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Reopening MBUSD Schools in 2020 » Reopening our Schools : 2020-21

Reopening our Schools : 2020-21

LATEST UPDATE: December 4: MBUSD publishes TK-5 Hybrid Procedural Guidelines
 
November 12: MBUSD publishes Health & Safety Protocols for 2020-21

August 7: A tentative agreement has been reached with our teachers' union regarding distance learning in MBUSD, including agreements on school schedules and minimum expectations for live instruction. Read more about it in our Distance Learning in MBUSD.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Thursday Message - January 14, 2021:
At last night’s Board Meeting, the Board considered four recommendations, all of which were outlined in my January 10 email to the community. There were many public comments, and the Board held a lengthy and thorough discussion on each of the recommendations. Below I have listed my recommendations and the Board’s decision on each.
 
Recommendation #1: Delay the re-opening of in-person schooling for TK-2 Hybrid until February 1, 2021.
  • The Board voted to delay the return of TK-2 Hybrid to February 1. In the week of February 1, students will attend two mornings per week for one week (Phase 2), then after one week, students will move to the AM/PM model, attending four days a week in the morning or the afternoon.
 
Recommendation #2: Delay the re-opening of in-person schooling for High Need Hybrid until February 1, 2021, with the exception of SDC and Preschool services, which would restart on January 19, 2021.
  • The Board voted to confirm this recommendation.
 
Recommendation #3: Delay the re-opening of in-person Athletic Conditioning until February 1, 2021.
  • The Board voted to continue athletic conditioning for MCHS students, making it clear that in light of the status of COVID spread in the community, coaches and students may choose whether or not to attend. Mira Costa staff are communicating this out to coaches, with cohorts resuming conditioning activities as early as next Tuesday.
 
Recommendation #4: Continue Special Education assessments and Child Care/EDP.
  • The Board voted to confirm this recommendation.
 
Thank you. I will provide my next update on Tuesday of next week. 
 
Monday, of course, is a national holiday honoring the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I hope we can all take time in the day to reflect not only on the progress inspired by the work of Dr. King and so many other civil rights leaders, but also on the work that lies in front of us to protect our democracy and to continue to address the immense inequities and challenges that are still all too real in our country. I encourage each of us to think about what we can do on this National Day of Service and throughout our lives to effect this change.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Sunday Message - January 10, 2021:
If I’m sending my Monday Message on Sunday, you know there is pressing information that can’t wait. And that is the case this weekend. The MBUSD Board of Trustees met on New Year’s Eve, based on new quarantining orders from LA County Department of Public Health (DPH), and decided to delay the reopening of our in-person programs until Wednesday, January 13, while keeping our child care program open. Since then, two of our elementary-aged childcare cohorts are not in school due to two cases of COVID in those classrooms. And while there is no evidence of spread so far, which has been the case in all of our classrooms, these two incidents bring our case total to 34 since we returned to campus on September 16, 2020. That's a big number, and it reflects the number of cases in our community.
 
On Thursday, in response to the continuing and unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases, DPH Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer strongly encouraged schools that are open to suspend in-person services until February 1. On Friday night, DPH then published a letter outlining the details of this recommendation: 
 
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) strongly recommends that all TK-12 schools in the county suspend in person student instruction, services, and activities during the month of January as much as possible. For the remainder of the month, on campus activities should be limited to the implementation of distance learning, food distribution, and other minimum essential operations. Child care for school age children may continue to occur at school sites to support the needs of essential workers who do not have the option to stay home. In person support for high need students should be limited to those necessary services and adjustments that cannot be delivered virtually and cannot reasonably be postponed until February. (You can read the full letter here.)
 
In all of my recommendations, whether they have been related to child care, high needs hybrid, athletics, or TK-2 instruction, I have followed DPH’s guidance. Though Thursday’s announcement and Friday’s letter are not orders, I will to continue to heed DPH’s advice.
  • Our TK-2 hybrid, athletic conditioning, and high needs hybrid cohorts will be virtual on Wednesday, January 13.
  • At Wednesday's Board meeting, I will recommend to the Board that our students receiving special education services in our preschool and Special Day Class (SDC) programs return to hybrid instruction on Tuesday, January 19, and that our TK-2 hybrid, athletic conditioning, and other high needs hybrid cohorts remain virtual until Monday, February 1.
  • Child care programs, including preschool and EDP, will continue to meet in-person.
  • If your child is enrolled in the high needs hybrid program, our Student Services department will be in touch with you early next week.
 
The MBUSD Board of Trustees meets this Wednesday at 5pm, and this item is on the agenda for their review. I continue to communicate with districts across the County who are now open, or were planning to open soon, and all of them are working to decide on this difficult issue.
 
Whether we like it or not, right now we live in the global epicenter of COVID-19, and those of us who live in this epicenter are facing extremely difficult decisions We will send out information informing you of the Board’s direction after Wednesday’s meeting, and as always, I will keep you posted.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Message - January 4, 2021:
The best thing about this year’s New Year’s Eve was not feeling one bit old or guilty when I went to sleep just after 10 PM. A few days later, as I read the responses from my December 31, 2020 email, there was about a 50-50 split between parents in favor of the decision to delay a return to in-person instruction until January 13, 2021* and those against it. This is consistent with much of the feedback I have received in recent months. 
 
I have a few updates since my last communication:
  • On January, 2, 2021, the City of Manhattan Beach issued a press release closing down outdoor seating areas because the number of cases locally has skyrocketed, nearly doubling between November 1 and January 2. As the number of cases here in MBUSD have mirrored the number of cases in the City of Manhattan Beach, we should expect an uptick in the number of cases in MBUSD if the rates in our community continue to be high. Our 1.2% case rate is not about spread, but about the reality for our community as a whole. Even so, these require a tremendous amount of time and work for MBUSD’s COVID Compliance Team as we contact trace, communicate with families and employees, and direct students or employees to quarantine or isolate if necessary.
  • When in-person classes resume on January 13, 2021, our efforts will be focused on continuing to maintain all of the safety practices we have outlined in our Health and Safety Protocols document. In addition to 100% honest self-screening on Ruvna, it takes a great deal of monitoring, proper distancing and use of PPE, effective cleaning and disinfecting, and extensive follow up with positive cases of COVID-19 or exposure to someone who has been identified as positive. It is all of these factors that have kept spread at a minimum and it will take all of the above to keep it that way. 
  • At the Board meeting on December 31, the Board directed staff to begin a no tolerance policy for any parent who sends a child to school after falsely answering any of the questions on the Ruvna screening tool. That means for those families who are untruthful, their students will not be allowed to continue with in-person learning, and will be transferred to a distance learning classroom for the remainder of the school year.
  • Finally, many parents have asked about plans for MBMS and Costa. While neither the State nor the County is allowing for the full return of secondary students, there are ways we can bring some students back to school for in-person instruction. At our next Board meeting, we will be discussing how to use current guidelines to bring some of our secondary students back.  
That’s it for now. Thank you and stay safe.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Email to MBUSD Community - December 31, 2020:
In a special board meeting this morning, I recommended that the Board consider delaying the re-opening of our K-12 in-person programs until at least January 11, and possibly until January 19. I presented background information that included:
  • Information about the continued surge of cases in LA County and in our community
  • New guidance from LACDPH about travel outside of Southern California and possible impact on staffing
  • A recommendation from Beach Cities Health District to consider delaying reopening for two weeks
After a robust and thoughtful discussion, the Board voted 4-1 in favor of the following:
  • EDP will resume on Tuesday, January 5
  • Preschool childcare will resume on Tuesday, January 5
  • All TK-2 and High Need Hybrid students will resume distance learning on Tuesday, January 5
  • TK-2 in-person instruction will resume Wednesday, January 13, with the following schedule:
    • TK-2 Cohort A students will attend in-person on Wednesday, January 13, campuses will be closed on Thursday, January 14, and TK-2 Cohort B students will attend in-person on Friday, January 15
      • Any students or employees who are traveling outside of the Southern California area must return home and begin self-quarantine by January 3 in order to be able to participate in in-person instruction on January 13
    • TK-2 in-person instruction will shift to the AA/BB model (two mornings a week on campus for students and four mornings for teachers) beginning the week of January 19:
      • Monday and Tuesday mornings Cohort A on campus for learning
      • Wednesday synchronous and asynchronous at-home learning
      • Thursday and Friday mornings Cohort B on campus for learning
    • The District will strive for a February 1 transition to an AM/PM model
  • High Need Hybrid in-person instruction will begin on Wednesday, January 13, and Friday, January 15 (with no in-person instruction on Thursday, January 14), and then these programs will return to their regular in-person schedules beginning on January 19. 
  • Athletic conditioning will resume on Wednesday, January 13
 
Like many other decisions during this difficult time, this is frustrating news for some, and welcome news for others. I appreciate the Board’s readiness to respond thoughtfully to new information as it arrives, and I support the Board’s decision. I will provide additional information in my next Monday Morning Message on January 4. 
 
