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Did you know? Tucked away on the third floor of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford is a unique, on-site school just for patients—and it’s celebrating its 100th anniversary!  

The Hospital School began at the Stanford Home for Convalescent Children—the earliest predecessor of Packard Children’s Hospital—which provided care, balanced meals, and sunshine to children recovering from illnesses such as polio and tuberculosis. In 1924, the Con Home converted a former dining room into a schoolroom, where children could continue their education in a setting adapted to their needs that didn’t interfere with their care and recuperation. “The older children, without this work, would worry a good deal at the loss of time and probably of promotion in school,” wrote Ruth Spande, the Con Home’s first superintendent and administrator, in a 1923-24 annual report. “It’s important … for their minds to be profitably occupied … during the convalescent period.” 

Through a partnership with Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), the school continued on when the Children’s Hospital at Stanford opened in 1969, and when Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital opened in 1991.  

Still Going Strong  

Today the Hospital School occupies two classrooms at Packard Children’s and provides four hours of instruction every weekday for students in grades K-12.  

Taught by accredited PAUSD teachers, the school covers a wide range of subjects and offers enrichment programs in art, science, and drama. While the classrooms temporarily closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Hospital School is now back to serving approximately 450 registered students each year, which includes patients and occasionally siblings. Some children attend for just a few days, others stay for years.  

“Our patients might be sick for a very long period of time, and we still want them to feel like they have a future and can have as normal a life as possible. For a child, normal means going to school,” says Kathy Ho, a high school teacher at the Hospital School.  

Teachers provide bedside instruction when needed but encourage patients who are feeling well enough to come to the classroom. Ho observed that during the pandemic, many children became accustomed to being isolated in their rooms and on screens. The Hospital School offers a welcoming return to in-person learning and socialization.  

Ruben is seated with his teacher, Kathy Ho.
Ruben enjoys learning math and history in the Hospital School.

On a recent spring day, Ruben, 14, came to the school—as he has for most of his 200 days in the hospital—to learn pre-algebra and feed his love of history. He also enjoyed a fierce game of cards with other students.  

Tyler is seated at a table in between his art teachers.
Tyler enjoys bonding with his classmates and  teachers in the Hospital School.

At the next table, Tyler, 12, drew and colored with middle school teacher Elena Melendez and art teacher Scott Souter, who visits each Friday. Having been in and out of the hospital throughout his life due to a heart condition, Tyler loves the school, says his mom, Jennie. “It’s a wonderful resource where he can take a break from his medical journey and find educational outlets. The students are treated with the utmost respect and support,” she says. 

How your support helps: 95% of the books in the Hospital School are made possible by donations, says teacher Kathy Ho. For infection control, students keep books, art supplies, and other materials rather than sharing them. “Philanthropy allows us to provide a dynamic, enriching environment,” says Ho. “We can offer books and other resources to students without worrying about the cost of replacing them.” 

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of Packard Children’s News.