Vision, Mission and Goals of PAUSD

Palo Alto Unified District has been educating children and adults for over 125 years. The district includes the city of Palo Alto, Stanford University and areas of Los Altos Hills, Palo Alto hills and Portola Valley within its attendance area. There are approximately 12,000 students attending eighteen schools in Palo Alto today. There are two High Schools, three Middle Schools, twelve Elementary Schools, plus one Transitional Kindergarten/Young Fives campus. Approximate breakdowns are as follows: TK and Young Fives serves 125 students, Elementary Schools serve 5,000 students, while the secondary schools serve roughly 7,000 students.

In 2007, the previous Long-Range Facilities Master Plan laid out a 20-year plan for developing and maintaining Palo Alto’s school facilities to the established standards of the day. Changes in technology and the educational mission of the district were addressed through a plan for funding new technology and planning flexibility in developing its school sites.

The efforts in this document are a continuation and update of the Strong Schools Bond Program.

Palo Alto School District continually strives to do its important work even better. In 2008, the district adopted a Strategic Plan which outlined a road map to meet its aspirational goals for students. This plan was evaluated and updated in 2013, and in 2017, PAUSD further established its universal goals and priorities to unify the multiple methods of planning across the district. The 2017-2018 school year Established Priorities and Goals capture efforts from many different means such as the LCAP (Local Control and Accountability Plan), WASC, and SIPSA (School Improvement Plan for Student Achievement) from each site. The district continues to self-assess and reflect on how to be most effective.

PAUSD’s Strategic Plan vision is to support all students as they prepare themselves to thrive as global citizens in a rapidly changing world, and develop students’ knowledge, critical thinking and problem solving skills, by nurturing their curiosity, creativity, and resilience with the goal of empowering every child to reach his or her fullest intellectual social, and creative potential. In order to fulfill this vision, PAUSD has defined five goals as providing: High Quality Teaching and Learning, Equity and Access, Wellness and Safety, Special Education & Inclusion and District Office Operations.

The Board of Education believes that careful planning is essential to effective implementation of district programs and policies and has established these clear goals to achieve its vision. Each students path to fulfill his or her fullest potential is shaped by many factors and the physical environment plays an especially large part. The Master Planning Team used the district vision and the goals established in 2018 by the Palo Alto School District to guide the process of updating its Long-Range Facilities Master Plan.

High quality Teaching

In examining the first goal of providing High Quality Teaching and Learning, the physical environment at a basic level, must provide adequate space and flexibility in design. Providing adequate space per student, providing space for classroom materials and space for hands on manipulatives prove to have a measurable impact on teaching and learning in every discipline, while flexibility in classroom design and furnishings proves to allow teachers to develop and implement meaningful, relevant, and adaptable curriculum. The school environment must be shaped by the teaching and learning. In addition to these basic physical components, high quality teaching and learning require access to natural daylighting, access to outdoor learning spaces, and space for current and future supportive technologies. Finally, to provide the highest quality teaching, adequate and professional space for school staff to plan and implement are essential. The physical environment has a measurable impact on teachers and students, laying the groundwork for their successful preparation.

Equity and Access to programs, services, activities and enrichment experiences is also greatly affected by the physical environment. To provide equity and access for all, a school campus should be physically designed to encourage community collaboration and partnership, providing a welcoming atmosphere and project an identity that broadly represents a diverse cultural association through universal design. An essential strategy to closing the achievement gap is providing adequate space for programs, student services and special education implemented by the district. Additional areas of consideration are providing quality food services, adequate space for community outreach and inclusion, flexibility to provide for different learning modalities (visual, movement, sound), providing break out areas for multiple activities, providing individual, small group tutorial and homework areas, providing access for after school use, and providing space for specialists supporting each school site. With these strategies in mind, the Master Planning team examined how each school campus could better serve to support students through universal design, with a mission of creating an environment for all learners.

Wellness and Safety prove to be foundational for a student to thrive and proved to be a very high priority of parents and community members. On a basic level, the physical environment shall provide excellent indoor air quality, visual, thermal and acoustical comfort, provide daylight and views to the outside, and provide access to clean and safe restrooms and food service facilities. A campus design shall provide safety for children during recess with easy access in emergencies, consider safe routes to school, provide security from mischief and vandalism and provide accommodations for lockdowns with visual screening capabilities. Furthermore, the physical environment shall support the social emotional learning by providing space for mental health services and space that promotes high levels of connection, engagement and overall well-being throughout the school community.