I hope you all find a way to safely celebrate kicking this 2020 year to the curb, and I look forward to a better 2021.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Message - December 21, 2020:
This is my final Monday Morning Message of 2020. I would like to wish each of you a happy and healthy holiday season. I’m guessing that most of you are doing just what I’m doing during the holidays - staying home. It was about this time last year that my family and I were leaving for what would turn out to be the only travel we took in 2020. It was a wonderful trip - we went to Switzerland to visit my wife’s sister’s family - and I’m grateful for that experience. 
 
SNOWMy wife and younger son love being at home. As for me, I look forward to adventures that are a dramatic change of pace, including bike trips, camping, or just seeing some new and exciting place. If you had told me I would get none of those experiences for a year, I would have predicted a very frustrated Mike Matthews. But unexpectedly, I’m OK with being home. I don’t know why. I think I’ve just accepted that there are larger forces at work here, and I should live out the advice that Sheryl Crow gives: “It’s not getting what you want. It’s wanting what you got.” Mick Jagger had a similar thought about what we might find in times like these. With a roof over our heads, food on our table, and a lot of love in our home, I am grateful for what I’ve got. But like all of you, I can’t wait until our lives become more normal again.
 
A key to getting back to normal will be the successful distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines that are now out there. I was happy this morning to learn about a health care professional in our community who received the vaccine on Saturday. From what I am hearing, there’s reason to be optimistic that our health care professionals and first responders can receive both doses of the vaccine in January. I have also continued to advocate for school employees to be in the next tier of essential workers to receive the vaccine. While that decision is not yet final, it looks like that will be the case. So help is on the way.
 
But it’s not here yet, folks. That means we have to stick with all of the behaviors we’ve been living with since March 13, 2020. You all know that the numbers are up. Dramatically. They are up nationally, in LA County, right here in Manhattan Beach, and in the MBUSD community. So please, please, please, as Board Trustee Sally Peel says in every board meeting, “Wear a mask, wash your hands, keep your distance.” For many of us, avoiding travel and social gatherings means upending long traditions and cherished moments in our lives, but it is a sacrifice that we are being asked to make for our collective good. In order to save lives and hopefully shift our trajectory towards the lower numbers that would allow for a wider re-opening, I hope that we can avoid travel and social gatherings for a little while longer.
 
When we return from winter break on January 5, 2021, we will have one more week of one-day-a-week for students/two-days-a-week for teachers in the TK-2 hybrid. Beginning on January 11, we plan to move to two-days-a-week for students/four-days-a-week for teachers. I am hopeful that we can soon add grades three through five, but the County will not authorize that until the COVID-19 case numbers go down dramatically. As for our secondary students, I will present alternate plans to bring more of our middle school and high school students back to campus at our next board meeting on January 20, 2021. This is not the plan for bringing all students back, since we have no idea when the County might allow that. Rather, this proposal will examine how we can utilize the flexibility offered by the County to bring back 25% of our secondary students back to campus using the high need hybrid. I will keep you posted.
 
So until 2021, I thank you for all you are doing to keep yourselves and our community safe. I want to thank each of our employees for their work in an unprecedented year. I also want to thank those who are continuing to dedicate themselves to providing effective and personalized distance learning for the students whom we are not yet able to bring back on campus. I particularly want to express my gratitude for our employees who are working on site and with our students, including our preschool and EDP employees, our M&O employees, our food services employees, our Special Education teachers and staff, our TK-2 teachers and staff, and our administrators and office staff, all of whom are making a giant difference with our students. Finally, thank you to our parents and our community for all of your patience and support. I know we all look forward to 2021.
 
Wishing you all a peaceful, restful, and healthy winter break.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Morning Message - December 14, 2020:
Welcome to the final school week in the year 2020. What a year! All I can say is ... it will be remembered. Before getting into updates and COVID information, I’d like to recognize a key change happening on our Board of Trustees tomorrow night at 5 PM. 
 
First, we will recognize the contributions and service of Bill Fournell (13 years on School Board) and Karen Komatinsky (9 years on School Board), and their dedication to our students, employees, and community. They are both kind and caring people who had the courage to make changes and to lead our district. I have loved working with Bill and Karen, and I have learned so much from each of them.
 
Then, we will be swearing in our two newly elected Board Trustees, Cathey Graves and Jason Boxer. They will step into their new leadership roles during one of the toughest times I can imagine, and I am grateful for their desire, commitment, and willingness to lead.
 
TK-2 SCHOOL REOPENING:
We began our TK-2 program last week. It was a thrill to see our young students coming onto campus for the first time this year, and for some, their first day at school ever. As I anticipated, our students had no problem lining up six feet apart, and for the most part, they did exactly as they were asked. The district and our parents quickly figured out our new screening tool, Ruvna, which is now emailed and texted to every employee and student who is supposed to come to school. This allows front offices and teachers to know exactly which students have been screened and are OK to come on campus. 
 
Let me just take this opportunity to remind all of us: If someone in your household is showing enough symptoms to keep you or your child out of school, then please stay home! If there is any doubt, use an abundance of caution and keep yourself or your child home from school. I take my temperature every morning and I check with my family the night before (they’re not awake when I leave!) on how they feel. Please do your part.
 
COVID UPDATE:
As for COVID in our community, it’s not good. Cases in LA are averaging over 10,000/ day. Back in November, our city was averaging around 20 new cases a week, but just in the last two weeks, we have dealt with 104 cases right here in Manhattan Beach. It is not slowing down, and unless all of our families abides by all of these restrictions, cases will continue to rise. The vaccine is close, but not close enough. At this time, it is our behaviors that matter.
 
We are doing our best to keep our programs for students open. As Dr. Fauci said this week, “If you look at the data, the spread among children and from children is not really very big at all, not like one would have suspected.” That said, our schools are part of society, and the number of cases in MBUSD is going to reflect society. As you can see on our COVID Dashboard, we have had a few cases, and we will continue to have cases. Our realistic goal is not to be case free, but to minimize any opportunity for community spread. If we can screen out anyone who should not be on campus from participating in a cohort activity, if we can wear masks and stay six feet apart, if we stay home from school for fourteen days if we have gone out of state or attended any social gatherings, and if we can frequently wash and sanitize our hands, then our schools can remain some of the safest places possible outside of the home, while delivering vital and essential services to our students.
 
As an extra step, there’s a new app available that let’s each of us know if we may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. I have allowed this on my phone, and you may want to consider it. You can find more information here.
 
The state of California has issued a travel advisory recommending that all non-essential travel be cancelled, and that any travelers entering or returning to California self-quarantine for 14 days. If you must travel, follow the tips on the CDC Travel webpage. This webpage also explains the risks from various different types of travel.
 
 
 
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Morning Message - December 7, 2020:
I hope this email finds you healthy and well. At midnight, Governor Newsom’s newest restrictions kicked in. I appreciate the steps, some of which are painful, as they are designed to keep all of us safer. The good news is that the Governor and the County both continue to prioritize education, and nothing has changed regarding schools reopening or providing in-person instruction. But these numbers are not going to go down until we all do everything we can to keep ourselves, and each other, safe. You can find details about the numbers in LA County and the Governor’s restrictions in this outstanding LA Times resource, Tracking the Coronavirus in LA County.
 
As we prepare for our TK-2 opening on Tuesday, I would like to refer you to several pieces of helpful information:
  • new and updated health and safety protocols guidebook that is essential for the safe operations of our hybrid programs.
  • 15-minute-screencast for our families with students entering the TK-2 hybrid this week. 
  • We have a new screening tool, Ruvna, which is every bit as important as mask-wearing. We have avoided many cases of COVID-19 in our schools through employee and parent health screening. Relying on honest answers, if employees or students exhibit any of the symptoms/behaviors listed below, they may not set foot into our schools. If any of the following exist, this screening tool will confirm that an employee or a student should not be on campus, or anywhere besides the safety of their own home or their doctor’s office:
    • Fever of 100.4 or higher (or feeling feverish - chills or sweating)
    • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
    • A new cough
    • Traveled out of state in the last 14 days
    • Attended a social gathering with others outside of the household since November 30th (not including supervised educational settings, sports conditioning, faith based services, or protests) 
 
You can find all of the information above, and more, in an email I sent to elementary parents on Friday afternoon.
 
