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.