From Dr. Matthews' October 19 Monday Morning Message:
On Friday, we updated our “Facts vs. Rumors
” webpage in response to questions we have received or heard about. The page has had over 1,030 visits since we updated it October 9.
Here are some updates for this week.
- High Needs Hybrid: It was fantastic to see some of our DHH students back on campus last week. We had students at several schools returning, and we began assessing students on campuses. In a poll taken last week through the Los Angeles County Office of Education, only about 30% of school districts in LA County had opened schools with high need hybrids. Our program will be steadily expanding from this point forward. Dr. Irene Gonzalez-Castillo sent out this email to parents and guardians of students with IEPs.
- Preparing our Elementary Classrooms for Hybrid In-Person Learning: When LA County moves from the Purple Tier to the Red Tier (staying below 7.0 cases per 100,000 for at least four weeks), we anticipate that the County will open up elementary schools for hybrid in-person learning. We are preparing for that day by:
- implementing the health and safety precautions that we described in our Health and Safety Protocols document,
- placing signage in our hallways and entrances
- providing directional markers so that we have one-way traffic throughout the school
- painting socially distanced markings to avoid congregation at entry and egress points
- turning off water fountains
- ensuring that all classrooms are equipped with hand sanitizer
- stocking all sinks with soap and paper towels
- providing disinfecting supplies
- maximizing classroom ventilation, including upgrading HVAC filters.
Next week, our Maintenance and Operations (M&O) departments will remove furniture from our elementary classrooms, leaving chairs and desks for a maximum of 12 to 16 students in each classroom, depending on grade level. They will also remove classroom rugs and all furniture that is porous, such as sofas and bean bag chairs.
This classroom at Pennekamp illustrates the changes students will see when they return to campus.
- TK-2 Waiver: Our application for the TK-2 waiver is almost complete. We continue to meet with our employees, including our labor unions, focusing on in-person learning in our TK-5 grades. As we continue to assemble all of the requirements for the TK-2 waiver, I have assurances that the City of Manhattan Beach will be providing letters of support this week, I already have letters of support from our PTAs, and I am hopeful that we can meet all requirements by this Friday. Meeting the requirements of the County for this waiver is challenging - only four schools in the entire county had met all requirements as of last week.
- Parent Surveys: I am not ready to ask parents to make a commitment and choose between hybrid learning and distance learning, but I do want to get the pulse of our community. In this very brief survey, I am asking parents to let me know, for each of their children, if they had to commit now, whether they would choose distance learning for the remainder of of the 2020-21 school year, or hybrid learning, where they will be in school part of the time and distance learning part of the time. I will share the results with the board on Wednesday and of course share them with our community.
From Dr. Matthews' October 12 Monday Morning Message:
Last week, a number of communications came out of my office. I hope you all received last week’s Monday Morning Message
, which will be a regular briefing for the foreseeable future. After the Board meeting on Wednesday, we published the board meeting highlights
and shared those via Facebook. On Friday, we updated our “Facts vs. Rumors
” webpage in response to some of the questions we have received or heard about. Here are some updates for this week.
- High Needs Hybrid: The first phase of our high needs hybrid begins this week. We are beginning special education assessments for students from preschool through grade 12. Also, we will begin bringing some of our preschool and elementary students back to campus to receive select specialized services from our DHH (Deaf and Hard of Hearing) and SDC (Special Day Class) staff.
- School Safety: I have heard from many parents that we are moving too slowly. While I understand the frustration, I will continue to emphasize safety as we restart in-person learning. We have worked collaboratively with employee groups and other stakeholders to develop comprehensive and well-articulated safety protocols, which you can see here. As we move into the next phases, we will continue to use safety measures that maximize safety for our students, our employees, and our community.
- TK-2 Waiver: We continue to meet with our employees, including our labor unions, focusing on in-person learning in our TK-5 grades. As part of this work, we will be finalizing elements of on-campus learning and discussing the unions’ support for the TK-2 waiver process. We have all other elements of the application process secured. Even though I believe that due to County requirements, with our schools having fewer free and reduced lunch students than almost all schools in the state, MBUSD schools have little hope of receiving one of the tiny number of waivers being issued, we will work to submit our application as soon as this Friday. All of our efforts are about being prepared to re-open all of our elementary schools as soon as the County allows, perhaps as early as November.