This weekend I spoke with Dr. Dan Stepenosky, the Superintendent of Las Virgenes Unified School District in Calabasas/Agoura Hills. TK-2 students there have been back on campus since November 9, and while there was initially some anxiety around reopening, now students and employees love seeing each other in person, it feels very safe, and problems have been minimal.
 
Finally, we have been busy this weekend working with LACDPH on some of the COVID cases that were reported. All of our on-campus cases are recorded on our COVID Dashboard and over the last 14 days, we have seen seven active cases. In each case, our COVID Compliance Team follows strict contact tracing protocols, and communicates with all those who may need to quarantine for fourteen days or until a person is tested. Three of the most recent cases were connected to MBMS and were reported to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) in the week before Thanksgiving and during the break. On Friday, December 4, LACDPH let us know they are opening an outbreak investigation. While none of the cases had any person interacting with students or personnel in the classrooms, LACDPH indicated they may recommend closing the site for two weeks. In an abundance of caution, we are proactively closing the MBMS campus tomorrow pending further guidance from LACDPH. You can find the letter that we sent to MBMS families here.
 
In summary, I urge you all to follow the Governor’s protocols. My oldest son turns 30 years old this month, and I had planned to see him to celebrate with him. That’s off now. I hate it, but it’s the right thing to do. We will celebrate at a later date, and it will be even more special then. I haven’t seen my parents in almost one year, and I’m hoping I can see them in April. These are the kind of personal stories that I hear all of the time from MBUSD employees and families, and I hope we can reverse these trends and get back on the right track.
 
Thanks for doing your part to keep you, your family, and all of us safe.
 
Letter to MBMS Staff, Students, and Families - December 6, 2020:
We are writing to inform you that we have recently received information about three (3) confirmed cases of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) with a connection to Manhattan Beach Middle School. Cleaning and disinfecting of the exposed location has been completed. In all three cases, the most recent of which was last on campus on Friday, November 20, MBUSD investigated to determine who was within six feet of the person for at least 15 minutes and took action to send anyone who was in such proximity home until further notice.
 
Because we have three positive COVID-19 cases that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) has determined appear to be epidemiologically related, LACDPH is opening an “outbreak investigation” for MBMS. This means that a public health nurse and physician will be assigned to conduct a deeper investigation. Here is the link to the most up to date exposure management plan. Please note the exposure management plan states “K-12 Schools with an outbreak must close for 14 days pursuant to the Temporary Targeted Safer at Home Health Officer Order for Control of COVID-19.”
 
Out of an abundance of caution and pending further guidance from LACDPH, we will be closing MBMS tomorrow, Monday, December 7, 2020. This means that both staff and students may not come on to campus. Anyone identified as a potential close contact of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 has been contacted. As none of the individuals in these three cases is assigned to work in a classroom, we do not know of any students or classroom-based employees who need to be notified.
 
During this closure, food services will continue to operate but will be moved to other locations. If you order no-cost breakfast or lunch for pick up from MBMS, please look for communication from our FNS department about where meals can be picked up while campus is closed. As the Coronavirus situation in our country and our community is developing quickly, we urge you to take necessary precautions to limit coronavirus spread in our community.
 
How You Can Help
Be proactive about reducing the number of interactions that students and staff have with one another or with anyone outside of their housholds by practicing physical (or social) distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart) to limit the spread of the coronavirus. In addition to physical distancing, another important tool to prevent the spread of coronavirus is to practice good hygiene. Important public health prevention messages include:
 
  • Stay home when you are sick. Anyone with symptoms consistent with COVID 19
    should remain at home in isolation for a minimum of 10 days plus at least 24 hours after
    the resolution of fever (without fever-reducing medication) and improvement in other
    symptoms.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Sing the Happy
    Birthday song to help know when it has been 20 seconds. If soap and water are not
    available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and then dispose of the tissue and
    clean your hands immediately. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve, not your
    hands, to cover your coughs and sneezes.
  • Limit close contact with people who are sick, and avoid sharing food, drinks, or
    utensils.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular
    household cleaning spray or wipes.
  • Wear a mask or face covering whenever you are with others who are not members
    of your household.
Health screening of students and staff for COVID 19, which includes asking about symptoms consistent with COVID-19 illness and conducting a temperature check prior to entering the facility, will help keep our educational settings safe.

We ask that anyone in our school community who works or attends school in-person be sure to contact the District immediately if the individual has had a potential exposure, develops symptoms of COVID-19, or tests positive for the virus. Proactive, early, and open communication is one of our best tools in preventing the spread of this disease.
 
Public Health Actions
All confirmed cases should be isolated and close contacts quarantined for 14 days from last exposure in order to prevent illness in new persons. “Close contact” means being a household member, intimate contact, or caregiver of a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case; being within 6 feet of the confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case for more than 15 cumulative minutes in a 24-hour period, even if wearing a face covering; or having unprotected contact with the infected person’s body fluids and/or secretions, for example, being coughed or sneezed on.

Please note that all information shared regarding any Public Health investigation, including the name(s) of ill persons, is confidential in order to protect patient privacy.

For additional questions about Coronavirus in Los Angeles County, please visit the LA County Department of Public Health coronavirus webpage at http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus/

We will be in touch with you about plans for continued closure or re-opening of the MBMS
campus once we have received information from the LACDPH outbreak response team
tomorrow.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Email to Parents of TK-5 Students - December 4, 2020:
We are looking forward to starting up our TK-2 Hybrid Program on Tuesday of next week. As you know, the COVID numbers continue to be high. The Governor issued new orders yesterday, and those orders continue to prioritize schools as an essential service. As long as no new orders restricting schools are issued prior to Tuesday, we are ready to proceed. I feel confident that the steps we have taken meet or exceed all safety guidelines set out for us, and I believe that next week, just like we have done for our students in child care, our students with IEPs, and our student athletes, we are ready to provide wonderful in-person experiences for our TK-2 Hybrid students. I appreciate all of our employees who are serving our students and our schools, and we look forward to seeing many of our students beginning on Tuesday.
 
Here are a few resources that can help you prepare for the first day of in-person school.
  1. This is the new TK-5 Hybrid Procedural Guidelines document. It gives details on all safety aspects of our hybrid programs. I ask you to review it and make sure you understand the safety guidelines and expectations.
  2. I have created a 15-minute screencast that reviews key elements of the procedural guidelines, and may give you a good overview of what to expect. It’s not a high-budget video, but I hope it is helpful.
  3. Today we rolled out a new screening program called Ruvna. We will be sending families an email or text every day, and families must fill it out for each child who is planning to attend school that day. To see a short video on how Ruvna works, click here.
I will keep you posted if there are any new developments. I ask all of our families in the hybrid program to be more vigilant than ever in following all guidelines, including stopping social gatherings with others until that state restriction is lifted, and of course, avoid out of state travel. Questions addressing both of these issues are on our screening tool, in addition to questions making sure students are symptom free before coming to school.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Morning Message - November 30, 2020:
I hope you all had an outstanding Thanksgiving. COVID changed this great holiday for everyone, including the Matthews family. My mom could not fly out from Little Rock like she usually does, and my mother-in-law and father-in-law (and I know I’m not supposed to, but I absolutely love my in-laws!) could not come because one of them developed a new cough. So my son and his girlfriend drove down from Sacramento, it was still special, and I am grateful for our small group. I still cooked for 20, and we sent out tons of leftovers to those who usually make it to our home.
 
As we all settle back into school, we are in the midst of COVID numbers (see below) that continue to be alarming. The County issued two separate new orders over Thanksgiving, the second of which went into effect today, and we all feel their impact. We are returning to a similar Safer at Home Order that we lived under in the spring. It’s another setback for the restaurants and small businesses in our community, and I urge us all to find ways to support them however we can in this time.
New cases by day
 
The big difference in the closures and restrictions this time is that there has been no order to close down the few schools that are open, or those that have permission to open. I am continuing to heed the advice of the LA County Department of Public Health (LACDPH), and therefore we are still moving forward with our plan to open our schools for students in grades TK-2 beginning next Tuesday, December 8. I have received several emails suggesting that we wait to begin these programs until after we return from Winter Break, but I believe that LACDPH’s guidance is rooted in science and medical knowledge, and they would not be permitting us to remain open if they did not believe it was safe to do so. Our gradual reopening phase-in, with the one day a week on campus for students/two days a week on campus for teachers and instructional staff provides an extra layer of caution for us as we begin in-person schooling.
 