Improvement of Special Education and Inclusion has been identified as a goal for PAUSD. In 2018, additional funds were allocated for growth of the program services. The Facilities Master Plan identifies ways to support this goal by providing adequate square footage for programs and service at each of the neighborhood schools that prove to be deficient. Additionally, implementing Universal Design strategies will give access to all students to high-quality programs and services, in the least restrictive appropriate environment, designed to meet their unique needs.

The fifth goal identified is that District Office Operations shall optimize and ensure robust long-term plans for physical and financial capacity through prudent stewardship of resources. The development of this comprehensive Facilities Master Plan is only one step toward this goal. The implementation a Facilities Master Plan shall include clear communication with the community and between PAUSD district departments. The successful development and maintenance of the built environment shall be driven by regular communication by agile, flexible teams and through data-influenced decisions.

The ability to serve PAUSD students is dependent on the physical environment provided to staff and leadership to do their work. These long-term goals established by PAUSD are the guiding principles and basis of design in developing the Education Specifications and a Long-Range Facilities Master Plan. The design team shall periodically revisit these goals with district leadership to ensure continued relevancy, alignment, and implementation.

PAUSD Programs and Support Services

In order to design and maintain top notch facilities that provide exceptional learning environments, architects and staff need to understand the multitude of programs and services offered by PAUSD. Each program is carefully considered and contributes to each student reaching their fullest potential. Below outline the programs offered by the district. The programs are outlined on the following pages, followed by further detailed descriptions. Refer to PAUSD Website or department heads for updates and further information.

Description of Programs and Support Services

Below are brief descriptions of the programs identified above. Consideration of these programs and services are imperative to developing facility plans. Refer to PAUSD Website or contact district staff for more in depth details on each program.

Assistant Superintendent: Equity & Inclusion

Special Education

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) provides support to all students with disabilities. We partner with Los Altos, Mountain View, Whisman, and Mountain View/Los Altos School Districts as well as the Santa Clara County Office of Education (COE) to ensure that programs are located within our Special Education Local Planning Area (SELPA).

Students may receive any combination of services, based on their IEP, including:

Speech and Language—offered at all schools

Speech and language specialists provide support for articulation, voice, fluency, and language disorders.

Resource Specialists—offered at all schools

Resource Specialists provide educational planning, special instruction, tutorial assistance, or other services to exceptional individuals in special programs or regular classrooms.

Special Day Classes—offered at selected elementary schools and all secondary schools. Students are grouped with others who share similar instructional needs. Each class has a credentialed special education teacher and an instructional aide. Special Day Classes are available at all secondary schools and the following elementary schools: Escondido, Fairmeadow, Juana Briones, Nixon, Ohlone, Barron Park and Walter Hays.

Specialized day programs are also available:

Deaf-Hearing Impaired Program - Jackson Hearing Center runs programs at Fairmeadow, JLS, and Gunn

Orthopedic Program—offered at Juana Briones, Fletcher, and Gunn

Adaptive physical education, nursing services, counseling support, behavior support, occupational therapy, and other services are available when a student's IEP determines this need.

Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital School

Students who are hospitalized or undergoing treatment at the Lucille Packard Children's Hospital continue their coursework through the Hospital School. The School at Children's Hospital is a unique collaboration between Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) and the Children's Hospital that provides quality education to critically and chronically ill hospitalized children.

School-age inpatients and students living at Ronald McDonald House receiving regular outpatient services are eligible to participate in the Hospital School, which is a self-contained classroom located in the Ronald McDonald House.

Student Wellness & Support Services

Health Services

By helping students stay healthy, we support student learning. Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Health Services aims to improve and protect the health of children. Under the supervision of the District Nurse, the school site health staff cares for its students. We try to prevent illness and disability by educating our students about nutrition and safety and detecting early potential health problems. We also help identify and remove health-related barriers to learning.

Project Cornerstone

To align with District focused goals to improve student connectedness and strengthen support systems for students, PAUSD is working in conjunction with Project Cornerstone a county non-profit organization helping communities build asset rich environments for the youth.

Counseling Services

Counselors and psychological services are available at each school in Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) to assist students and parents with social, emotional, academic, and mental health issues.

Counseling Programs

K - 5 Counseling - PAUSD contracts with three mental health agencies (Cassy /Acknowledge Alliance/ Family and Children’s Services) at the elementary level. These services are provided by licensed and pre-licensed mental health professionals and include, assessments, ongoing counseling, crisis intervention and treatment, mental health education and consultation to children, families and school staff.

