Kevin Cody

Manhattan Beach School District prepares ‘hybrid’ of distance, school learning 

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Manhattan Beach Superintendent took time out from pandemic planning to participate in a Zoom forum on race relations in Manhattan Beach two weeks ago. Photo by Philicia Endelman (PhiliciaEndleman.com)

by Mark McDermott 

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District will not be opening campuses at the start of the new school year on August 26. But district officials are working to improve distance learning while preparing for a new kind of normal when campuses do reopen. 

Governor Gavin Newsom took any guesswork out of the decision of whether or not to reopen campuses last Friday when he announced  schools within any of the 32 counties on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list will not reopen at the beginning of the academic year. Newsom said the recent surge in novel coronavirus cases in those counties made reopening campuses too risky. 

“Our students, our teachers and staff, and certainly parents, we all prefer in classroom instruction for all the obvious reasons — social, and emotional foundationally,” Newsom said. “But only if it can be done safely.” 

Newsom, in conjunction with the California Department of Public Health, released criteria for school reopening. They included a requirement that for in-person instruction to resume a county must experience 14 consecutive days off the state’s watchlist. Over the past week, LA County has seen record numbers of confirmed cases and hospitalizations, and so is unlikely to leave the watchlist anytime soon. 

MBUSD Superintendent Michael Matthews, in a districtwide email, said the Governor’s announcement all but guaranteed Manhattan Beach schools would begin the year with remote learning. 

“In speaking with a variety of medical and educational professionals, no one believes that we will be moving from the height of the pandemic to the lower and more stable numbers required for in-person school by MBUSD’s start date on August 26,” Matthews said. “Many estimate our physical return to campuses between early October to January, but it will all depend on whether we as individuals, and as a society, start to abide by the recommended safety guidelines. Getting back to in-person school will take all of us working together.” 

Matthews said MBUSD has formed a steering committee and two large subcommittees to review the issues surrounding social distancing and how its campuses will eventually be reopened, recommendations for which were scheduled for discussion at the July 22 Board of Education meeting and a vote for implementation on July 29. 

Newsom and the state health agency’s guidelines for remote learning include live interaction between students and teachers daily and mandatory mask-wearing for all students third grade and above when campuses are allowed to reopen, six-feet distancing among students and between staff and students, and handwashing stations available in all schools. 

Matthews said that however schools open in August, MBUSD will find a way to deliver the high standard of education to its students. 

“When school begins, we must ensure that there are appropriate procedures in place to monitor student attendance and participation in remote learning, and to provide for follow-up when students are not engaged,” he said. “We also anticipate a return to standard marks and grades, which will involve ongoing discussions related to accountability and assessment measures.” ER 

 

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