There are two important new elements that families must follow:
  • Students and employees who have traveled outside of state lines in the last 14 days cannot come to school (this is the state guidance)
  • Students and employees (all of us actually) are prevented, as of today in the newest County Order, from attending a social gathering with others outside of the household. We are seeking guidance from the County about how long students/employees should stay out of school if they do attend such a gathering.
 
For those of you who appreciate podcasts, I listened to an excellent one (The Daily - New York City’s 3% Problem) over the break about NYC schools, their challenges in reopening, and their decision to close again. It outlines the frustrations and the fears that we have seen in our own community. Thankfully, our facilities here are much more modernized than NYC  schools, but the lessons are similar. If we can follow the safety protocols that we have put in place, schools remain very safe places for our students and staff. As Dr. Fauci said this weekend, “The default position should be to try as best as possible, within reason, to keep the children in school, to get them back to school.” 
 
I am grateful that our County is prioritizing education and that they are doing so with the safety of our students and staff in mind. I am so appreciative of every one of our employees who is already serving our children and our schools, and to those who are getting ready to return for in-person instruction. I am committed to the implementation of our safety protocols every day, and I urge us all to abide by these newest rules, so that our in-person schooling can be as safe as possible for our students and our employees.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Morning Message - November 16, 2020:
It’s the week before Thanksgiving, and I hope you are all looking forward to this great American holiday. But Thanksgiving will be different this year. For us, instead of hosting 20-25 at our house, it will be a much smaller group and the entire event will be outdoors. We are still in the middle of this COVID crisis, and the numbers are worsening. You can’t miss the headlines from around the world, including where my relatives live in Oregon, Arkansas, and even Switzerland. And here in Manhattan Beach, we had 20 new cases just in the last week. 
 
I know I’ve said it in almost every message, but it has never been more important for all of us to follow safety recommendations for ourselves, our families and our community. You all know what those precautions are: wear a mask, keep at least six feet distance, wash/sanitize your hands often, avoid others in indoor settings as much as possible, and just use common sense. As we head into the holiday season, it is important to keep in mind one of the most effective ways to mitigate the spread of viruses -- avoid gatherings, especially indoor events. This COVID Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool shared with me by an MB parent shows the risk level of attending an event, given the event size and location. Here in LA County, hosting 10 people at an event means there’s a 10% chance that a COVID-infected person will be in attendance. As the number of the group goes up, the odds worsen.
 
COVID fatigue is real. But being tired of all of the restrictions this virus has brought on is no excuse for being irresponsible. We must remain vigilant. 
 
TK-2 HYBRID
Preparations for our TK-2 Hybrid dominated our efforts last week. We are finalizing the schedules for in-person hybrid and distance learning. Principals will be notifying families of their child’s assignment, including teacher changes, if necessary, this week. I ask everyone to please be understanding, and to know that even if a child is changing teachers, they are moving from one outstanding teacher to another. This is a unique time, with incredible challenges, and we are finding ways to make it work.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Morning Message - November 9, 2020:
On Thursday, we learned that all five MBUSD elementary schools have been approved for TK-2 waivers. We are among the first public schools in LA County to be approved for the waivers, and I look forward to expanding into phases two and three of our five-phase plan for re-entry. Here is some information about what we are anticipating.
 
TK-2 HYBRID WAIVER
  • About 15% of our parents with TK-2 children have not yet decided whether to move to the hybrid or to stay in distance learning. We need these decisions in order to move forward with our planning. Parents are asked to respond by the end of today
  • If parents do not respond to the survey, we will keep their students in the Distance Learning program.
  • Once we know which students will be in the hybrid program and which will remain in distance learning, my next task will be to work with our principals to try to honor all parent requests and, while keeping as many classes as possible stable, make the changes that need to be made to match the needs of our students with the needs of our teachers. It is going to be a monumental task. 
  • I believe that we will be ready to start the TK-2 Hybrid the week after Thanksgiving, with the first day being on December 1, 2020.
 
HIGH NEED HYBRID
  • We are expanding our high need hybrid as well. We have invited fifty more elementary students with IEPs to return for in-person services at all five elementary sites. Today, we are inviting 40 students with IEPs in our secondary sites to return to campus.  
  • We are now conducting in-person special education assessments at all five elementary schools, MBMS, Mira Costa HS, and the preschool. 
 
THE PACE OF IMPLEMENTATION
  • While some parents are urging us to slow down our expansion of hybrid instruction, at the same time, many are urging us to move faster. There is no consensus at this time, except that almost everyone thinks we are moving either too slow or too fast. 
  • Our pace of expansion allows us to implement these changes well, assess, adjust, and then be ready for the next implementation. 
  • If the positive cases or hospitalizations trend too high, the County will very likely direct schools to pull back. If we continue to progress without significant problems, we can continue our gradual expansion.
 
ENCOURAGING THE COUNTY
  • Wysh Weinstein, the President of all MBUSD PTAs, wrote a letter asking the County Board of Supervisors to allow all elementary school grades, and not just TK-2, to apply for a waiver. 
  • The letter was signed by PTA, Board, and Superintendents from throughout the area and sent to Supervisor Janice Hahn and LACDPH Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer. You can find a copy of it here
  • The letter was sent to Supervisor Janice Hahn and LACDPH Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer on Friday.
 
MBUSD COVID DASHBOARD
  • We are building a dashboard that will show the number of confirmed on-campus positive COVID cases in MBUSD. The Dashboard will be updated weekly. It is not finished yet, but soon you will be able to find it here.
 
... ASK WHAT YOU CAN DO . . .
  • If you are asking how you can help, it’s pretty simple
  • Act responsibly and encourage your family to do the same. 
  • Wear masks in public. 
  • Wash/sanitize your hands frequently. 
  • Avoid congregating in groups that go beyond your immediate household and, if you do congregate, follow public health guidelines in limiting the size, location, and activities of those groups. 
  • There’s news today of a successful vaccine test, but I am under no illusion that this will quickly make things normal any time soon. Let's not treat this virus like we have it figured out. Let's act responsibly for ourselves, our loved ones, and for those we don’t even know. We are in this for months more. Our habits should model what we all need to do. 
 
TOWN HALL TONIGHT
  • This evening from 6:00-7:00 pm, Dr. Barbara Ferrer and Dr. Dawn Terashita of the LA County Department of Public Health, together with LA County Office of Education Superintendent Dr. Debra Duardo, will host a Town Hall for parents. The town hall will focus on steps being taken to protect children returning to school, the reopening process, school waivers and more. There will also be a live Q & A with parents. To view the Town Hall, click here.
 
I look forward to broadening our High Needs Hybrid program this week and beyond, as well as utilizing our approved waivers to re-open TK-2 in-person learning on December 1. Thank you for your patience as we work to do all that we can to protect everyone’s health and safety while also attending to our students’ immediate and ongoing learning, social, and emotional needs. 
 
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Morning Message - November 2, 2020:
Here are the latest developments that impact MBUSD and our five-phase reopening plan:
  • TK-2 Waiver Status: While I have not heard back from the County Department of Public Health on our five waiver applications, I do know that about 150 were received by the County as of Friday, October 23. I will let you know when I hear more about MBUSD’s status.
  • TK-2 Hybrid: Last Friday, I sent out an email to all of our elementary school parents describing a three-phase hybrid program, and asking parents to select what method, in-person hybrid or distance learning, that they wanted for each of their children. There have been many questions, so over the weekend, cabinet members and I looked through the questions and provided answers on our FAQ page. We hope to collect all survey responses from our parents by this Wednesday, and then we will begin putting the puzzle pieces together as we create schedules that meet the educational, health, and safety needs of our stakeholders. One of the emails I received over the weekend stated that I had succeeded in making the simple complex. Part of that is true. This hybrid schedule, especially when combined with keeping a distance learning model for those who need it, is very complex. But in no way do I believe that any part of providing instruction during this pandemic is simple. This has been remarkably challenging for all of us. I am looking forward to bringing our youngest students back on campus, and doing it as safely as possible.
  • COVID Cases To Date: MBUSD re-opened to students on September 16 when we began our child care program. We then added our athletic training program on September 29, and our High Need Hybrid the week of October 12. Since that time, we have had four (4) cases of on campus students or staff who tested positive for COVID. In three of those cases, there was interaction with other students or staff that necessitated a 14-day quarantine (the procedures are described in our health and safety protocols document) for all of those who were potentially exposed. We followed up with all of the quarantined individuals, and, to date, there are no cases where the positive case resulted in a transmission to others. We are in the process of creating a COVID Dashboard that keeps track of all of the cases by site, and I hope to be able to share that with you next week.
  • Secondary Student Survey: Last week, I met with our two student board members from Mira Costa High School. I plan to send out a survey to MBMS and MCHS students tomorrow, asking a series of questions about academics and life during distance learning. I plan to provide preliminary results to our Board at Wednesday night’s meeting, and more full information in my message next Monday. 
  • November 3, 2020 - Election Day: It looks like there will be a record turnout in this year’s election. That’s a healthy sign for our democracy. My older son and I have debated some of the propositions, and my younger son turns 18 just a few days after the election. I’m sad that he can’t vote this time, but that is not stopping us from discussing the election as a family. I have strong feelings about who I am voting for, but I have even stronger feelings about the strength of our Constitution and my respect for the democratic process. It’s a time of great anxiety, which can trigger quick and angry reactions, when actually what is needed is thoughtful responses. A friend of mine recently shared a quote from Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, where he stated, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” May we all exercise that power and thoughtfully choose our responses.
Thank you for your efforts and support.
 