- Parent Surveys: We will soon be asking our elementary parents to make a decision. We need to know what each family’s plans are when our schools open. We will need to know whether parents are going to commit to remain in distance learning for the remainder of the year, or whether parents are committed to in person learning (when it re-opens) for the rest of the year. We will provide additional information about what that will look like in terms of academics, schedules, and safety when we send that survey out, but we will need your decision soon. And by the way, secondary parents ... your decision time is coming soon.
That’s all for this week. Keep your eye on our social media for more updates. Have a good week, everyone.
From Dr. Matthews' October 5 Monday Morning Message:
The desire for more information has never been higher from our MBUSD community. Everything is changing so rapidly, and people want to know what is going on. So, while I will continue providing updates in my newsletters, I am increasing my communication with the new Monday Morning Message, which will contain brief summary updates related to COVID-19 and our schools. I hope you find it helpful.
High Needs Hybrid: We intend to start in-person assessments and in-person school for our high-need students with IEPs during the week of October 12. We have submitted our notification forms to the County, informing them that we will begin providing these services in our five elementary schools and our preschool. This Wednesday, I will update our Board on that process.
TK – 2 Waivers: We heard from the County last week that TK-2 waivers will become available today. Only 30 waivers per week will be granted. Schools with higher numbers of students eligible for free and reduced lunch will receive priority. After two weeks, the first group of 30 schools will hear from the County. We will closely examine the waiver requirements when they become available, and I will update our community where we are in that process at this Wednesday’s Board meeting.
Re-Opening Requirements: Preparations for opening our schools to students continue. We have upgraded air filters, installed plexiglass in our offices, ordered plexiglass for student desks, established procedures for screening students and employees when they arrive on campus, and developed plans to follow if there is a case of a student or adult with symptoms on campus. Additional updates, as well as our checklist based on Department of Public Health protocols, will be presented to the Board on Wednesday.
For more detailed information, please tune in to our Board Meeting on Wednesday, October 7th at 5:00pm (broadcast live on our YouTube Channel
). You can also find the highlights of what happened at our meetings by clicking the Board Meeting Highlights page
on our website.
Have a great week, everyone.
From Dr. Matthews' September 30 E-Mail to the MBUSD Community:
In August, MBUSD adopted a 5-phase plan to move from distance learning to the return of everyone back on campus depending upon state and county allowance. On September 14, we brought 200 students back to school when we began our child care program. Two weeks later, on September 29, we started our athletic training program based on the county guidance provided on August 6. On September 4, the state announced that districts could bring back students with intensive needs. Now, we are actively preparing to bring back our students with intensive needs who most require in-school special education assessments and/or in-class learning opportunities. We have engaged in productive conversations with our special education teachers, as well as our unions, and continue to construct plans and procedures that will ensure maximized safety for everyone. We anticipate sharing details of our plans to start this program at the October 7 Board Meeting and submitting our K-12 Specialized Services Notification form to the county prior to that meeting.
Yesterday, the County Board of Supervisors directed the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health to start granting 30 waiver applications a week, for student in grades TK-2 only, prioritizing the issuance of waivers to schools with higher percentages of students who qualify for free/reduced meals. No L.A. County schools have submitted the waiver application because it is not yet available. We will hear details on how this process will work later this week, and we will begin preparing the application as soon as it becomes available. While working on the waiver application, our primary focus will remain on bringing back our high needs students as soon as possible. Then we will prioritize bringing back the TK-2 students. I am optimistic about our progress, I am grateful to all of the employees who have helped us to get to this point, and I look forward to seeing more and more students and employees on our campuses in the weeks to come.
To begin, thank you to our Steering Committee and our two subcommittees, comprised of 100+ employees, parents, and students, who have provided us with so much information, perspective, and creativity. The reopening of MBUSD schools will be far better because of their collective efforts. We are implementing the work we agreed to, and will reconvene this group to discuss new developments and challenges related to our plans.
After a long meeting on Wednesday night, the Board voted to start the 2020-21 school year in distance learning, and then to return to in-person school in phases. There is no set timeline as to when the phases will occur, but the primary determinant will be the level and trajectory of Covid-19 cases in LA County and in our surrounding area. I agree with our Governor and our health department that at this moment, the level of cases is too high, and the trajectory of new cases is headed in the wrong direction. Now is not the time to reopen schools.
