From Dr. Matthews' Monday Message - March 1, 2021:
I started my day today on one of MBUSD’s elementary school campuses, where I welcomed many of our 3rd through 5th grade students back on campus and said hello to our TK-2 students and teachers, who are at this point old hands at coming to campus and getting to their classrooms. After students had been checked in, I was able to look in on a few lessons. In one of them, students were doing calendar and math work, and I learned that Monday, March 1 is the 109th day of school. There are all kinds of math problems that can be done with the number 109, but I mention it mostly because the 109th day was a great day in our elementary schools, as every student who wants to be back in person was on one of our campuses today.
It was also wonderful to see teachers marveling at how much our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students have grown, to see students saying that they didn't think their teacher was so tall, and even to see students standing at their desks for the Pledge of Allegiance. A lot goes into making a day like today work - our principals worked through the last several weekends making a new schedule work, our M&O department prepared every classroom, our tech department provided outstanding support, and our teachers prepared for this new way of teaching. Our classrooms feel safe, our teachers are thrilled to be with their students, and 109 is my new favorite number.
This afternoon, as one of a small group of superintendents in LA County who are in districts that are far ahead of most districts in LA County in terms of bringing students in-person, I am meeting with County officials to discuss students returning to secondary schools. The big question that the County has not answered is whether students will be allowed to switch classes (for example, go from 1st to 3rd to 5th period in our current block schedule) when secondary schools are allowed to return. I will be pushing to make sure that students are able to switch classes. South Bay superintendents have been advocating for this, as there are plenty of examples from surrounding counties and from middle schools and high schools around the nation where students switch classes and the schools are operating safely. I believe that the County will be issuing these guidelines soon. I am still targeting March 8 as the date when we bring our 6th graders back for Humanities only (because at this point, they cannot switch classes), and April 12, the Monday after spring break, for the return of all of our secondary students.
Once we know the County guidelines, we will be asking our parents of middle school and high school students to let us know if their student will be in-person or if they wish to remain in distance learning. One question I frequently get asked is if there will still be options for distance learning. The answer is, yes, we will have distance learning options for all students for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. But I cannot promise that for next year. I do believe we will be in full school mode in the 2021-22 school year, and I do not know that there will be the same kind of distance learning options next year.
Day 109 is a great day for another reason - today is the day that all school employees are officially eligible to get the vaccine. Many places in the County opened their doors to educators this weekend. Thanks to the County and BCHD, nearly 100 of our employees will be vaccinated here in Manhattan Beach on Wednesday, and we expect an even greater number to get vaccinated next Wednesday. Many employees are accessing vaccination opportunities through the state’s MyTurn
system as well as through various vaccination centers at local pharmacies and other county locations, and I believe that by the end of this week, over 25% of MBUSD employees will have received the first dose of the vaccine! That’s great news.
One final note - high school sports are starting up. I was happy to see and hear the sounds of real football and to see our football teams practicing in pads last Friday, and we even hosted water polo games at Mira Costa on Saturday. You can get more sports information in Dr. Dale’s Friday email to the Costa Community
, and this is one more example of things moving in the right direction.
I hope your Day 109 is as good as mine. And I’m hoping for an even better Day 110.
Please continue to act safely and responsibly, so we can continue these wonderful trends.
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Message - February 22, 2021:
I hope that all of you had an enjoyable mid-winter break. It was another good week for fans of ending COVID. The number of COVID cases in LA County and across the nation continue to drop. That is great news in MBUSD, as it allows us to keep moving forward with our reopening plans and safely returning students to school. Here are some upcoming changes in MBUSD:
- Vaccinations: The County announced that school employees are eligible to receive the vaccine starting next Monday, March 1, 2021. We have advised the over 90% of our employees who want the vaccination to be on the lookout. The system is not easy to navigate, and it takes persistence. This weekend, some vaccines were made available to some school employees, and many MBUSD employees networked and pounced on the opportunity. This is the beginning of a VERY positive trend.
- 3rd - 5th Grades: The case rate for LA County is now less than 25/100,000. That means that on Monday, March 1, grades three, four, and five will return in a four-days-a-week AM/PM schedule (see page 19 of the MBUSD Hybrid Procedural Guidelines for exact times). I want to applaud all of our TK-5 teachers and instructional assistants, as over 80% of them are or will be in the classroom, fully meeting the requests from our TK-5 parents. Our classrooms are positive places full of learning and smiles, and our teachers and staff are leading the way.
