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Manhattan Beach Parents Group Plans School Reopening Rally

Feb 19, 2021 04:20PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect the new location of the event.

The Manhattan Beach parents' group known as Kids Need Classrooms will host a "Family Rally" next Wednesday, February 24 at 4:00pm behind the Manhattan Beach Library.

The group is calling for Manhattan Beach schools to return to in-person learning as quickly and safely as possible.

"We are asking our school leaders to open our classrooms to the full extent allowable under the updated Los Angeles County guidelines," said Tiffany Wright, one of the parent organizers of the group.

The rally will take place immediately before the Manhattan Beach Unified School District's school board meeting, which takes place at 5:00 on Wednesday.

Rally Will Offer 'Open Mic' For Parents

“Kids Need Classrooms" is a network of Manhattan Beach parents who are committed to getting local children back in the classroom as safely and quickly as possible. The group is working closely with regional and statewide return-to-school advocacy groups L.A. School Uprising and Open Schools California.

Rally organizers say that Wednesday's event will give parents an opportunity to learn more about the current situation and the group's plan of action for advocacy. The group is pressing for a full return to campus for K-6 students now, and for the full return of secondary students as soon as possible.

Speakers include:
  • Dr. Alex Cherniss, Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District (PVPUSD) Superintendent
  • Matthew Brach, PVPUSD School Board President
  • Ross Novie, Founder of (LAUSD)
  • Kevin O’Donnell, Founder of Reopen California Schools (12,000 members)

The rally will also include one-minute "open mic" opportunities for individual parents to speak about their students' experiences since the schools shut down last March.

"We believe that Zoom is not enough, hybrid learning is not enough, half days are not enough, 25% of students returning to school is not enough, and substitute teaching is not enough," said Wright. "Enough is enough. Now is the time to make our voices heard and demand that our children get back into classrooms with their peers."

Slow Movement Toward Reopening

Wednesday's school board meeting will be the board's first meeting since Los Angeles County gave the green light for county schools to open on-site learning for grades T-K (transitional kindergarten) through 6. (Manhattan Beach schools are on winter break so there was no school board meeting this week.)

The Los Angeles County Department of Health made the announcement about opening school for TK-6 on February 16, when the county's adjusted COVID-19 case rate was able to remain under 25 new cases per 100,000 people for five consecutive days, meeting the state requirements for schools to open on-site learning for the youngest grades.

In his last email to parents MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews indicated that if the county was able to meet that 25-cases-per-100,000-people threshold, MBUSD would have 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students in person on March 1 in the same four-days-a-week AM/PM schedule as TK-2 students, with slightly staggered start and end times.

Secondary schools continue to have the option to open at 25% capacity for "high needs" cohorts, with schools given the ability to define "high needs" as they see appropriate. The Kids Need Classrooms group has been pressing for MBUSD to open all grades to the district's fullest ability to reach that 25%.

Some Developments Ahead

Numerous studies have showed that schools around the country and around the world have been able to reopen safely with necessary precautions in place. Nevertheless, movement toward reopening has been slow-going, with concerns about safety for teachers, staff, and students remaining a central sticking point.

On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that the state would set aside 10% of California’s weekly allotment of COVID-19 vaccine doses for educators starting next month, in an effort to move more schools closer to reopening.

Nonetheless, Newsom had said earlier - and the CDC said earlier this month - that vaccines for educators should not be a precondition for schools to reopen for in-person instruction.

Also on Friday, the California Department of Public Health announced that outdoor high-contact sports can be played in counties that are in the purple or red tier with an adjusted case rate equal to or less than 14 per 100,000 if safety protocols are followed. (Those sports were previously only allowed for counties in the lower orange tier.) While Los Angeles County would not yet qualify with its case rate still at 17.6 per 100,000, the new policy represents a significant step forward in reopening youth sports.

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