That being said, we are diligently preparing for the time when we can reopen all of our campuses, hopefully sooner than later, when both of those numbers are much better. I know that our students and our employees miss being in school. We know that it is better for our students to be in school, but to get them back, we must behave safely and responsibly, while ensuring that our children do the same. This means wearing masks, washing our hands, staying at least 6’ away from non-household members, and limiting interactions with people outside of our households whenever possible. Soon, we will start the move into Phase 2 and make our way back to wonderfully normal school.
At Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, the following issues were discussed regarding the return to school for the 2020-21 school year:
- The Board approved 5 phases of reopening school, beginning with distance learning;
- The Board approved SchoolsPLP, conditional upon staff’s final review of the contract, which is an online curriculum for grades 6-12. Elementary models are still being considered;
- The Board confirmed that we will be using the same attendance expectations and grading standards we were using in 2019;
- We have listed some professional development topics for our certificated and classified staff to support high quality distance learning. More information about participant outcomes, dates, and times will be communicated shortly;
- We reviewed examples of a variety of possible schedules for this upcoming year, with finalized plans coming soon;
- We provided a long list of operational tasks we are working on to be ready for students and staff when they return to campus;
- The Board made it clear that we intend to open our Preschool this fall.
Here are more details on all of the topics mentioned above.
The Board approved 5 phases of return to school:
Phase 1 – Distance Learning
Phase 2 – Elementary Hybrid
- Part 1: In TK and K, half the students attend in the morning, then after a 90 minute break for cleaning and disinfecting, the other half will attend in the afternoon
- Part 2: In grades 1-5, implement a high needs hybrid, providing in-school support for high need students (SDC, EL, DHH, and students not meeting standards) Note: Parts 1 and 2 could be switched in order, or could be done simultaneously
- Part 3: In grades 1-5, an A/B schedule where students are in school two days a week and receive distance learning three days a week
- Parents would be given a choice of whether to continue online learning or to enter the hybrid program
Phase 3 – High Need Hybrid (Grades 6-12)
- Provide four days a week of in-school support for high need students (MWell, SDC, EL, DHH, and students not meeting standards) in grades 6-12
- Special Education assessment center
- Parents would be given a choice of whether to continue online learning or to enter the hybrid program
Phase 4 – Secondary Hybrid
- Provide an A/B schedule with two days a week of in-school learning and three days a week of distance learning
- Parents would be given a choice of whether to continue online learning or to enter the hybrid program
Phase 5 – Full every day in-school Instruction
Improved and Consistent Tools for Online Learning
For consistent communication, all grades will be utilizing Google Classroom next year. We will also be using additional resources for our K-2 students, including SeeSaw and Class Dojo. Additionally, for 6th-12 th grade, the Board approved a robust online curriculum called SchoolsPLP
, conditional upon staff’s final review of the contract, while the elementary teachers and parents on the Steering Committee continue to examine a similar platform for elementary classrooms. All of these tools will provide teachers with improved options to deliver online instruction and will be helpful for parents as they support their children.
Attendance and Grading
Last March when we moved to online learning, we were flexible with students and with teachers as we all learned to operate in this new digital environment. That was critical with the quick move to distance learning, but we are moving forward with high expectations for school this year. Just as we operate in regular school, having students be present is critical to their success, so we expect students to attend every class, on time, every day. Additionally, our teachers will teach to the standards and hold students to the same academic expectations we have always had, while helping all students to achieve by supporting them along the way with new tools that assess progress and assign grades as they were assigned back in 2019.
We have had a group of parents and special education staff working together on our Special Education subcommittee developing strategies and plans to support students receiving Special Education services. While the subcommittee focused on best practices for distance learning, those services can be delivered in one of our high needs hybrids, and can be delivered in every day instruction. The subcommittee is finalizing a parent survey and will hold a Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) meeting on August 11 at 3:30 p.m. on Zoom. Please look for additional details in the upcoming week.
Professional Development for Teachers, Employees (and Parents!)
Our teachers learned so much last year about teaching online, and we know we need to continue to get better in this new environment. We are plan to support teachers and employees with professional development in the following areas:
- Best Practices in Online Teaching
- Online Curriculum Platforms (such as SchoolsPLP)
- Google Classroom
- Safety and Sanitizing
This list will grow as we identify topics that will help our teachers support our students throughout the year. Additionally, training modules for parents to help support their students with SchoolsPLP and Google Classroom will also be provided. We have learned so much, and we have more learning to do!