- Secondary High Needs Hybrid: Tomorrow, we welcome back almost 100 middle school and high school students who are experiencing difficulty in distance learning. These students will be at school for the first two periods of the day four days a week and will receive in-person support as they attend their distance learning classes.
- 6th Grade: We are finalizing plans to bring back 6th grade students for their Humanities class by March 8, and we will be discussing those plans with the Board on Wednesday night. I’ve received a few emails asking why grade six cannot come back in full. Sixth grade is allowed to return for in-person instruction, but while we are in the Purple Tier, students cannot mix classes. So it’s one class only for now. This is one of many steps in the right direction.
- 7th - 12th Grades: Finally, I am very hopeful that this downward trend in COVID cases will continue and we will be in the Red Tier in a few weeks, which will allow for the return of secondary students. We are targeting Monday, April 12, the day after Spring Break, as a date when we could see our secondary students back on campus. We are awaiting clarification from LACDPH regarding what the requirements will be for secondary school when we get to this tier. Currently, we have not received information about whether or when students and staff can be in multiple groups, attend multiple classes, or do any of the other things that make secondary schools different from elementary school settings. We are advocating with state and county representatives for increased clarity and communication, and we encourage parents to do the same.
- CDC Guidelines: I have been asked why aren’t we following the newly released CDC guidelines, which are more lenient in terms of when and how students can return to school? While the CDC is a critical advisory body, it is the California DPH and the LA County DPH that are the regulatory agencies with control over school reopenings. We will continue to follow LACDPH regulations.
Here’s what I know about this news on reopening. For many of you, this will be welcome and positive news. For many others, it is way too slow. And for some, you remain quite content with distance learning for a variety of reasons. I appreciate your support, your clarifying questions, your pushes, and all of your efforts to make the most of this year. I am proud of our employees and all of their efforts in the openings we have successfully completed, and I look forward to safely bringing back more students in these new phases. My wish for this week and the month of March is vaccines for our employees, the continued decline of case numbers in our county and around the world, and all of our dedication to following all guidelines and doing our part to stop the spread of COVID.
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Message - February 8, 2021:
I hope you all had a very nice weekend and a safe Super Bowl Sunday. The main theme of this Monday’s message is that we continue to ramp up the number of students who are in-person on our campuses, and we have taken every step as safely as possible, minimizing transmission to students and staff in spite of the 40 cases of COVID (20 students and 20 employees) that we have experienced so far among people attending/working in our schools.
Some of the highlights:
- Today our TK-2 students started the AM/PM schedule, which has students attending class in-person four days a week, either in the morning or the afternoon. I was at two of our schools and witnessed many smiles - behind-the-mask smiles - as our students and families arrived for either the morning or afternoon session. I am proud that, out of over 80 school districts in LA County, we are one of seven that have brought back TK-2 students.
- We continue our high need hybrid, and in the last two weeks we have brought in additional students with IEPs and the employees to support them.
- We have almost 1,300 student-athletes attending athletic conditioning sessions at Mira Costa.
- Our preschool through fifth grade child care program continues.
And coming soon . . .
- The cohort guidance from the County now allows us to have up to 14 students in a cohort. That will allow us to effectively bring back grades 3, 4, and 5. Here is what is happening:
- Principals will be making changes to schedules this week, and they will be reaching out to parents either late this week or the week after mid-winter break.
- Elementary principals are in agreement that the return to in-person learning date should be March 1, 2021. It provides students and families who have not yet committed to hybrid or distance learning to do so, and it provides teachers time to properly transition their current students onward and to welcome their incoming students.
- By March 1, we will have our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students in-person. If the County allows it, we will offer in-person school for grades 3, 4, and 5 in the same four-days-a-week AM/PM schedule that our TK-2 students started today, with slightly staggered start and end times.
- If the County does not allow that level of opening (because the case rate has not yet dropped below 25/100,000), then we will have each grade in school one day a week, so as not to exceed the 25% cap on daily student attendance.
