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Manhattan Beach, Local Districts Expect In-Person School In the Fall

Mar 26, 2021 03:44PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
In a town hall meeting with State Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, South Bay school superintendents - including Manhattan Beach - indicated that schools expect to return to regular in-person learning in the fall.

"Next year - I think every one of us will say it, but I’ll just say it for ourselves - we need be back in school full time," said Manhattan Beach Unified School District Superintendent Mike Matthews.

Matthews added that some routines such as hand washing, hand sanitizing, and mask wearing will likely remain, but overall, "our intent is to come back."

"To see the look on parents' faces and kids' faces when they have the first day of in person school - it is spectacular," said Matthews. "Parents are crying. They’ll be dropping their kid off and it’s just like this amazing relief that their kid has some sense of normalcy... It’s not just about parents [dumping kids] with teachers. It’s just about what’s good for kids. If one lesson has come out of this, it’s that in-person school is critical."

Matthews continued, "The anger that we’re getting from some of our parents is all about wanting school. Well - what a great thing for us to hear. Even kids are saying they want to go to school. We love all of that."

Muratsuchi noted that throughout his district - which spans from the beach cities to the 110 freeway - "it appears that Manhattan Beach parents have been the most vocal in getting schools reopened and getting kids back into the classroom."

The other superintendents in the conversation (Hermosa Beach, Palos Verdes, Redondo Beach, Torrance, and Los Angeles Unified School District's South District) agreed that schools were all looking toward an eventual full in-person reopening (although not necessarily all at the same pace).

When asked a question about whether teachers would resist coming back in the fall, the superintendents agreed that that did not appear to be an issue.

In the South District of LAUSD, District Superintendent Michael Romero said that although a few teachers had underlying conditions and would be working with their doctors, "the vast majority of teachers do plan to come back."

As for Manhattan Beach, Matthews said that he didn't think that teachers refusing to come back was an issue. When the guidelines change, the district makes sure all of the rules are being followed, and works closely with its employee organizations, he said. "I don’t see [teachers refusing to come back] as even a remote possibility," he added.

Lessons Learned from Online Learning

Looking forward, the superintendents involved in the conversation agreed that remote learning would continue to be a useful tool in the schools.

Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District Superintendent Alex Cherniss said that the past year's experience in distance learning and new technologies had brought valuable lessons. Distance learning has helped schools recognize that some students truly do learn differently, he said; and parent engagement at district and PTA meetings was up significantly given that those meetings could be broadcast through Zoom or other online methods.

"Technology to engage families in education is something we’re going to be much better at moving forward," said Cherniss. "I’m excited about the future of education, and what this terrible situation has forced us to evolve into as educators."

Matthews noted that there had been some situations in the past when schools were forced to close, due to weather or air quality, or even threats.

"Now if we ever have a need to close our schools, we have a new ability to teach through anything," said Matthews. "I hope this carries on through that, and gives us all kinds of options for the future. I hope it never goes away. It’s a skill we can keep and develop."

A full video of the town hall can be seen here.

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