From Dr. Matthews' Email to Elementary Parents - October 30, 2020:
As I wrote to you earlier, I applied last week for the TK-2 waivers being issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Health. They are only granting 30 per week, though I have been pushing the county to open up the process and grant the waivers to all who apply. I do not know when our waivers will be granted, but we are in the final stages of preparing for our students' return to campus.
 
We are learning a great deal from school re-openings around the country, from medical studies being conducted on those re-openings, and from our own re-openings in child care and the high needs hybrid. Using what we have learned, we have reached a conceptual agreement with our classified and certificated unions, and with their support we applied for a TK-2 waiver last Friday. The TK-2 return plan allows for gradually increasing amounts of time on campus with safety protocols in place.
 
Below are the proposed phase-in schedules, which have the following characteristics:
  • Reduce the number of students and teachers on campus at one time
  • Use the cohort model, dividing the students in a class in half, to allow for maximum social distancing in the classroom
  • Avoid having lunch on campus, as maintaining cohorts is most challenging during the lunch period
  • Allow the District ample time to complete all cleaning/sanitizing tasks, and to gain practical experience in how long these tasks take, allowing the District to better prepare for wider openings
  • Employ all of the safety elements described in our Health And Safety Protocols document
  • Allow us all to start slowly, and, as we feel confident about safety protocols, widen the openings
There are three stages to this plan:
  1. An AM schedule with one half-day per week of in-person learning for students
  2. An AM schedule with two half-days per week of in-person learning for students
  3. An AM/PM schedule with four half-days/week of in-person learning for students
As we move through each stage, we will continually reevaluate the schedules and instructional delivery models and adjust based on our experiences.
 
Initial Schedule: We will begin with a schedule where there are two days a week at school for teachers and one day a week at school for students. Here is the schedule.
AB schedule
 
AA/BB Schedule: After three weeks, if we are able to demonstrate the achievement of predetermined and agreed upon safety levels, we will transition to an expanded schedule, where teachers on are on campus four days a week at school, and students on are campus two days a week.
AABB schedule
AM/PM Schedule: After we experience success with an AA/BB schedule, we may consider transitioning to an AM/PM schedule where students are on campus either four mornings a week or four afternoons a week. In this schedule, the instructional blocks may be shortened and/or lengthened in order to ensure proper cleaning and provide equity for both groups of students.
 
The idea of returning to school stirs up different emotions in each of us. While we may have different opinions about the best schedules to follow, or the ways in which we might implement the many different facets of our re-opening plans, we stand united in our commitment to providing the best possible education for our students and to creating a safe return to in-person teaching and learning for staff and students.
 
Last week, I asked for your thoughts on what you would be requesting for your child. Now I need to know what your decision is for each child. We know that some families have a household member with a condition that could be endangered by a child attending in-person school, and we know that some families just are not ready to attend. This will not be a simple process, as many factors go into it:
  • Some children will be unable to return to in-person instruction because they or a family member have a condition that could be endangered by attending in-person school.
  • Some families may have other reasons to request that their child continue distance learning.
  • Distance learning should look exactly like the distance learning you have experienced in the first ten weeks of this school year.
  • For those who choose in-person hybrid learning, if there are confirmed positive cases among staff or students attending in person, students who may have been exposed to those cases will need to stay home and/or be quarantined, and students may be returning to distance learning during those times.
  • There will be some teacher changes. If a child attends in-person, but the teacher remains in distance learning, we will need to place the child into a different class. If a child opts for distance learning, but the teacher is in-person, we will need to place the child into a different class. I believe that in all cases, no child attending in-person learning will be changing schools.
  • Because these changes are significant, we are only going to make them once. So, this is a choice for the entire year.
Here is the survey where you can let us know your choice for each of your children. Even though we will not be allowed to open for grades 3-5 yet, we would like to plan as if the county will open TK-5 in the near future, so we want parents of all students in grades TK-5 to respond to this survey. We have developed an FAQ page, and we will update it as I receive your questions (to submit a question, please do so here). On the survey form, you will have to choose either distance learning or in-person hybrid learning. I do ask a separate question that asks you to indicate whether, if possible, you would like to stay with your child’s current teacher, meaning that you would like your child to be enrolled in whatever learning model your child's current teacher is assigned to, in order to keep your child with their current teacher.
 
For some of you this is an easy choice, but for others, it will be challenging. I do not think there is a wrong choice, and we will make it work whatever your choice is.
 
Thank you. I look forward to seeing your responses, and I look forward to a gradual and safe reopening.
 
From Dr. Matthews' October 26 Monday Morning Message:
Here are the latest developments that impact MBUSD and our five-phase reopening plan:
  • TK-2 Hybrid Program: On Friday, I submitted applications for each of our elementary schools for a TK-2 Hybrid program. We had all of the required components, including our safety protocols, and most importantly, letters of support from Mayor Montgomery, from each of our elementary PTAs, from our classified union (CSEA), and from our certificated union (MBUTA). I am grateful to all of these organizations for their support, and I know we will be one of the few public school districts that have letters of support from both unions. I also met with LA County Department of Public Health leaders on Friday afternoon and urged them to open up and approve more than 30 school waivers a week. I will hear this week whether there are other needed elements in our application. In terms of timing, Optimistically, I think the earliest we could get approval for and start this TK-2 hybrid would be Monday, November 16.
  • Survey Results from Last Week: Last week, I surveyed all parents, asking simply whether they would send their children back to campuses for in-person learning or stay in distance learning. Here are the results of that survey:
Survey Results
  • If you would like to see more details of that survey, you can see our board presentation here. Now that our TK-2 hybrid start is a real possibility, it is time for us to ask our parents of elementary aged students to make a decision. After communicating finalized hybrid plans with elementary teachers and staff, I will be sending a separate email to our elementary parents asking for a commitment to distance learning or in-person learning for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
  • Why Cohorts Matter: MBUSD re-opened to students on September 16, when we began our child care program. We then added our athletic training program on September 29, and our High Need Hybrid the week of October 12. Keeping students and employees in cohorts has been an essential part of each phase of our reopening. In each phase, we have dealt with COVID issues that have required us to take actions to keep our students and employees safe. We have had students with family members let us know that they tested positive for COVID. We have had employees develop COVID-like symptoms, and in one case, test positive for COVID. And on Friday, we learned that an athlete in one of our cohorts tested positive for COVID. We followed the steps outlined in our health and safety protocols document, but there are key takeaways with our experience thus far:
    • I am always grateful to employees and families for letting us know about any COVID-related situations and for following the advice given by DPH to seek out a PCR/molecular (not a rapid/antigen) test, as these tests provide fewer false negative results. There should be no stigma associated with this process. In fact, it’s just the opposite. By letting us know quickly, and providing the most reliable data available, we are better able to take the necessary steps that protect all of us.
    • When our students and employees stay within their cohorts, we are able to restrict the impacted cohort and keep others safe.
    • In the case of a confirmed positive case within an active cohort, we have taken the following steps:
      • We have directed all members of that cohort to quarantine for two weeks. Even though they have been outdoors, worn masks, and kept six feet of distance, this is the right move (and the move required by LACDPH).
      • The cohort will not reassemble until 14 days have passed from the cohort members’ last exposure to the infected person. 
      • If any additional cohort members test positive, those members will remain in quarantine until they have been fever free for 24 hours, show improved symptoms, and are 10 days from the onset of symptoms (or 10 days from the test date, if no symptoms develop). In the latter case, the rest of the cohort will remain in quarantine for 14 days from the last exposure to any and all cohort members who test positive. 
  • Supporting our High School Students: I’ve spent a lot of time writing about the critical nature of cohorts. People keep asking me when high schools are going to start. Here’s the thing: cohorts don’t work in large high schools. Students and employees mix and mingle throughout the day. There are infinite combinations of students and teachers, so that even one case of COVID could quarantine hundreds of people. Until we can better figure out how to keep all of us safe, it’s distance learning for high school. At our board meeting last week, student board member Emma Clarke asked if we could survey high school students about what is working well, what is not, and what we can do to better address their academic and social-emotional needs. It’s a great idea and I will be working with our students to get a survey out this week.
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.
 