6 - 12 Counseling - PAUSD provides counseling by licensed and pre-licensed mental health professionals and include, assessments, ongoing counseling, crisis intervention and treatment, mental health education and consultation to children, families and school staff. Other counseling includes academic, career and college counseling.

Academic Supports

Voluntary Transfer Program

The Voluntary Transfer Program (VTP), also referred to as the Tinsley Program, brings students from Ravenswood School District to Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD). It supports student learning and achievement, focusing on early literacy. The program aims to: Reduce isolation of racial minorities in the Palo Alto, Ravenswood, and Sequoia School Districts Improve educational achievement of Ravenswood students Enhance inter-district cooperation.

Currently there are about 600 VTP students from kindergarten through twelfth grade are enrolled in our District. As PAUSD students, they receive full District services and are provided bus transportation to and from school.

English Language Learner (ELL)

The English Language Learner (ELL) program supports students who are not proficient in English develop the language skills they need to succeed in school.

Elementary ELL (K – 5)

Each Palo Alto elementary school offers ELL instruction. English Learner students are given instruction through integrated English language instruction. EL Specialist teachers work with the classroom teacher to create lessons that provide access to the core curriculum

Secondary ELL Program (6 – 12)

In secondary schools, ELD is taught through language arts and social studies. Newcomer programs are hosted at JLS Middle School and Gunn High School. Greene and Fletcher offer English Learner programs for intermediate and bridging English learner students.

At the request of ELD teachers, Primary Language Tutors work with English Learner students who are at the beginning levels of English acquisition and require additional support in the mainstream classroom. Tutors work with the student the first semester of enrollment.

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination)

AVID is a national college preparatory program designed for middle and high school students who are underachieving or underserved learners. The program assists students attain the academic skills, self- confidence, and motivation to attend and be successful at a four-year university.

Summer School

PAUSD offers summer school programs for grades K-12 at Palo Alto school sites. Summer School Registration Packets containing registration and emergency forms, a course catalog, and general information about summer school are available in early spring. You can download Registration Packets below for each educational level or pick them up at school offices or the district office.

Student Services

After School Care & Preschool

After-school Programs at Palo Alto Schools

There is a licensed after-school child care program at each Palo Alto elementary school site. Programs are managed by private providers— Palo Alto Community Child Care (PACCC), Creative Learning Center, and Redwood Enrichment Center.

Preschool Family

Parents participate with their children (ages birth to four) in a preschool program that includes adult discussion sessions for parent education and support. Programs are offered through the Palo Alto Adult School and held at the Greendell school site.

Meal Plans

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) provides meal services for our students. Lunch is offered at all schools. Brunch is available at middle and high schools. Snacks or ala carte items are offered during brunch and lunch at middle schools and high schools for students to supplement their meals.

Transportation Services

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) offers limited transportation to our students for a fee. All students must have a pass to ride the PAUSD bus. Voluntary Transfer Program (VTP) and low-income students may be eligible for a free public transportation pass. The City of Palo Alto offers two free shuttles that stop at Paly, Gunn, JLS, Greene and Fletcher. Schedules and maps are available on the Palo Alto Free Shuttle Web page.

Chief Technology Officer

Library Media Program

Our Library Media program aims to prepare students to become literate, life-long learners and trains them to be effective users of information. School librarians teach library skills and provide access to materials that support classroom programs and curriculum. Library resources are available to students and staff on a checkout basis. Our interlibrary loan service allows school libraries to share resources.

Digital Citizenship

PAUSD recognizes the issues that face our students in a digital age.

Chief Academic Officer: Secondary Education

Middle Schools

Organization and Program

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) middle schools are committed to providing affective and intellectual experiences to our students. We have three middle schools that offer several choice and alternative programs to engage students at all learning levels.

Our middle school curriculum serves as a bridge between elementary school and high school and is designed to educate young adolescents in a way that meets their unique developmental needs. All students take seven periods of class. Clubs, athletics, lunchtime activities, and service projects provide many opportunities for students to be involved in school.

Sixth grade students spend the day in self-contained teams with two to four teachers, focusing on core studies. Music and physical education are taught on alternative days. The Exploratory Wheel course cycles students through six-week introductory instruction in subjects they may choose as electives in 7th and 8th grades.

Seventh and eighth grade students choose elective classes to complement their core studies. Students take four core classes and two elective courses.

Visual and Performing Arts Program

Our Visual and Performing Arts program continues the instruction provided in elementary education and gives interested students the opportunity to further their skills and expression. Classes are aligned with state and District Visual & Performing Arts Standards.