- We learned last week that the County is now allowing five CIF sports - swimming, tennis, golf, track and field, and cross country - to begin competing in two-team meets/matches. Mira Costa leaders are already working with other schools in our league to schedule these events.
- We are working to bring back some of our secondary students who are not being successful in distance learning. We will be reaching out to 36 to 42 students in middle school, and 48 to 56 students in high school to participate in the first phase of this program, which will start during the week of February 22.
- Unfortunately, the amount of vaccine available to those in the highest tiers, including those who work in schools, is still insufficient. I remain hopeful, but to date, very few of our employees have been vaccinated. Board members and I continue to advocate for vaccines for school employees with our elected officials and DPH.
I will say, there is a lot of tension right now on the issue of the pace of our return of in-person students. There is tension in the virtual boardroom and tension in the parent community. In spite of MBUSD being among the leaders in our County in bringing students back to school (it is impossible to compare us to other counties or states, as L.A. County has far more cases and far more restrictions), I hear from many who want us to return faster. I believe we have taken gradual steps and have been well-prepared for each of those steps, and I am thankful that we have accomplished each of those steps safely. I am eager to continue doing just that - finding ways to use changing county guidelines to bring more of our students back as quickly and as safely as possible.
I urge us all not to go to extremes. Several parents and colleagues shared an unfortunate post that went too far. You can see part of the post here, though I have deleted the name of the parent:
I hope we can all continue to work together and find ways to overcome the threats posed by this pandemic. To answer a few of the questions asked by this person, my motivation is to educate and care for our students and to follow recommendations that will keep our students, our employees, and our community safe. I want it all. Nothing would make me happier than seeing all of our campuses return to normal. In terms of the other questions, I’m kind of an open book. My superintendent’s page
on the district website has a lot of information about me as well as links to my job history and even some of my personal blog posts
I don’t mind being pushed. I have had hundreds of emails from parents and daily conversations with employees where we have differing views on issues. In each of these situations, we almost always address those differences respectfully, and often gain insight while learning in the process. I look forward to continuing those respectful interchanges, continuing to safely expand the number of students in our schools, and adjusting to whatever is coming next.
As we look at the 2021-22 school year, my prediction is that the vaccine is going to help tremendously, that the COVID numbers will continue to go down - though it will not be a steady decline - and that we will be in a much better place as we head into the spring and summer. I am extremely hopeful that when we open schools in 2021-22, every student who wishes to do so will be in-person, perhaps with a few safety restrictions, and that, more than ever, we will all appreciate the normalcy, security, support, and care that our schools bring to our students, our employees, and our community.
Next week is our mid-winter break. For those of you staying home or traveling within the state of California, I hope you have a great time and abide by all social distancing guidelines. For those of you traveling outside of the state, I hope you have a great time, and please abide by the mandatory 10-day quarantine upon your return to California.
E-mail to Superintendents from L.A. County Dept of Public Health - February 2, 2021:
Dear Education partner,
While Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) finalizes our local guidance and protocols for schools aligning with the new consolidated guidance document from the State of California, we wanted to provide some clarification on the new reopening guidance under the California Safer Schools for All program. There has understandably been some confusion and we are receiving many questions as well as some unnecessary submissions of materials. Hopefully, this communication will provide some clarity in the interim.
The Safer Schools for All program supersedes the State’s elementary school waiver process. Our local TK-2 Waiver Program was officially sunsetted when the new state guidance was released on January 14, 2021, and that website will shortly be replaced with updated information on the reopening process. There will be no further TK-2 waivers approved. If you have submitted an application for a waiver over the past 2 months and have not received waiver approval yet, we can confirm that your waiver application will not be approved. All TK-2 waivers that have been granted previously remain valid. The final list of schools in LA County that have been approved for waivers remains available here.
Current Reopening Guidance
- If your school has an approved TK-2 waiver and has already been open for instruction for all students in any grade(s) TK-2
- Your school may remain open or reopen for students in grades TK-2.
- You must post the COVID-19 Safety Plan (CSP) on the LEA or school website by February 1, 2021. The CSP consists of the following documents:
- Cal-OSHA Prevention Program (CPP)
- COVID-19 School Guidance Checklist
- Every school in Los Angeles County must also complete, post, and display the Los Angeles County K-12 Re-Opening Protocols (Appendix T-1) before restarting operations. If you have already been approved for a waiver, this step should already be accomplished.
