David Mendez

RBUSD to close campuses, begin online instruction

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Redondo Union High School. Photo by David Mendez

by David Mendez

Redondo Beach Unified School District is closing its campuses to students and beginning online instruction next week, according to an announcement released Friday.

“In communication with, and strong advice from, the Los Angeles County Office of Education today, we have made the decision to close all Redondo Beach Unified School District campuses to all students beginning on Tuesday, March 17 through spring break on April 10,” Superintendent Steven Keller said in a letter to RBUSD families.

Campuses will be open on Monday, March 16, from 9 a.m. to noon, for students and parents to pick up personal belongings and district-issued Chromebooks. If students already have their items at home, they do not need to come to school. Campuses were already closed to students on Friday, owing to a planned staff development day.

Online instruction for all grade levels, transitional kindergarten through 12th grade, will begin Wednesday through Friday, April 3. RBUSD Child Development Centers and After School Programs will also be closed.

All events, including athletic events and high school drama performances, have been cancelled as well.

“We took our time deliberating. We wanted to make a good decision, as opposed to a rash decision,” said RBUSD School Board President Brad Waller.

As other neighboring school districts made the decision to close campuses, community members began to pressure the district on social media, asking why the district had not yet followed suit.

The reason was school funding — districts are funded by Average Daily Attendance, or ADA. If the district chose to close schools or go online-only without being told to do so by authorities, they risked losing funding.

“If we close for four weeks without having the County or State saying the district has a shot at getting funding, we’re at risk of being on the hook for three weeks of salaries, possibly all of our reserves, and we’d be insolvent,” Waller said. “I’m not going to sign the district up for receivership.”

The district had received assurances from the state that if attendance dropped because kids were held out of school for coronavirus-related concerns, RBUSD would still receive its normal ADA funding compared to previous years.

Student attendance reports are released monthly at meetings of the Redondo school board, but the board informally discussed attendance before its most recent meeting on Tuesday, Waller said. There were no statistically significant changes in recent attendance figures.

According to Waller, the situation remains fluid, but the school district intends to ensure its students are secure.

“We don’t have it all in our update yet, but we’ll have something for kids with food insecurity issues, we’ll make sure anybody who needs internet access has some way of doing it…so they have access to the same education that everyone else does,” Waller said.

Waller’s biggest concern isn’t the schools though — it’s the families.

“The last thing I want is to see a family where a parent has to stay home, but they work on an hourly basis and can’t afford school or housing because we sent their kids home,” Waller said — and he cautioned that neighbors that might hold unofficial group classes within a home would run counter to the whole point of “social distancing” — a strategy of limiting person-to-person proximity to prevent the spread of disease — that the closures are intended to affect.  “If there is an issue and we find out about it, I would advocate that the schools do something,” Waller said. “We’re talking about this constantly, and we’ll do what’s best for safety and security for all of our kids, not just some of our kids.” 

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