year was 2001–2002. The new school was named after both Terman and his son Frederick Terman, a Silicon Valley pioneer.[26][29] The relocation was met with great controversy by local residents as the district sought to potentially overtake the land by eminent domain from the residing Jewish Community Center.[31] As a result, land from the Cubberley Community Center was instead traded for the land the district needed at Terman. The JCC continued to lease district land at Cubberley until it made other plans.[32][33] Beginning in the 2018–2019 school year the school was renamed Ellen T. Fletcher Middle School after a Palo Alto city councilwoman because the elder Terman—like Jordan—espoused eugenics.[26]

Elementary schools[edit]

  • Addison Elementary School, named after the adjacent street which takes its name from the author Joseph Addison.
  • Barron Park Elementary School
  • Duveneck Elementary School (formerly Green Gables)
  • El Carmelo Elementary School
  • Escondido Elementary School
  • Fairmeadow Elementary School
  • Hoover Elementary School (formerly located on Middlefield Road at Hoover Park, also formerly located at current Barron Park Elementary site)
  • Juana Briones Elementary School (formerly Loma Vista)
  • Lucille M. Nixon Elementary School
  • Ohlone Elementary School (formerly called Ohlones, until 1971, and located on E. Charleston until 1982, where Hoover is now)
  • Palo Verde Elementary School (called Sequoyah from 1976 until 1982, when it merged with Los Niños and changed its name back to Palo Verde)
  • Walter Hays Elementary School

Adult school[edit]

Palo Alto Adult School[edit]

Palo Alto Adult School
Palo Alto Adult School logo.svg
50 Embarcadero Road


United States
MottoEducation is for life.
SuperintendentKaren Hendricks
CEEB code052340
PrincipalDave Hoshiwara
Number of students8,000
AffiliationCalifornia Adult Schools

The Palo Alto Adult School (PAAS) is a California Adult School established by the Palo Alto Unified School District in 1921.[34] It offers several classes across a number of schools. Its main office is located in the Tower Building at Palo Alto High School. There are no restrictions on enrollment in regards to a student's place of residence or citizenship.[35] English-language-learning and citizenship classes are free, and other classes charge a low fee.[36] Herb Wong, jazz expert and educator, was a teacher at the adult school.[37]

The Palo Alto Adult School is part of the North Santa Clara County Student Transition Consortium (STC), with nearby De Anza College, Foothill College, Mountain View Los Altos Adult Education, and Sunnyvale–Cupertino Adult Education.[38] It has classes at seven locations within the borders of the Palo Alto Unified School District.[39]

Past schools in the district[edit]

At its peak in 1967, Palo Alto had 22 K-6 elementary schools. Of those, these schools are closed:

  • Crescent Park Elementary School (?–1983), razed for housing development
  • De Anza Elementary School - razed for housing development
  • Elizabeth Van Auken Elementary School - still stands. Renamed Los Niños Elementary school in 197? until 1982, at which point it merged with (and moved locations to) the former Sequoya school and renamed Palo Verde (see above). Currently the site of the Ohlone Elementary magnet school.
  • Garland Elementary School - still stands, currently leased to two private schools (Stratford School and CYES Chinese immersion after-school program). Reopening it as a public elementary school has been proposed in the 2000s and 2010s.[40][41][42]
  • Greendell Elementary School - still stands, currently operates other school district programs
  • Lytton Elementary School (1920(?) to 1966) - razed for development
  • Ortega Elementary School - razed for housing development. Was the site of the Jewish Community Center from 1976 to 1983 before Terman.
  • Ross Road Elementary School - razed for housing development. Was the site of the Mayfield Continuation School.
  • Mayfield Elementary School - razed for development, now the site of a soccer field. After the elementary school closed, it was used as the original site for the Mayfield Continuation School.
  • Ventura Elementary School - now the Ventura Community Center under the Parks and Recreation Department

School board[edit]

