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

Reopening our Schools : 2020-21

LATEST UPDATE: 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' 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.