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MBUSD "All But Certain" To Return To School Online

Jul 20, 2020 06:57PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Faced with the latest coronavirus data, as well as guidance from state and local authorities, Manhattan Beach Unified School District officials say that it is all but inevitable the schools will return online in August.

MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews wrote in an email to families on Monday: "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."

Matthews cited guidelines from both state and county officials. At the state level, Governor Newsom has provided revised guidance and a detailed framework for reopening schools this fall.

For in-person instruction to resume, according to the governor, counties must experience 14 consecutive days off the California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19 Monitoring List. As of today, Matthews noted, 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.

Matthews also shared the following points as stated by L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer:
  • 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.
MBUSD's steering committee, made up of parents, teachers, staff members, and administrators, continues to work on guidelines and curriculum for the start of school. Matthews has said that the district will announce its official plans by the end of July.

Wednesday night's school board meeting will address 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," said Matthews. "We are also seeking best practices to address our students’ social and emotional needs, which can be a challenge in a distance learning format."

MBUSD has previously taken steps to prepare for an all-distance learning scenario by giving layoff notices to staff who would not be needed if students were not physically present on campus.

In the meantime, the statewide governing board for high school sports announced on Monday that fall sports would be postponed until at least December, and three seasons of sports would be combined into two.

To stay in touch with the latest on school re-opening, visit MBUSD's Reopening Our Schools page.

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