Hermosa Beach third through fifth graders could return to campus in early March

Super Bowl surge could jeopardize school re-openings, countywide

by Donald Morrison 

Third grade students may return to in-person classes as early as Monday, March 8, with fourth and fifth graders starting the following day, Superintendent Jason Johnson, announced at Wednesday’s school board meeting. 

But for this to happen, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health guidelines require the County to go five consecutive days with fewer than 25 per 100,000 people testing positive for Covid-19.

Though optimistic that the positivity rate will decline to that level, Johnson cautioned the board, “There are things that could disrupt that. Some fear what’s being called the ‘Super Bowl surge.’ What typically happens when we have an event or holiday is that people celebrate and case rates go up.” 

When on campus learning is allowed, parents will be given the option of having their children participate in hybrid instruction (part on campus, part online or distance learning), or 100 percent distance learning, Johnson said.

Hermosa’s Transitional kindergarten through second grade students returned to on campus instruction at Hermosa View School on Feb. 2, under a waiver issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

To date, 248 Hermosa students have been brought back for hybrid learning: 83 kindergarten students, 89 first graders and 76 second graders, according to the superintendent.

“A huge thank you to all the teachers and parents,” Johnson said at the school board meeting. “It’s been momentous, it’s been great.”

Allowing sixth, seventh and eighth grade students to return to campus is complicated by the fact that the upper grade students move to different classrooms and mix with different students throughout the day, Johnson explained

“You have to keep self contained classrooms,” Johnson said. “You can’t have 14 kids mixing with 14 other kids. That’s something that we’re working on and our thought is that if they don’t evolve this rule, then we’ll probably start holding distance learning at school. This at least gets our foot in the door.”

Also at Wednesday’s board meeting, Johnson presented a three-year budget projection, showing the board operating at a $585,000 deficit, partially due to the loss in enrollment. 

Since the pandemic began, 160 students have left the district. Kindergarten and second grade saw the biggest drop in enrollment, losing 35 and 37 students, respectively. 

Distance learning, lack of student engagement, private schools enrollment and moving out of the district were the top reasons, according to an exit survey of families who left the district.  Only 52 percent of those families said they intend to return once distance learning is over. ER

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Written by: Donald Morrison

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