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MBUSD Seeks Input, Mulls Options for Re-Opening Schools

Jun 05, 2020 11:45AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
What will Manhattan Beach schools look like in the fall? As the discussion continues, the Manhattan Beach Unified School District is seeking input from stakeholders and mulling options for the future.

"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?" said MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews in an email to parents.

Three options, as previously floated, include 1) re-opening with safety protocols; 2) offering a hybrid of in-person and distance learning; and/or 3) remaining physically closed and continuing to offer distance learning.

No matter what happens, this fall's programming will look vastly different from what the district put together on an emergency basis this spring, said Matthews.

At Wednesday's school board meeting, Matthews emphasized that the re-opening protocols depend on the current public health recommendations that take into account the safety of both students and employees. He added that MBUSD would not defy public health recommendations and "just open" as some parents have suggested.

"We all know we are going to get there [to schools returning to normal]. But we are not going to be a maverick. We are not going to risk the liability of the entire district by flagrantly disregarding the recommendations of the Department of Public Health," he said.

The next steps in the process are two town meetings that will take place on June 8 and 9.

The elementary town hall meeting regarding grades TK-5 will be on Monday, June 8, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m.. 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 p.m. Click here to submit questions and click here to watch the town hall.

Additionally, the district will be forming a steering committee with an elementary and a secondary subcommittee to make recommendations on how we reopen schools next year. More information about the committees is available here.

Survey Shows Mixed Responses

The district sent out a survey to stakeholders last month, and revealed the results at Wednesday's school board meeting.

Respondents were asked if they would feel "safe" about a return to campus in the fall before a vaccine is developed, but knowing that Department of Public Health and CDC guidelines are in place.

To that question, only 34.6% of teachers and 41.6% of classified employees responded "yes." Meanwhile, 62.6% of parents and 57% of students said they would feel safe.

When the question was expanded to ask if respondents would feel "safe or somewhat safe," about returning to campus, the "yes" responses were 58.2% for teachers, 81.2% for parents, 81.6% for classified employees, and 57% for secondary students.

Even if it did reopen fully with safety protocols, the district would still need to find a way to manage those families and students who would not allow their students to attend school on campus.

Parents were asked if they would allow their students to return to campus if MBUSD opens schools with health department protocols before a vaccine is discovered. To that question, 62.63% said they would "confidently" allow their children to return; 18.58% said they would allow their students to return but would be "uncomfortable;" 10.48% said they would prefer to continue distance learning; and 8.3% said they did not know.

On the bright side, the annual California Healthy Kids Survey taken by MBUSD secondary students showed massive improvements in the amount of sleep kids are getting since schools and activities have shut down.

Last year, only 16% of 11th graders reported getting 8 hours or more of sleep per night. This year, 86% said they were getting that amount.

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