We discussed several different possible bell schedules at the Board meeting on Wednesday night, and we are in discussions with our teachers’ union to develop plans that best meet student needs. We hope to provide information about those schedules soon, as our parents and our employees are eager to know what it will look like next year.
Preparing for the Return of Students and Staff to our Campuses
With our 5-phase plan, we are expecting and planning for students and staff to return to our campuses this year. We all hope it is sooner rather than later, and we are working for that day whenever it comes. The county and state have given us a checklist of over 100 preparations we must make before students and staff may return to campus. If you go to the last part of our Board presentation
, you can see many of the tasks (but not all) that we are meticulously working on now. It will give you an idea of the magnitude of the challenges ahead for all of us. And as I have said, we will be ready when it is time to start moving beyond Phase 1.
Preschool and Child Care
The Board affirmed its intent to open our Preschool, subject to several different issues that we are working to finalize. To re-open the Preschool, we will put into place many of the operational protocols we have been developing, and we will learn lessons we can use as we move beyond Phase 1 in our TK-12 schools.
We are also developing plans to open a child care program (EDP), prioritizing parents who are essential workers and district employees who need child care to perform their jobs. We will have an initial review of possibilities at our August 12 board meeting and a report out to the community after that.
Our Steering Committee and our various subcommittees have been outstanding in their contributions towards our re-opening efforts, and I have appreciated hearing from every person who is writing us and advising us on the steps that best work for them and for our students. Response has been passionate and overwhelming, and I am grateful to each parent, employee, and student who has advocated for either a return to school or for the continuation of distance learning. All these opinions matter and we are considering each and every one of them in what we do. I firmly believe that at this time, and with where the virus is in our community right now, the 5-phase plan is right for our District and our community.
Thank you for your efforts, stay safe, and I will update you soon on next steps.
On Wednesday, I sent out my most recent newsletter
, discussing our process as we determine how we will reopen on August 26, 2020. Since then, there have been many critical conversations across the state, the nation, and the world regarding what our schools will look like when they open in August.
On Thursday, LA County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer spoke to all LA County superintendents. While falling short of ordering schools to open in distance learning mode, she stated:
- As long as there is a high rate of community transmission, reopening any sector, including schools, comes with increased risk and increased spread. If schools reopen as scheduled in August, they would be reopening at a time when we are seeing a peak increase in infections. Schools that reopen in August need to be prepared for outbreaks, even if you allow all of the directives.
- With exception of Sweden, which never really shut down, schools that reopened did so when transmission rates were low. No one opened schools at height of the pandemic, and all countries saw an increase in transmission when schools reopened.
- Researchers are still learning a lot about the virus. None of us should rush to conclusions about children and asymptomatic spread. Standing on hallowed ground of certainty does not make sense. The idea that children do not get sick is inaccurate. I do know that children get sick, and children transmit.
On Friday, Governor Newsom announced criteria on school reopening that all but guarantee we will begin the academic year in remote learning models. In partnership with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Governor Newsom also provided revised guidance
and a detailed framework
for reopening schools this fall. Accordingly, in order for in-person instruction to resume, counties must experience 14 consecutive days off the California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Monitoring List
. As of today, Los Angeles County is still identified as one of the local areas that does not meet the criteria to reopen schools with an in-person format.
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. 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.
Please know that our Steering Committee is continuing to work on in-person hybrid models which we will implement at the appropriate time. During this Wednesday’s board meeting (click here
to see the agenda; click here
to watch it live) , we will be discussing a phased plan that follows the Governor’s directive, begins with distance learning, and eventually phases in a hybrid in-school learning program. We will be discussing a distance learning program that stresses classroom consistency, ensuring teaching with appropriate levels of rigor, requiring daily live interaction, and supporting age-appropriate student progress through the District’s grade-level content standards. We are also seeking best practices to address our students’ social and emotional needs, which can be a challenge in a distance learning format. Committee members, made up of teachers, students, and parents, are reviewing several on-line learning platforms to support teachers and students in distance learning, which will be used in conjunction with our curriculum. We will continue to share learning opportunities for teachers, and provide MBUSD training on the most important distance learning tools throughout the summer and the school year.
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. We also anticipate a return to standard marks and grades, which will involve ongoing discussions related to accountability and assessment measures.
Thank you again for your patience and support as we work to fully understand the impact of new state guidelines for schools and school districts.