- If you have not yet posted these materials, and are offering in person instruction, you do not have to close at this time. Post the materials as soon as possible.
- The CSP does not need to be submitted to or reviewed by LACDPH or California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Send an email notification to TASchoolSupport@ph.lacounty.gov with a link to your CSP posting for verification purposes.
- If your school was previously approved for a waiver for grades TK-2, but you decided to postpone re-opening in response to the winter surge in cases or the LACDPH recommendation to suspend in-person learning for the month of January
- The State consolidated school guidance does not permit your school to open for full grade in person instruction until the adjusted case rate in the County drops below 25 cases per 100,000 population per day, for 5 consecutive days.
- The state is finalizing a process that will allow a school in this unique situation to request a Safety Review by CDPH which when approved will allow your school to bring back all students in grades TK-2 even when the adjusted case rate in the County remains above 25 cases per 100,000 population. The process has not been finalized or released yet and LACDPH will communicate again with all relevant details as soon as the process is live. You may also check the California Safe Schools for All Hub regularly for new updates.
- If your school has never been approved for a waiver for grades TK-2
- Your school may not reopen for in person instruction for any grade until the case rate in the County falls below 25 cases per 100,000 population per day, for 5 consecutive days.
- This includes schools that had applied for waivers, but the waiver application was not formally approved. The final list of all schools that have been approved for waivers in LA County is available here.
- What about offering targeted specialized support and services for high need students?
- Every school in the County is still permitted to provide specialized in person support and services for students in any grade TK-12 who are identified as high need (for example, students with IEPs or English learners). The school does not require approval, but must file a notification with LACDPH letting us know their plans (over 1,700 individual schools have already done so since September). Those students must be served either individually or in small cohorts and the maximum number of students allowed on campus at any one time for this purpose should not be more than 25% of the entire student body. If you have already filed a notification to provide these services, you do not need to do so again.
- What about students in grades 3-6?
- Schools in LA County may not return students in grades 3 through 6 for in person learning until the adjusted case rate in the County has gone below 25 cases per 100,000 population for 5 consecutive days.
- At that point, all schools in the County, those with approved waivers and those without, will have the same opportunity to return students to campus for all grades TK-6
- What about students in grades 7-12?
- No schools in LA County may open in person instruction for grades 7-12 while we remain in Tier 1 (Purple Widespread)
- When the County reaches Tier 2 (Red Substantial), all schools will have the opportunity to return students in grades 7-12 for in person instruction.
We are working diligently to rapidly update our online materials. Please direct all inquiries to TASchoolSupport@ph.lacounty.gov
Robert Gilchick, MD, MPH
Child and Adolescent Health Section Chief
Division of Maternal, Child, & Adolescent Health
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Message - February 1, 2021:
I spent the morning at one of our elementary schools greeting and screening our TK-2 students who are returning for in-person instruction. It was wonderful to welcome back our employees and our students. This week, our students will be in-person two days a week, while our teachers will be in-person four days a week. Next week, we start our AM/PM schedule, where students will be learning in their classrooms four days a week either in the morning or the afternoon. That will be the elementary hybrid schedule for as long as we need to have it.
In response to questions about when the state/county rules will allow older students to return, LACDPH is projecting that getting below a case rate of 25 cases/100,000 citizens will trigger our being able to bring students in grades 3-5 back to school. And then moving into the Red Tier, with a case rate below 7 cases/100,000, will allow secondary schools to resume in hybrid fashion. I don’t know when those case rates will happen, or what the guidelines for a secondary school hybrid model will include, but we will be discussing alternative ways to get some cohorts of our older students back on campus.
Last Tuesday, I was part of a big effort to administer the PSAT exam at Mira Costa High School. In a normal year, I wouldn’t even be writing about that, but in this crazy time, this was the first time for about 200 of our high school students to be on campus since March 13, 2020. I had the opportunity to greet and screen our students as they came on to campus through one of two entrances. Juniors taking the test smiled behind their masks and were wowed by their first sight of our new gym and athletics complex. This impressive building sits completed and waiting for students, our athletes, and our coaches, and we can’t wait to welcome them inside!
