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Manhattan Beach School Board Lays Out Plans For Secondary Students' Return

Mar 18, 2021 10:25AM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The Manhattan Beach Unified School District on Wednesday laid out tentative plans for the return of middle and high school students, with the first cohort of new in-person students slated to start as early as March 29.

"All the trends are pointing in the right direction and we’re excited about that," said MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews. "We are looking forward to a big opening."

With the recent announcement by the L.A. County Department of Public Health that it would not require stable grouping of students at the secondary level, the district now has more freedom to allow students to move between classes and periods.

The current plan has middle and high school classes beginning with a very slow rollout starting on Monday, March 29.

Students would be divided into two cohorts. Students in "Team 1" for grades 6, 7, 8, and 9 would attend in-person learning for first period (while distance learning continues) on that Monday. On Tuesday, March 30, students in "Team 2" in grades 6-9 would attend  first period (while distance learning continues).

On Wednesday, March 31, all students in Team 1 for grades 6-12 would attend second period in person. On Thursday, April 1, all students in Team 2 for grades 6-12 would attend second period in person (again, while distance learning continues). 

Beginning on Monday, April 12 (after spring break), the official hybrid schedule will begin: 

Monday: All in-person students grade 6-12 (Team 1) attend periods 1 ,3, and 5 in person;
Tuesday: All in-person students grade 6-12 (Team 1) attend periods 2 , 4, and 6 in person;
Thursday: All in-person students grade 6-12 (Team 2) attend periods 1, 3, and 5 in person;
Friday: All in-person students grade 6-12 (Team 2) attend periods 2, 4, and 6 in person.

All in-person students will attend class in the mornings; with classes ending before lunch. Class sessions will be 50 minutes for middle school students; 60 minutes for high school students.

Teachers will have two options for using the afternoon time: 1) If they stream/simulcast their classes in the morning, they may use the afternoons to offer student assistance; or 2) If they do not stream/simulcast their classes, they will teach their classes again in the afternoon for distance learning students. Students with IEPS will also be offered in-person support in the afternoons.

The streaming/simulcasting opportunity has just become available for MBUSD, said Matthews. The board gave its approval for the district to move forward as quickly as possible for purchasing necessary equipment. Matthews estimated that the cost of the equipment for classrooms would be in the low to mid six figures.

Moving Ahead with Reopening Plans

The district's next steps, according to Matthews, are as follows:
  • Finalize an MOU with MBUTA, Manhattan Beach's teachers' union;
  • Request that parents select in-person or distance learning (with responses to be final by Monday, March 22)
  • Provide streaming/simulcast professional development;
  • Finalize campus preparations;
  • Hire additional certificated substitutes and ground supervisors.

MBUSD Board President Jen Fenton, acknowledging public comments from parents calling for a faster return, asked Matthews for assurance that the district was doing as much as it could, as fast as it could.

"I hope you've heard us say that we want to bring back secondary [students] with robust in-person instruction - and that means fully maximizing that which is allowed by the guidelines," said Fenton.

Matthews replied, "For every step we take, I always know that we have more to do. We understand the desire to do more, and we fully understand [the need to keep moving forward]."

Matthews finished the presentation with a request for patience as all of the new changes and schedules are implemented.

"I will ask everyone to be patient," he said. "Stick with it; it’s going to get better. This is one more incredible challenge for our teachers that they’ve been asked to [carry out] in now more than a year. It’s hard work, and please be patient with that."

Board member Sally Peel added that she had reminded her children and their friends that things wouldn't look like school the way they left it. "Be prepared for it to be weird," she said. "It’s not going to be normal like a year and a half ago."

Responded Matthews: "We will turn that 'weird' into something great."

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