The Manhattan Beach Unified School District's school board voted
last night to postpone the in-person return of special cohorts until
February 1, at the recommendation of the Los Angeles County Department
of Public Health.
The board diverged from those
recommendations, however, by voting to keep in-person athletic
conditioning open. Special education assessments and child care will
remain open as well.
Board members also expressed concerns about delays turning into
more delays that would potentially push the in-person return to school even
further into the calendar year.
In response to that issue, the board agreed that when the K-2 hybrid in-person cohorts return on February 1, the cohorts
will return at two days per week for the first week (an increase from the current
one day per week schedule). Then for the week starting February 8, the cohorts will
move into four days per week in person, on an AM/PM schedule.
is not a decision that can be made that will feel right to everybody,"
said board member Jennifer Cochran. "But we keep kicking the can down
the road. We have [done the return to school] on such a slow roll. I
don’t think there’s any reason to do that at this point...We know where
our issues are; let’s move quickly."
Concern About Cases Rising
The board deliberated the issue at length with members agreeing that there were no easy answers.
the one hand, the recommendation from the county public health
department had come following the skyrocketing number of COVID-19 cases
and the lack of hospital space to keep up with all of those cases. In
Manhattan Beach alone, there were 103 new COVID cases between January 4
and January 12.
On the other hand, a large number of community members have been vocal in calling for students to return to school after more than nine months of distance education and students and parents struggling with academic and social/emotional challenges.
MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews, in making the recommendation to
delay the in-person return, said that he had used county public health
guidelines as the metric for this as well as all of his recommendations
to the board.
Matthews' presentation to the board showed that
neighboring and comparable districts had largely chosen to follow the
public health department recommendations. Palos Verdes, Redondo, Hermosa,
El Segundo, Torrance, and Las Virgenes districts have all decided to
postpone the in-person return of the TK-2 cohorts until February 1.
member Jason Boxer echoed the call for caution in reopening, noting that with
hospitals filled to capacity there was "zero margin for error."
so painful for me to have to advocate for anything other than to
alleviate the burden that our students and parents are under ... but
I'm fearful that I will look back on this in six months or a year and
realize that I sent someone out to go work when I knew that the health
care system couldn’t take care of them in the way that it ought to," they
said, urging for a delay until February 1.
board member Cathey Graves emphasized that the protocols in place at
Manhattan Beach schools are working, and that there is no evidence that
closing down the in-person cohorts would help in stopping the spread of
the disease - and that it might have the opposite effect.
are we stopping the spread by closing our schools? You can't reduce zero
percent," she said. "If we were spreading, if there were any evidence
of that, we would need to shut down. But that’s not the case."
Regarding athletic conditioning, board members agreed that it was optional and that both coaches and parents were able to decide if it was safe for students.
Additionally, said board member Sally Peel, "I see kids going out and socializing after school. If instead they’re doing socially distanced masked conditioning, that’s probably better than being face-to-face at the beach."
Four Separate Votes Taken
All told, the board took four separate votes.
delay the reopening of TK-2 hybrid cohorts, and to reopen on February 1
for two days per week and the following week at four days per week, the
board voted 4-1, with Graves voting no, and with student members Emma
Clarke and Joe Staszkow abstaining.
To delay the reopening
of the high-needs hybrid until February 1, with the exception of the
Special Day Class and preschool, the board voted 5-2, with Graves and
Clarke voting no.
To continue in-person athletic conditioning, the board voted 6-1, with Boxer voting no.
To continue special education assessments and child care/EDP, the board voted 7-0.
other action, the board agreed to come back on February 3 with "creative" ideas for ways to bring up to 25 percent of students back to campus at a time,
including middle and high school students, in some limited fashion.