Art classes cover a variety of 2- and 3-D skills and processes and are offered at beginning and advanced levels.

Drama is available to beginning and advanced students and by audition for after-school dramatic and musical productions.

Music participation in band, orchestra, or choir is required of 6th grade students. In 7th and 8th grades, music becomes an elective course, and students can participate in Concert Band, Advanced Band, Symphonic Band, Orchestra, or Choir.

Middle Choice Programs

PAUSD offers several choice programs for grades 6-8. Admission is granted through a lottery system.

Connections (3 year program offered at JLS)

The JLS Connections Program is a learning community of students, teachers, and parents where hearts and minds are inspired through inquiry-based instruction -- focused on student choice, cross-curricular units, collaboration, and presentation -- fostering self-directed, reflective, global citizens. It currently serves 270 students.

Spanish Immersion (3 year program offered at Greene)

The middle school Mandarin Immersion program is a continuation of the bilingual curriculum of elementary Mandarin Immersion. Students are promoted from the elementary-level as well as other students who demonstrate grade-level bilingual fluency in Mandarin and English.

Mandarin Immersion (3 year program offered at Greene)

The middle school Mandarin Immersion program is a continuation of the bilingual curriculum of elementary Mandarin Immersion. Students are promoted from the elementary-level as well as other students who demonstrate grade-level bilingual fluency in Mandarin and English.

Middle School Athletics

The Middle School Athletics program is jointly coordinated by the Palo Alto Unified School District and the City of Palo Alto's Recreation Division and is run at the school site facilities including gym and fields.

High Schools

Organization and Program

Our two highly ranked high schools have been praised for their comprehensive, wide variety of educational opportunities to students at all learning levels. Students take courses that challenge them intellectually, correspond with their career interests, and prepare them for life after high school. They can participate in athletic and academic teams, clubs, student government, community service, and arts activities. We aim to help all students succeed and complete high school in productive and purposeful ways.


Our high schools offer courses in the following subject areas. Specific courses vary at each school from year to year.

Arts–Visual and Performing

Career/Vocational Education


World Languages

History/Social Science


Programming/Computer Science

Physical Education


Athletic Programs

Our competitive athletic programs complement student academic life. Students can try out for several seasonal team sports throughout the school year.

Student Center & Hub

The Student Center & Hub.


Clubs are varied and robust.

Career Technical Education

Career Technical Education (CTE).

Advanced Authentic Research

Designed for students with interest, passion, curiosity, and perseverance to investigate an authentic topic of their choosing. Intended for students in 10th-12th grade.

Alternative Programs to earn High School Degree

Opportunity Class

Each high school has an Opportunity Class that serves 9th and 10th grade students under age 16 who need a small, self-contained instructional setting. The program is designed to help students establish successful patterns of attendance, academic achievement, and social behavior. Students are placed in this program with the goal of eventually reentering mainstream program. Standard curriculum is taught in a small, supportive, and personalized setting.

Middle College at Foothill Community College

The Middle College program is designed for juniors and seniors who are mature enough to handle a college level environment and take responsibility for their own educational planning and credit completion. Students take both high school and college level classes on the Foothill campus and receive double credit for completed college level courses.

Alta Vista Continuation High School

Students may enter this program the semester they turn 16 with a referral from a counselor or school administrator. The program emphasizes personalized instruction, integrated study, and vocational education and training. Students take core courses alongside elective and vocational education classes. Students may use this program to make up missing credits and graduate from Mountain View/Los Altos School District

Independent Study

Independent Study programs are available at both Paly and Gunn high schools for students who need credits to graduate. Students meet with an Independent Study teacher to receive work assignments and tests.

General Education Diploma (GED)

PAUSD students can enroll in classes to prepare for the GED shortly before their eighteenth birthday.

Santa Clara County Alternative Schools Department

The Santa Clara County Office of Education provides educational programs for students who are under court supervision or who are not attending regular school for a variety reasons. The program emphasizes academic competency as well as behavior and attitude change.

Secondary Options

Secondary Options programs instruct, guide, and support students and adults as they prepare for and embark on a working life. We work with many organizations and offer a wide range of programs for students and adults.

Regional Occupational Program (ROP)

ROP provides career preparation and skill training for high school students, out-of-school youth, and adults. Classes include Automotive Technology, Biotechnology, Computer Information Technology, Culinary Arts, Robotics, and Web Page Design.

El Cajon Project

"At risk" and disadvantaged high school students may supplement their regular high school curriculum (and earn school credit) with hands-on vocational training in the culinary arts.

