Jen Ezpeleta

Manhattan Beach Unified School District applies for TK-2 waiver, surveys parents on school return

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A survey of 4,700 parents showed between 22 and 28 percent would prefer to keep students in distance learning the rest of this school year. Graph by MBUSD

 

by Mark McDermott 

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District last Friday submitted applications to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in hopes of obtaining waivers that would allow students from kindergarten to second grade in each of its elementary schools to begin in-person classroom learning. 

The submission for the waiver, known as the TK-2 Hybrid Program because it would combine in-person with distance learning, is a longshot for MBUSD. Only six schools per LA Supervisorial district will be approved per week and priority will be given to schools with the highest percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunch. MBUSD has among the lowest percentages of these students in the state and the very lowest in LA County. 

“I remain optimistic, but it’s an uphill challenge,” Superintendent Mike Matthews told the school board at its Oct. 21 meeting, two days before submitting the application. “it really is.” 

Matthews met with Health Department leaders Friday afternoon and asked that the process be opened up to allow 30 waivers a week. If MBUSD were successful in its application, the earliest the TK-2 Hybrid could begin at local schools would be on November 16. 

School board member Karen Komatinsky urged community members to help create a “public outcry” in support of the application. 

 “I know many of the parents watching this are very frustrated with where things are at,” she said. “If there’s anything that you’d like to do —  reach out to [Supervisor] Janice Hahn’s office, reach out to the county Health Department. Reach out to all of them, because we’ve been doing that, and our city leadership has been doing that.” 

Matthews said even though it’s a longshot, the merest chance that MBUSD could broaden its reopening would be a huge community-wide win. 

“I know we’re at the very end of the pecking order for that and so I don’t know if it will actually happen, but I hope we can do it,” Matthews said. “It’d be a strong signal to our community, it’d be a strong signal that our employee groups and the district and parents are coming together for the same cause. I think it could be a good thing for us.” 

Matthews also discussed the results of two surveys, one which queried parents about whether they would want their kids back in classroom learning, at least part-time, this school year; and another which asked teachers if they would like to be back in classrooms with students. The results showed that between 75 and 78 percent of parents would send their kids back to classrooms in a hybrid model were it possible, while 75 percent of teachers said they’d be comfortable returning either full or part-time. A little over 4,700 parents participated in the survey. 

“It’s pretty consistent, between 75 and 78 percent are looking at returning to school and between 22 and 25 percent are not, and they want to stay in the distance learning mode,” Matthews said. “I do not think these are rock solid numbers, because again, it’s going to be a matter of what people are actually looking at,when they actually see the hybrid choices that are out there.”

 

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