 
Room picture
 
Preparing our Classrooms
 
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.
 
From Dr. Matthews' September 14 E-Mail to the MBUSD Community:
As we enter our third full week of this semester, I hope that your children’s experiences have been positive. While there are still many challenges with not having our students at school, I have heard from many parents that remote instruction is far more consistent with higher expectations for learning than last spring. I am grateful to our teachers for rising to the occasion, adapting to a whole new teaching environment, and jumping into this year ready to meet the needs of their students.
 
In this newsletter I will update you on revised county and state guidelines, describe programs we are initiating or hope to begin soon, and look at next steps in our 5-Phase plan for returning to school.
 
While all of us wish that we could be back to in-person schooling, I know that our teachers will emerge from this pandemic with expertise that could change the face of education when we return. I believe we will be more nimble and more capable of responding to the wide range of student needs. I believe that many parent meetings, including some of our Board meetings, will be held via Zoom so that more people can access them live or through high quality recordings. There are many industries where this pandemic will have long-range implications for what work looks like and where it happens, and schools are no different.
 
The COVID-19 infection data is getting better both nationally and locally, but we are not out of this yet. Long Beach Unified just announced that they will not be coming back before January 28, 2021. We are still hopeful for an earlier return than that.
 
As you may remember, the MBUSD Board of Trustees adopted a 5-Phase plan for returning to school:
  • Phase 1: Begin all TK-12 instruction in distance learning.
  • Phase 2: Elementary hybrid model/High Need TK-5 Hybrid
  • Phase 3: High Need Hybrid for grades 6-12
  • Phase 4: Secondary Hybrid
  • Phase 5: Return to Full (Non-Hybrid) Learning
child care
CHILDCARE PROGRAM
Although we are still in Phase 1, we are beginning to bring back some of our students to campuses this Wednesday. I am looking forward to welcoming almost 200 children as they return to three school sites for childcare: the Preschool, Meadows Elementary, and Pacific Elementary. We are also able to bring back many of our Preschool and EDP teachers and assistants to meet the needs of this program. As we prepare to welcome these students and employees, we have checked all the required boxes in a 95-point checklist from the Department of Public Health and we have obtained all the safety and PPE equipment we need to operate the program. Safety procedures for our students, staff, and families are in place, and when we start on Wednesday, we will be able to quickly assess what practices work effectively and what practices need improvement. All of this will be extremely helpful as we move along our 5-Phase plan towards a full reopening.
volleyball champs
STUDENT ATHLETICS
We also hope to bring back some of our student athletes at Mira Costa soon for athletic training. On August 6, the state announced that high schools could begin athletic training without contact, without scrimmaging and without actual playing of games, but it could include conditioning and skill building. Many of our coaches have elected to start these non-mandatory programs. I look forward to announcing the start dates of those programs soon. Again, we will learn from this process as we move towards Phases 2-5.
physical therapy
HIGH NEED HYBRID
On September 4, the state announced that they will be allowing small cohorts of students with IEPs and students who are English Learners back onto campuses for assessments and critical learning. This is the High Need Hybrid that is included in Phases 2 and 3 of MBUSD’s re-entry plan. We have been analyzing our programs and our students' IEPs and determining the best ways to meet the most urgent needs. This involves careful examination of the services that are the most difficult to offer in a distance format, as well as a case-by-case review of students who are having the most difficulty accessing services in a virtual model. In addition, we are negotiating with our teachers union and collectively discussing how to open this program on our campuses. We will provide updates as they are available, and we hope to be able to start this program soon.
waiver
ELEMENTARY WAIVER APPLICATION
There have been a lot of questions about when MBUSD will be applying for a waiver to begin our in-person elementary school programs. At this point, the LA County Department of Public Health has no intention of opening the waiver application process until they can examine the high needs hybrid implementation in schools across the county. The County has also stated that this analysis will not be completed until late October or, more probably, early November. Although this news was disappointing, for MBUSD, the successful implementation of childcare, athletics training, and the new high needs hybrid will help us to complete our preparations for re-opening our elementary schools, and then secondary schools, when those options become available.
Free meals
FREE MEALS FOR ALL MBUSD STUDENTS
The District was recently approved by the USDA and CDE to provide FREE meals to all MBUSD students through December 31, 2020. This is not the same as the Free and Reduced Price meal program that we run other times of the year. Rather, this is set up to assist parents during this troublesome time. All school districts nationwide are participating, and by ordering meals you are actually helping MBUSD receive funding. Details can be found here, menus are posted here, and order forms can be found here. If you have additional questions, please review the FAQs here. I am appreciative of our Food & Nutrition Director, Lena Agee, for her hard work in getting our district approved for this program.
gym photos
 
CONSTRUCTION UPDATES
Our construction progress has continued throughout the pandemic. The Mira Costa High School athletics facility is close to completion in mid-October. I cannot wait to open this new building to the public and to see our athletes using the space. If you drive by Mira Costa on Peck Avenue, you can get a nice view of the construction. It’s a beautiful addition to the campus and will serve our community for decades to come. 
 
Construction workers are also putting the finishing touches on modernization work at Meadows, Robinson, and Grand View. Classrooms on those campuses will now have new flooring, new sliding doors, improved infrastructure, air conditioning and more. The classrooms are beautiful and we Look forward to seeing our students and staff in them.
 
VIRTUAL ASSEMBLIES
Just because we are in distance learning, it doesn’t mean that we can’t have powerful assemblies and virtual school gatherings. To honor the victims and heroes of 9/11, Grand View and Robinson Elementary Schools held their first Zoom assemblies last Friday. It was wonderful to see the students’ faces as they sang praises to the essential workers and first responders in our community.
 
From Dr. Matthews' August 18 E-Mail to Preschool Parents:
Ever since March 13, 2020, the last day we held in-person classes in Manhattan Beach Preschool, we have all been looking forward to finding out when we can get the Preschool back open and working to be prepared for that day. Led by Ms. Kim Johnson, a team of parents and employees met several times to examine how the Preschool could open during the COVID-19 pandemic based on the guidelines available at the time. Since July 22 the MBUSD Board of Trustees has been discussing the same topic, basing its discussion on the foundation laid by the Preschool steering committee. Although the Board has declared all elementary, middle and high schools to be in distance learning (Phase 1) for the foreseeable future, the Board has also declared its intent to open MB Preschool as soon as possible.
 
The District is working with county and state officials to check all guidelines and make sure that the Preschool can indeed open to serve all students. In addition, the District is in ongoing discussions with both the certificated and classified unions discussing safety protocols and other contractual issues. While neither the County nor the employee union discussion is completely resolved, we are continuing to work on both. For a variety of reasons, I believe that our child care program will open before our preschool program. Parents of three, four, and five year-olds will be sent information about our child care program, which could be a nice transition program until the preschool is reopened. To see information about child care for 3-5 year olds, click here.
 
We know that when we open the Preschool, there will be additional costs due to mandated safety requirements. Class sizes will have to be much smaller, with fewer students per employee. There will be added custodial and sanitization requirements and costs. Finally, there will be additional personal protective equipment (PPE) costs for staff and students. We anticipate that the tuition for 5 day/week full-day Preschool will be approximately $1620, and the tuition for 5 day/week half-day Preschool will be approximately $1170. In addition, the day will be structured differently, with students remaining with the small cohort of their classroom group and providing activities that allow for appropriate social distancing at all times (i.e., keeping students at least 6’ apart from each other and from their teachers, ensuring that students and staff wear face coverings while on campus, and structuring classroom breaks and restroom use to accommodate cleaning and disinfecting routines).
 
Until we are able to open the preschool, we are also considering a distance learning program for 3-5 year-old students, taught by our preschool staff, that will include the following:
  • A combination of live (synchronous) and assigned (asynchronous) instruction, all included in a distance learning format, with no in-person instruction
  • Three hours of instruction each day, from 8:30 to 11:30
  • Class sizes of up to 16 students
  • Distance learning tuition would be approximately $955/month
  • Curriculum taught by a certified preschool teacher
  • Director Kim Johnson will send a description of the MBPS Distance Learning Program next week
 
We are not asking for a firm commitment at this time, but for planning purposes, we need to know if, according to what you know now, your preschool-aged children who are already enrolled in our Preschool will attend when we open. We also need to know whether you would enroll in the distance learning program until the preschool is able to open for in-person instruction. We know there are many more questions, and we will address those as we get nearer the opening. For our planning purposes right now, I am asking you to please fill out the brief survey below. If you have more than one child enrolled in the Preschool this year, please fill out one survey for each child.
Thank you for your response, and we will be in touch again soon.
 