The vaccine rollout is one of the most critical factors impacting all future re-openings. Although I have been bitterly disappointed by the number of vaccines made available in LA County so far, I am optimistic that we will see a dramatic uptick soon. With increased news coverage about the COVID strain variants, and whether they might actually cause another increase in infection rates, I hope that we all will diligently follow the guidelines, enjoying the relaxation of rules on outdoor dining and social gatherings (up to three households and no more than 15 people can gather outdoors), and by doing so help avoid yet another spike. I will say, it was nice this weekend to have our first social gathering since Thanksgiving, as we hosted a lunch for two other couples from our neighborhood in our backyard.
2021 BUDGET AND MBEF
In the midst of all of this, we are developing our budget for the 2021-22 school year. While state funding looks promising for the upcoming school year, we do have challenges. One of our challenges is that MBEF has had lower than expected response to its Annual Appeal fund-raising campaign. I understand. We have lower enrollment, and therefore fewer families to contribute. But it’s more than that. Some people are upset about COVID and disappointed that our students are not all back in school, and as a result, a number of people have chosen not to donate to MBEF this year. MBEF is expecting to be at least $1 million below their 2020-21 fund-raising goal and therefore will have to reduce their grants to support programs next school year by that same $1 million amount. That’s going to hurt. I urge you, if you have not yet donated and if you are able, please reconsider. If not addressed, this shortfall will result in MBEF programs being reduced or eliminated and could also lead to higher class sizes. You’ve heard it before - we are the 2nd lowest funded district in the state, and without the continued high level of support from MBEF, we would look very different. Thank you to all of you who have donated, and I hope that more of us can donate. It’s not too late. Click here
to make a donation.
Finally, I would like to share a safety message from our City and from MBPD. E-Bikes are very popular in our community, and while it’s great to see people, young and not as young, on their bikes and enjoying the fresh air, there are some concerns and complaints about safety. I will say, as a cyclist who has spent time pedaling my non-motorized bike on the bike path, some of those e-bikes go really fast. I join the City and MBPD in encouraging you to enjoy those e-bikes (especially with the help you get going up those hills!) while also abiding by all safety laws. MBPD will be enforcing those regulations, so please read their press release
so you can know what you need to know. Cycle safely!
From Dr. Matthews' Monday Message - January 25, 2021:
There have been a number of encouraging recent developments for fans of defeating COVID:
- Like you, I now know several people, some medical personnel, and some adults aged 65 or older, who have received their first (and in some cases second) dose of the vaccine. Several employees from MBUSD who meet the criteria above have also received their first doses.
- MBUSD is working with Beach Cities Health District and with the City of Manhattan Beach. Both of these partners may be able to help us provide vaccines to all of our employees. We are polling staff, holding vaccine Q&A sessions, and continuing to develop plans to make sure that we are ready to move quickly when vaccines become available.
- At this point, only 6% of our employees have said they do not plan to get the vaccine. That is great news.
- Today Governor Newsom announced that he is lifting the most recent stay at home order. In listening to a LACDPH briefing this afternoon, Governor Newsom’s announcement will start having some impact on restaurants and businesses in our community as early as Friday. Although the direct implications for our schools is still unclear, I should be hearing more from LACDPH in the next few days.
- Finally, LACDPH announced last week that they have no intention of extending the recommendation to temporarily close TK-2 classrooms beyond the end of January. Therefore, we plan to return to our hybrid learning model next week, expanding to two days per week of on-campus instruction for students on February 1, and then expanding again on February 8, with our TK-2 students attending school on campus four days a week. Please see that schedule here.
I am encouraged by all of these developments. While there are no promises of going back to normal any time soon, I do hope we continue bringing LA County COVID numbers down from the massive spike we have experienced since November. Such a decline would allow us to bring back more students to in-person classes – eventually including more students at our secondary level. Thank you for your efforts in following all County and state guidelines, but please stay vigilant so that we can continue to move in the right direction.
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
- 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
- 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.
My 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.
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:
- A new and updated health and safety protocols guidebook that is essential for the safe operations of our hybrid programs.
- A 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)
n 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
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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:
- An AM schedule with one half-day per week of in-person learning for students
- An AM schedule with two half-days per week of in-person learning for students
- 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.
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.
From Dr. Matthews' October 26 Monday Morning Message:
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.
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:
- 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.