The Palo Alto Unified Board of Education (often known as the Palo Alto Unified School Board) consists of five members elected at-large. The current members of the school board are Shounak Dharap, Ken Dauber, Todd Collins, Jennifer DiBrienza, and Jesse Ladomirak. On November 3, 2020, DiBrienza and Collins were re-elected, while Ladomirak was elected to replace the outgoing Melissa Baten Caswell. Dharap and Dauber have their terms expiring in 2022, while the remainder expire in 2024.[43][44][45]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Search for Public School Districts – District Detail for Palo Alto Unified". National Center for Education Statistics. Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved 2022-03-05.
  2. ^ cite web|url= |title=Our History |publisher=Palo Alto Unified School District}}
  3. ^ "Superintendent Palo Alto Unified School District". Palo Alto Unified School District.
  4. ^ a b c "Our District". Palo Alto Unified School District. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  5. ^ a b c d Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School Website - History Retrieved March 1, 2008 Archived November 9, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "District Fact Sheet". Palo Alto Unified School District. 2015. Archived from the original on June 2, 2016. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  7. ^ Kadvany, Elena. "First Palo Alto student tests positive for coronavirus". Retrieved 28 September 2020.
  8. ^ Kadvany, Elena. "School board approves reopening plan over teacher, parent concerns". Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  9. ^ Kadvany, Elena. "'We're asking you to wait.' Reopening plan highlights breakdown of trust between teachers, district".
  10. ^ Toledo, Aldo (28 September 2020). "Palo Alto Unified wants to reopen classes Oct. 12; parents and teachers object". The Mercury News. Retrieved 29 September 2020.
  11. ^ Do, Kiet (29 September 2020). "Parents Question Plan For In-Person Classes In Open Letter To Palo Alto School District". CBS KPIX. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  12. ^ a b Hanna Rosin (November 16, 2015). "The Suicide Clusters at Palo Alto High Schools - The Atlantic". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  13. ^ "Rail Corridor Safety Improvements". City of Palo Alto. November 18, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  14. ^ "After five suicides, Palo Alto high school students change culture through peer support « Culture & Features « Peninsula Press ARCHIVE (2010 – Sept. 2014)". Archived from the original on October 10, 2016. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  15. ^ Yanan Wang (February 16, 2016). "CDC investigates why so many students in wealthy Palo Alto, Calif., commit suicide". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  16. ^ Stav Ziv (February 16, 2016). "AFTER RASH OF TEEN SUICIDES IN PALO ALTO, THE CDC SENDS TEAM TO INVESTIGATE". Newsweek. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  17. ^ "Update on CDC Epi-Aid and Field Visit (February 16-29, 2016)" (PDF). Project Safety Net. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  18. ^ Elena Kadvany (July 15, 2016). "CDC releases preliminary findings from youth-suicide study". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
  19. ^ Amanda Garcia-Williams, Julie O’Donnell, Erica Spies, Alejandro Azofeifa, Kevin Vagi (2016). Undetermined risk factors for suicide among youth, ages 10–24 — Santa Clara County, CA, 2016 (PDF) (Report). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 27, 2016.{{cite report}}: CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  20. ^ "Palo Alto High School". Palo Alto High School. Retrieved 2020-05-12.
  21. ^ a b "Greene Middle School". Palo Alto Unified School District. 2018-06-06. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  22. ^ "Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School". Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle School. Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  23. ^ a b c "Search for Public Schools - School Detail for Frank S. Greene Jr. Middle". Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  24. ^ "Jordan Middle School". Jordan Middle School. Archived from the original on 2018-07-27.
  25. ^ "About - Jordan Middle School". Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  26. ^ a b c Kadvany, Elena (March 28, 2018) [March 27, 2018]. "School board votes to rename schools after Frank Greene, Ellen Fletcher". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  27. ^ "Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School". Retrieved 2007-12-08.
  28. ^ "Search for Public Schools - School Detail for Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle". Retrieved 2020-05-05.
  29. ^ a b c "History of Terman". Archived from the original on 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2008-05-21.
  30. ^ "Search for Public Schools - School Detail for Ellen Fletcher Middle". Retrieved 2020-05-06.
  31. ^ Kavanaugh, Jennifer (September 13, 2000). "Terman dilemma divides community". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  32. ^ Berry, Jennifer Dietz (January 26, 2001). "Land-swap agreement proposed for Terman". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  33. ^ Kazak, Dan. "A place for everyone".
  34. ^ "About PAAS". Palo Alto Adult School.
  35. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions - Palo Alto Adult School". Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  36. ^ "About PAAS - Palo Alto Adult School". Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  37. ^ "Herb Wong, leading Bay Area jazz expert, dies at 88". Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  38. ^ "Consortium Partnership - Palo Alto Adult School". Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  39. ^ "Locations - Palo Alto Adult School". Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  40. ^ Doolittle, Emilie (December 16, 2008). "Reopening Garland Elementary is a top priority". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  41. ^ Kenrick, Chris (August 26, 2009). "School board backs off on re-opening Garland". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  42. ^ Kadvany, Elena (November 11, 2015). "Enrollment committee proposals garner mixed responses". Palo Alto Weekly. Retrieved 2018-09-25.
  43. ^ "Board of Education - Palo Alto Unified School District". Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  44. ^ Kadvany, Elena. "School board race expands with two newcomers, one incumbent". Retrieved 2021-03-18.
  45. ^ "Election Night Reporting". Retrieved 2021-03-18.

External links[edit]