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MBUSD Prepares 3-Stage Elementary Hybrid Plan

Nov 03, 2020 09:21AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
While Manhattan Beach Unified School District waits for the green light to open up elementary schools on a hybrid basis, it has released a three-stage plan for the hybrid implementation.

Of course there's no date certain for when this might happen. MBUSD has applied to Los Angeles County for a waiver to open TK-2 programs on a hybrid basis. But with the county only approving waivers for 30 elementary schools per week, it remains unclear when MBUSD schools will get that approval. Additionally, MBUSD is waiting (along with all other districts in L.A. County) for the county to move from the Purple Tier to the Red Tier, which would allow TK-5 programs to open on a hybrid basis.

In the meantime, the district has begun circulating its plans for how the hybrid program would work.

MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews told elementary school parents in an email last week that the three stages to MBUSD's opening plan include:

  1. An AM schedule with one half-day per week of in-person learning for students, which would transition to
  2. An AM schedule with two half-days per week of in-person learning for students, which would transition to
  3. An AM/PM schedule with four half-days/week of in-person learning for student.

These plans allow for gradually increasing amounts of time on campus with safety protocols in place, including: 
  • Reducing the number of students and teachers on campus at one time;
  • Using the cohort model, dividing the students in a class in half, to allow for maximum social distancing in the classroom;
  • Avoiding having lunch on campus, as maintaining cohorts is most challenging during the lunch period;
  • Allowing 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;
  • Employing all of the safety elements described in MBUSD's Health And Safety Protocols document;
  • Allowing MBUSD to start slowly, and, as the district gains confidence about safety protocols, widen the openings.

A Three-Stage Opening Plan

Stage 1 would have students at school one day per week and teachers at school four days per week. 

After three weeks, the district would move to Stage 2, which would have students on campus two days per week and teachers on campus four days per week. 

If Stage 2 is successful, the district would move to Stage 3, which would involve an AM/PM schedule where students are on campus either four mornings a week or four afternoons a week.

Also, if Los Angeles County is able to open up all elementary grades for a hybrid program, grades 3-5 would follow the same plan as outlined above for TK-2.

"The idea of returning to school stirs up different emotions in each of us," wrote Matthews in his email to elementary parents. "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."

A Complex Process

The district has asked elementary school parents to select whether they would choose hybrid or distance learning for their students. 

On Wednesday, the district will collect the responses and begin "putting the puzzle pieces together" to create hybrid and distance learning cohorts and match them with teachers. 

The process is not a simple one, Matthews told parents in an email on Monday. 

"This hybrid schedule, especially when combined with keeping a distance learning model for those who need it, is very complex," Matthews wrote. "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."

In part because of the large numbers of questions received by parents, the district has also laid out a series of frequently asked questions (and answers) about the hybrid plans.

For secondary students, MBUSD is sending out a survey today. Matthews will report on preliminary results of the survey at Wednesday night's school board meeting, and will give full results in next Monday's message to parents.

Cohorts Have Succeeded in Limiting Transmission

Matthews also told parents that the cohorts that have been formed thus far have successfully contained a few isolated COVID-19 cases.

MBUSD has opened its child care program, athletic training programs, and a high-needs hybrid.  Since those openings, there have been four 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 district followed up with all of the quarantined individuals, and, to date, there were no cases where the positive case resulted in a transmission to others, reported Matthews.

The district is also in the process of creating a COVID dashboard that keeps track of all of the cases by site. Matthews said he anticipated having that dashboard ready by next week.

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