From Dr. Matthews' August 18 E-Mail to Elementary Parents re: EDP:
At the August 12, 2020 Board meeting, the Board of Trustees voted to re-open the Extended Day Program (EDP) for MBUSD students from age 3 through grade 5, contingent on approval by the LA County Office of Education and the LA County Department of Public Health.
 
The District is working with county and state officials to check all guidelines and make sure that the EDP can indeed open to serve all students. In addition, the District is in ongoing discussions with our employee union discussing safety protocols and other contractual issues. While neither the County regulations nor the employee issues are completely resolved, we are hopeful that these can be addressed and resolved in the near future.
 
The Extended Day Program will look much different than it did prior to March 13, 2020 when we were running normally. This program will be a 5-day-a-week program, with hours that are approximately 7:30 am - 4:00 pm (parents will have the option of taking their child out mid-day but will be required to pay full tuition). Activities during the day for all students could include:
 
  • Support for Distance Learning
  • Utilizing available outdoor space during Distance Learning breaks
  • Safe and distant activities such as yoga, outdoor games, arts, and crafts
  • Hand washing and sanitizing routines
  • Student choice during breaks
  • Snack and lunch
  • Students will remain with a small cohort of their peers and will be required to maintain appropriate social distancing at all times, keeping at least 6’ apart from each other and from their teachers
  • Students and staff wear face coverings while on campus (except when eating) while on campus
  • Structuring classroom breaks and restroom use to accommodate cleaning and disinfecting routines.
 
We know that when we open EDP, there will be additional costs due to mandated safety requirements. As I mentioned above, the hours of the program are significantly longer than they were last year. In addition, group sizes will have to be much smaller, and we will have fewer students per employee. There will be added custodial and sanitization requirements and costs. Finally, there will be additional personal protective equipment (PPE) costs for staff and students. We anticipate that the tuition for 5 day/week full-day EDP will be approximately $1500 per month.
 
We are not asking for a firm commitment at this time, but for planning purposes, we need to know if, according to what you know now, you will want your child(ren) enrolled in EDP when it opens. The MBUSD EDP program is an impacted program. Although we have expanded over the past few years, there is still a waitlist for enrollment. We do not know what kind of interest there will be in this program, and the Board has asked that we survey all elementary parents and the parents of 3-5 year-old preschool students to determine their interest level. Please know that if demand continues to be high, we will not be able to provide this service to all interested parents.
 
We know there are many more questions, and we will address those as we get nearer the opening. For our planning purposes right now, I am asking you to please fill out the brief survey below. If you have more than one child aged 3 through grade 5 this year, please fill out one survey for each child.
 
From Dr. Matthews' August 7 Newsletter to the MBUSD Community:
When I last wrote to you, I provided several aspects of the distance learning portion for the school year ahead. Since then, we took the recommendations of our Steering Committee and discussed them with our teachers’ union representatives. After several productive and collaborative bargaining sessions, we have reached a tentative agreement.
 
Some of the key elements that we have added to our Distance Learning in MBUSD document include:
 
Further definition of the school days and the school year:
  • Days of school offered = 180 days
  • The amount of live instruction that students will receive at a minimum. Live, synchronous instruction is instruction when the teacher is live with students facilitating learning. This may include whole group, small group, or 1:1 instruction. Live instruction will be at least half of each day’s required instructional minutes as defined by AB-77:
  • 90 minutes per day at the TK/K level*
  • 115 minutes per day in grades 1 through 3*
  • 120 minutes per day in grades 4 and 5*
  • 86 minutes per week per class section in grades 6 through 8*
  • 100 minutes per week per class section in grades 9 through 12*
* Please note that these minutes are the minimum minutes that teachers will be providing live instruction. Because those minutes may be for whole group, small group, or individuals, based on the professional judgment of each teacher, the number of live minutes that each child receives may vary. 
  • All students can expect to engage in live, whole-group instruction at the beginning of each school day or class period on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. They can also expect to engage in additional live, whole-group instruction towards the end of the school day or class period, with varying forms of live and asynchronous instruction in between.
  • On the first three days of the 2020-21 school year (August 26-28, 2020), teachers may adjust their instructional schedules to provide for a whole-class live, synchronous welcome and introduction activities at the beginning of the instructional day or class period and then provide asynchronous instruction for the remainder of the day or class period. We are encouraging all teachers to utilize these first few days to build connections with the students enrolled in their classes.
  • We have finalized a schedule for MBMS and MCHS. Both are block schedules, similar to the schedules used in the Spring of 2020. 
 
MBMS Schedule
MBMS Schedule
 
MCHS Schedule
MCHS Schedule
 
  • We have established the school day for elementary school students and teachers. Grade level teams at each school will finalize the schedule that works best in their schools, and school will provide that information before the first day. All elementary school teachers will be available beginning at 8:15 am, and will begin live instruction no later than 8:45 am.
  • TK - K: On all days except for Wednesdays, whole group live synchronous opening activities will begin by 8:45 am, and synchronous instruction will end no later than 1:30 pm.
  • Grades 1-3: On all days except for Wednesdays, whole group live synchronous opening activities will begin by 8:45 am, and synchronous instruction will end no later than 2:15 pm.
  • Grades 4-5: On all days except for Wednesdays, whole group live synchronous opening activities will begin by 8:45 am, and synchronous instruction will end no later than 2:45 pm.
  • On Wednesdays, following a live, synchronous morning check-in, all other instruction may be offered either synchronously or asynchronously at the discretion of the teacher. Instruction will end at 1:00 pm.
  • Music, P.E., and Science specialists will provide a schedule for students at each school site.
 
We have updated our Distance Learning in MBUSD guide to include this information and more. Professional development sessions with our teachers have begun, principal meetings continue, and distance learning practices and procedures are being finalized. And all the while, we are actively preparing for the day when we move to Phase 2 of our school year, and we can start hybrid instruction.
 
Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Department of Health published a guide to open child care programs in LA County schools. We are studying these requirements and taking steps to open our own Child Care program in MBUSD. An update will be provided at next Wednesday’s Board meeting.
 
I hope you all have a nice weekend, and as we get closer to the start of the school year, I will continue to provide updates on our Re-Opening our Schools webpage.
 
From Dr. Matthews' July 31 Newsletter to the MBUSD Community:
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.
 
Special Education
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
  • Zoom
  • Screencastify
  • 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!
 
Bell Schedules
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.
 
Moving Forward
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.
 
Links:
 
Thank you for your efforts, stay safe, and I will update you soon on next steps.
 
From Dr. Matthews' July 20 Newsletter to the MBUSD Community:
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.
From Dr. Matthews' July 15 Newsletter to the MBUSD Community:
I hope this email finds you safe and enjoying one of the most unique summers that any of us has ever experienced. Like most of you, my family is not traveling this summer, and we are doing our best to enjoy the area where we live. And through all of it, we in MBUSD are working very hard to determine what learning will look like when we start school on August 26.
 
Over the last several weeks, many districts announced their plans for return with a “hybrid” model that follows county and local guidelines and allows for smaller groups of students on campus in order to maintain safe social distancing practices. Districts have also explained their plans for continuous cleaning and for determining how students and staff will enter and exit each site. Most districts also outlined a distance learning model for families who want or need that option too.
 
As most of you know, we have a steering committee and two large subcommittees reviewing all of the issues surrounding how we re-open schools (click here for information on those groups). Our committees have been working on hybrid and distance learning plans as well, but have held off on finalizing any decisions until the LA County Department of Public Health guidelines were published, which occurred on Monday. We are still diligently preparing a hybrid plan and distance learning plan, and we will be examining both options at our July 22 board meeting, and plans will be approved at the July 29 meeting.
 
