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Manhattan Beach 7th, 8th, and 9th Grade 'Teams' Return to School

Mar 29, 2021 04:37PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
The first "teams" of Manhattan Beach 7th, 8th, and 9th grade students arrived at Manhattan Beach Middle School and Mira Costa High School on Monday morning to balloons, welcome signs, and even silly games.

The remaining middle school and high school teams will return on alternating days throughout this week.

"It felt like the first day of school," said Manhattan Beach Unified School District board member Cathey Graves. Graves was on hand at the high school along with Mira Costa Principal Ben Dale to help check in students. 

"Parents were taking photos, students were telling parents to 'Stop, you’re embarrassing me,' and teachers were happily and warmly welcoming students into their classrooms," said Graves.

She added that the highlight of the morning was when every teacher toured their students -- many of whom had never been at Costa before -- around campus.

New School, New Schedule

This week is a transitional week for Mira Costa secondary students. Middle and high school students have been divided into two teams and will go back to school in-person on alternating days, with most students in grades 10, 11, and 12 just being on campus for one period on either Wednesday or Thursday (Yes, this week's schedule is complicated.)

The middle and high schools will begin a regular hybrid schedule on April 12, the Monday after spring break.

At the high school this morning, the freshmen appeared to be excited, albeit a little nervous.

Graves said that Dale met each freshman at the gate, joking with them and trying to make them feel at home. (Sample Principal Dale joke, after doing a random temperature check: “98.7…That’s the GPA I was looking for!”)

Inside the gates, the ASB (Associated Student Body) student government leaders were stationed around campus, ready to give directions and answer questions.

Over at Manhattan Beach Middle School, the 7th and 8th graders are not new to the campus. Nevertheless, given that it's been more than a year since the students have been on campus, there was nervousness mixed with excitement.

MBMS Math teacher Debbie Dreiling broke the ice by leading her students in a socially distanced game of "pass the toilet paper" with a roll of toilet paper and a yardstick (while doing math, of course). The last student got to "shoot" the toilet paper into the trash can.

More Than a Year in the Works

The effort to get students back to school has been a long and complicated process that began last March, when schools shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Manhattan Beach TK-2 students returned to a hybrid program on December 8; grades 3-5 returned in hybrid on March 1; and 6th grade Humanities classes returned on March 8.

Earlier this month, when Los Angeles County public health officials determined that secondary students would not need to remain in stable cohorts (thus allowing them to change classes in a typical middle school/high school schedule), the plans for secondary school students were finalized.

"It really was a group effort and reflected a huge effort on the part of the administration, teachers, and staff, who have worked so hard for weeks, to work through every detail," said Graves.

"It is a huge adjustment to move back to in-person school," she added. "I was so proud of all of our students who were able and who elected to brave the unknown and jump back into on-campus life. I look forward to meeting the rest of our 9th graders as well as our 10th through 12th graders as they come back to school later this week."

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