Work Experience

Exploratory Experience & Science Work Experience at Lockheed. Students earn academic credit in classes that combine classroom instruction with hands-on work experience.

Programs for Individuals with Disabilities

Palo Alto VA Hospital Career Training Center

The goal of the training program is for the student to gain work experience in a career interest and/or to obtain competitive employment. A student with an IEP or 504 Plan is on -site for job training with a job coach and a 5:1 staff student ratio and is exposed to a variety of work experiences.

Elementary Schools Internship Program

The goal of the program is for a student to gain work experience by providing leadership, support and needed services for the school environments and elementary students. Types of activities include reading to students, shelving books in the library, and assisting with art projects. Students work with staff on site and communicate regularly with a transition specialist.

WorkAbility Programs

WorkAbility I (for high school students in special education) program provides comprehensive pre-employment training, employment placement, and follow-up consultations for individuals making the transition to independent living. Sped 80 or Counseling 50 is a required course for all new students to Foothill College. A section of the course is specifically designed for seniors who have been in Special Education while in high school.

Transition Partnership Program (TPP)

PAUSD connects high school students with disabilities to the State of California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) and assists with their transition to work.


PAUSD students in the SASSY program (run by Opportunities Industrialization Center West) may earn up to 10 academic credits per semester.

Palo Alto Adult School

Palo Alto Adult School was established by the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) in 1921. The adult school offers a robust program and annually serves a student population of approximately 8000 students. Our school is committed to excellence by providing a broad range of affordable, high quality education programs, providing classes for English learners, parents, job seekers, travelers, hobbyists, and others who want to expand their skills.

Chief Academic Officer: Elementary Education

Elementary School Program

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) has a long-standing commitment to educating the whole child. Our curriculum is designed to help students develop intellectually, physically, emotionally, ethically, aesthetically, and socially. We encourage students to become active, engaged learners and responsible citizens. At each grade level our teachers challenge students and help them achieve academic and intellectual competencies.

We have twelve elementary schools, of which four house choice programs to engage students at all learning levels.

Choice Schools and Program

In addition to the neighborhood schools, Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) offers several choice programs to our students. All students are eligible to attend, and admission is granted through a lottery system. Parents are responsible for providing their children's transportation to and from school.

Hoover Elementary School

Hoover offers a more structured learning environment than other PAUSD elementary schools. Teachers emphasize core curriculum, basic academic skills, and good study habits.

Ohlone Elementary School

Ohlone's open school philosophy focuses on developmental education. Classrooms emphasize open-ended activities, personalized instruction, and peer tutoring. Teachers facilitate academic, social, and emotional learning.

Spanish Immersion Program

The Spanish Immersion Program at Escondido is designed to develop full bilingualism in both Spanish and English. English-speaking students and native Spanish speakers are taught together using Spanish and English instruction to develop bilingual academic fluency. The program begins in kindergarten and continues through fifth grade or middle school.

Mandarin Immersion Program

The Mandarin Immersion Program at Escondido is designed to develop full bilingualism in both Mandarin and English. English-speaking students and native Mandarin speakers are taught together using Mandarin and English instruction to develop bilingual academic fluency. The program begins in kindergarten and continues through fifth grade or middle school.

Visual and Performing Arts Program

The arts are a critical and integrated part of our elementary curriculum. Students learn the arts as discrete subjects, each with its own unique content, and, where appropriate, connect the arts to concepts and themes from the academic curriculum. Art lessons are provided by trained specialists who rotate through elementary school classrooms. Music classes are taught by a traveling team of credentialed music teachers. A dance is provided for students in grades k-2, by the Palo Alto Children’s Theatre and sponsored by Palo Alto Partners in Education Foundation.

Physical Education Program

Physical education is a valued and integral part of our elementary curriculum. A traveling team of credentialed, physical education specialists provides instruction to all elementary school classrooms. Students are assessed on 5 fitness components—cardiovascular endurance, body composition, strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility. A traveling team of specialist teachers visits each elementary school to give physical education instruction. Teachers hold physical education teaching credentials.

Transitional Kindergarten

Transitional kindergarten or TK program at the Greendell school site is the first year of a two-year kindergarten program that uses a modified kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate.

Young Fives

The Young Fives program at the Greendell school site for children who are age eligible for kindergarten but are not ready to enter kindergarten. The program is designed for children who exhibit signs of immaturity or youngness that may prevent them from succeeding in kindergarten and future school years. Parents participate once a week in the classroom and monthly discussion sessions in the evening