In the last few days, there has been a lot of information released and many changes announced. Here in Manhattan Beach, and certainly across the county, COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates are increasing. The fact that the United States is one of the worst trending nations in the world is most concerning, and in California, the Governor issued orders on Monday closing down a number of sectors that had been previously reopened. This week, there has also been so much news related to schools specifically. First we heard that both LAUSD and SDUSD are starting the year in distance learning, a big departure from their previously announced plans for hybrid learning. Next came a press conference from the LA County Department of Health and LACOE, which raised as many questions as it answered. This was quickly followed by the release of the LA County Department of Public Health guidelines, which contain detailed information about operational requirements for re-opening. Many districts, including Santa Ana, Santa Monica–Malibu, Beverly Hills, Culver City, Anaheim and more have followed the lead of the larger districts and have announced a distance learning model for the start of school. On a call I had with all superintendents from Los Angeles County today, nearly three quarters of the districts reported that they will be begin the year in full distance learning. And in a press briefing today, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond emphasized multiple times that the California Department of Education applauds districts' decision to start the year in a distance learning model, and said, "I do think that if school had to open tomorrow, most of our districts would open with distance learning, and that decision, I think, is a good one." Every district that has previously announced plans is being forced to reevaluate its proposal due to all of these unforeseen developments.
 
For MBUSD, please know that the charge of our steering committee to reopen schools remains exactly the same. We will continue to discuss how we will conduct distance learning, while also looking at options for elementary and secondary hybrid models where a portion of the students are on campus and other students are receiving distance learning. We are not discussing any plans where all students return to school at the same time, as that clearly does not meet the requirements set by the LA County Department of Public Health. I invite you to watch the discussion of each option at the Board’s July 22 meeting, and the presentation of a final recommendation at the Board's July 29 meeting.
 
I have received many emails urging us to open schools, and I have received many emails asking us to delay starting a hybrid model until we can ensure the safety of all students and staff. While there is no directive to close schools and go to distance learning only here in LA County, things are changing rapidly. As I told our steering committee yesterday, even if there is an order to go to distance learning, we still have to develop a solid model for hybrid learning to utilize when we can open schools.
 
I know the uncertainty is stressful for everyone. Right now, the only thing we all have control over is our own personal decisions to practice social distancing and to wear a mask. Please don't be part of the problem. Do your part every time you are around other people.
 
Whatever our plans, I am confident that we will begin the school year with an instructional model that will provide for strong teaching and learning, provide appropriate accountability and rigor, and set up structures to support students' academic and emotional needs. Thank you for your patience and support, and I will continue to communicate as we march toward August 26.
 
From Dr. Matthews' June 26 Newsletter to the MBUSD Community:
 
In an effort to keep the community informed about our decision-making process to reopen schools in 2020-21, I am writing to update you with some key pieces of information:
  • Our Steering Committee and elementary and secondary subcommittees are formed, and are meeting regularly. Thank you to everyone who applied. We had over 200 people interested in these committees! You can see the members selected here: steeringsecondaryelementary.
  • We were all hoping that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health would release their Order on procedures to reopen schools earlier this week. Unfortunately, that release has been delayed by at least a week, and possibly two. The Health Department’s Order will establish the minimum level of procedures for all LA County schools to follow. We will not be able to finalize our school opening procedures until that Order is released, but our committees will still be meeting to review other relevant protocols and procedures.
  • Our committees will be using guidance and resources from a wide variety of agencies and experts, as they are working on five major areas for re-opening our schools:
    • Health and Safety
    • Instruction (Both Distance and In-Person)
    • Social and Emotional Supports
    • Family and Community Engagement
    • Operations (HR, Facilities, Budgeting, Nutrition, Technology)
  • This week the State agreed upon a budget that is less harmful to MBUSD than the Governor’s May budget would have been. For that reason, we are recommending a budget for 2020-21 that does not include additional reductions beyond the ones we already approved in March. The budget also contains strong language advocating for students to return to some form of in-school learning in August. That said, if circumstances do not allow for students to return to school, we are beginning discussions about laying off classified employees in positions where their assigned responsibilities cannot be completed in a distance learning environment.
  • Our return to school committees and our Medical Advisory Board both discussed the importance of wearing face coverings. There is an LA Times article today about the recent uptick in cases, particularly among our younger people. This is preventable, and I want to take this time to urge all of us to remain vigilant! I have received several emails criticizing our senior graduates, who, after the 10-hour MBUSD-sponsored graduation ceremony which adhered to Health Department guidelines, met on the beach for an unauthorized and non-district sponsored gathering. This type of event puts all of us in danger. The health advice from the County is there for a reason - not wearing face coverings and not honoring social distancing protocols creates risks for every member of our community. We are still in the first wave of COVID-19, and all of the medical professionals I speak with are still concerned. Please protect yourself, protect those you interact with, and protect our community by following the advice and directives from our Governor, Health Department, and practically every scientific/medical source I have read by wearing a face covering and practicing appropriate social distancing. And while we’re at it, let’s keep washing our hands regularly for the rest of our lives.
  •  
From Dr. Matthews' June 4 Newsletter to the MBUSD Community:
  • No matter what we do in the fall, it will be different from our distance learning experience we have experienced since March 16.
  • Thank you to the thousands of you who took the time to complete one of our surveys. You can see my board presentation on that data here, or you can see the full results here for teachersclassified staffparents, and secondary students.
  • Based on this data, we know that we will need a distance learning program for 20% of our families who at this point are not willing to send their children to school. Of course, that could go up or down depending on what we know in August.
  • The critical question for our district is the same question that every other district is wrestling with: How can we safely open our campuses for our students and employees next year?
  • Our next step is to hold two town hall meetings for employees and parents. Anyone from the MBUSD community can submit a question for the Board and my senior Cabinet to answer during the town hall. 
  • The elementary town hall meeting regarding grades TK-5 will be on Monday, June 8, from 4:30 to 6:00. Click here to submit questions and click here to watch the town hall.
  • The secondary town hall meeting regarding grades 6-12 will be on Tuesday, June 9, from 4:30 to 6:00. Click here to submit questions and click here to watch the town hall.
  • Finally, we will be forming a steering committee with an elementary and a secondary subcommittee to make recommendations on how we reopen schools next year. Click here to learn more about that.
 
From Dr. Matthews' May 28 Newsletter to the MBUSD Community:
 
MBUSD, along with almost all districts around the country, is using this document and more, as we study two general options for how we could open next year.
 
Option A: Returning to school
I referred to Option A in my last newsletter. I think it is the option that most of us want to see, as we are all hoping to get back to normal as soon as possible. But Option A is not yet "normal school." It would be a return to campus, but in a limited fashion. It could mean students being on campus for mornings or afternoons only. It could mean students coming to campus for one or two days a week only. It could mean students coming to campus every other week. In all of these scenarios, we are reducing the number of students who are on campus and in classrooms at any one time so that we can socially distance and promote the safety of students and staff. And if we do proceed with an Option A, some families will choose not to send their children to school based upon their own assessments of the level of risk and their personal family situations. Appropriate accommodations will need to be made for these students.
 
Option B: Continuing Distance Learning
Option B remains the distance learning model. We would look for a more robust version of what we have now, building upon all that we have learned in these last three months in our distance learning instruction. While we changed our grading policy to limit the harm that could occur with student grades in this semester’s distance learning, next year would be a year of full accountability.
And even if we go to Option A, until a vaccine is developed, there is a chance that there will be a second or third wave or spike in COVID-19 cases locally, and we would need to shut down a classroom, a school or all schools and return to distance learning for a certain segment of time. That means we have to be ready for distance learning no matter what.
 
Moving Forward
 
So how are we going to make this decision?
  • Surveys: Later today, I will email surveys for students, for staff, for teachers, and for parents. For parents, you can submit one response or you can fill one out for each child. We will use this data, sharing it with the Board and our community as we move forward.
  • Town Hall Meetings: We will hold virtual meetings with our parents and with our staffs at each school, sharing the results of the survey, reviewing viable options, and answering questions. I have been working with a few PTAs doing this type of meeting, and I believe it’s a good way to exchange information. Dates on those will be coming out soon, but expect them in the first two weeks of June.
  • Steering Committees: We will form two steering committees, one for secondary schools and one for elementary schools, comprised of parent leaders, teacher leaders, our unions, site and district administrators, and students (on the secondary committee) to learn from the feedback from the surveys, to review any changes in what the Health Department is recommending, to examine plans being developed and implemented around the area and around the country, to investigate other alternatives, and to recommend re-opening options and plans to the Board.
  • Implementation: In late July or early August, the Board will make the determination on whether and how we will re-open our schools.
I know that people would like to see a plan in place right now, but I firmly believe there is just too much changing in the next few months for us to commit to a plan as of today. We hope scientists learn more about the disease itself. We will learn as we see whether there is a second spike of confirmed cases as more and more of our businesses, parks, and beaches open. If there is no significant spike, perhaps restrictions will loosen, making it easier for us to open schools. There are so many factors still to be considered, and we need to study all of them.
 
Whatever option we choose, we will have our children’s and our staff’s safety first in mind. We all want our schools to re-open, but we want to do so in line with the recommendations from the County Department of Health and the state.