Distance Learning, Then In-Person For Manhattan Beach Schools

Christel Deskins

MANHATTAN BEACH, CA — July 31, 2020 To the MBUSD Community, To begin, thank you to our Steering Committee and our two subcommittees, comprised of 100+ employees, parents, and students, who have provided us with so much information, perspective, and creativity. The reopening of MBUSD schools will be far better […]

MANHATTAN BEACH, CA —

July 31, 2020

To the MBUSD Community,

To begin, thank you to our Steering Committee and our two subcommittees, comprised of 100+ employees, parents, and students, who have provided us with so much information, perspective, and creativity. The reopening of MBUSD schools will be far better because of their collective efforts. We are implementing the work we agreed to, and will reconvene this group to discuss new developments and challenges related to our plans.

After a long meeting on Wednesday night, the Board voted to start the 2020-21 school year in distance learning, and then to return to in-person school in phases. There is no set timeline as to when the phases will occur, but the primary determinant will be the level and trajectory of Covid-19 cases in LA County and in our surrounding area. I agree with our Governor and our health department that at this moment, the level of cases is too high, and the trajectory of new cases is headed in the wrong direction. Now is not the time to reopen schools.

That being said, we are diligently preparing for the time when we can reopen all of our campuses, hopefully sooner than later, when both of those numbers are much better. I know that our students and our employees miss being in school. We know that it is better for our students to be in school, but to get them back, we must behave safely and responsibly, while ensuring that our children do the same. This means wearing masks, washing our hands, staying at least 6’ away from non-household members, and limiting interactions with people outside of our households whenever possible. Soon, we will start the move into Phase 2 and make our way back to wonderfully normal school.

At Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, the following issues were discussed regarding the return to school for the 2020-21 school year:

  • The Board approved 5 phases of reopening school, beginning with distance learning;

  • The Board approved SchoolsPLP, conditional upon staff’s final review of the contract, which is an online curriculum for grades 6-12. Elementary models are still being considered;

  • The Board confirmed that we will be using the same attendance expectations and grading standards we were using in 2019;

  • We have listed some professional development topics for our certificated and classified staff to support high quality distance learning. More information about participant outcomes, dates, and times will be communicated shortly;

  • We reviewed examples of a variety of possible schedules for this upcoming year, with finalized plans coming soon;

  • We provided a long list of operational tasks we are working on to be ready for students and staff when they return to campus;

  • The Board made it clear that we intend to open our Preschool this fall.

Here are more details on all of the topics mentioned above.

The Board approved 5 phases of return to school:

Phase 1 – Distance Learning

Phase 2 – Elementary Hybrid

  • Part 1: In TK and K, half the students attend in the morning, then after a 90 minute break for cleaning and disinfecting, the other half will attend in the afternoon

  • Part 2: In grades 1-5, implement a high needs hybrid, providing in-school support for high need students (SDC, EL, DHH, and students not meeting standards) Note: Parts 1 and 2 could be switched in order, or could be done simultaneously

  • Part 3: In grades 1-5, an A/B schedule where students are in school two days a week and receive distance learning three days a week

  • Parents would be given a choice of whether to continue online learning or to enter the hybrid program

Phase 3 – High Need Hybrid (Grades 6-12)

  • Provide four days a week of in-school support for high need students (MWell, SDC, EL, DHH, and students not meeting standards) in grades 6-12

  • Special Education assessment center

  • Parents would be given a choice of whether to continue online learning or to enter the hybrid program

Phase 4 – Secondary Hybrid

  • Provide an A/B schedule with two days a week of in-school learning and three days a week of distance learning

  • Parents would be given a choice of whether to continue online learning or to enter the hybrid program

Phase 5 – Full every day in-school Instruction

Improved and Consistent Tools for Online Learning
For consistent communication, all grades will be utilizing Google Classroom next year. We will also be using additional resources for our K-2 students, including SeeSaw and Class Dojo. Additionally, for 6th-12th grade, the Board approved a robust online curriculum called SchoolsPLP, conditional upon staff’s final review of the contract, while the elementary teachers and parents on the Steering Committee continue to examine a similar platform for elementary classrooms. All of these tools will provide teachers with improved options to deliver online instruction and will be helpful for parents as they support their children.

Attendance and Grading
Last March when we moved to online learning, we were flexible with students and with teachers as we all learned to operate in this new digital environment. That was critical with the quick move to distance learning, but we are moving forward with high expectations for school this year. Just as we operate in regular school, having students be present is critical to their success, so we expect students to attend every class, on time, every day. Additionally, our teachers will teach to the standards and hold students to the same academic expectations we have always had, while helping all students to achieve by supporting them along the way with new tools that assess progress and assign grades as they were assigned back in 2019.

Special Education
We have had a group of parents and special education staff working together on our Special Education subcommittee developing strategies and plans to support students receiving Special Education services. While the subcommittee focused on best practices for distance learning, those services can be delivered in one of our high needs hybrids, and can be delivered in every day instruction. The subcommittee is finalizing a parent survey and will hold a Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) meeting on August 11 at 3:30 p.m. on Zoom. Please look for additional details in the upcoming week.

Professional Development for Teachers, Employees (and Parents!)
Our teachers learned so much last year about teaching online, and we know we need to continue to get better in this new environment. We are plan to support teachers and employees with professional development in the following areas:

This list will grow as we identify topics that will help our teachers support our students throughout the year. Additionally, training modules for parents to help support their students with SchoolsPLP and Google Classroom will also be provided. We have learned so much, and we have more learning to do!

Bell Schedules
We discussed several different possible bell schedules at the Board meeting on Wednesday night, and we are in discussions with our teachers’ union to develop plans that best meet student needs. We hope to provide information about those schedules soon, as our parents and our employees are eager to know what it will look like next year.

Preparing for the Return of Students and Staff to our Campuses
With our 5-phase plan, we are expecting and planning for students and staff to return to our campuses this year. We all hope it is sooner rather than later, and we are working for that day whenever it comes. The county and state have given us a checklist of over 100 preparations we must make before students and staff may return to campus. If you go to the last part of our Board presentation, you can see many of the tasks (but not all) that we are meticulously working on now. It will give you an idea of the magnitude of the challenges ahead for all of us. And as I have said, we will be ready when it is time to start moving beyond Phase 1.

Preschool and Child Care
The Board affirmed its intent to open our Preschool, subject to several different issues that we are working to finalize. To re-open the Preschool, we will put into place many of the operational protocols we have been developing, and we will learn lessons we can use as we move beyond Phase 1 in our TK-12 schools.

We are also developing plans to open a child care program (EDP), prioritizing parents who are essential workers and district employees who need child care to perform their jobs. We will have an initial review of possibilities at our August 12 board meeting and a report out to the community after that.

Moving Forward
Our Steering Committee and our various subcommittees have been outstanding in their contributions towards our re-opening efforts, and I have appreciated hearing from every person who is writing us and advising us on the steps that best work for them and for our students. Response has been passionate and overwhelming, and I am grateful to each parent, employee, and student who has advocated for either a return to school or for the continuation of distance learning. All these opinions matter and we are considering each and every one of them in what we do. I firmly believe that at this time, and with where the virus is in our community right now, the 5-phase plan is right for our District and our community.

Links:

Thank you for your efforts, stay safe, and I will update you soon on next steps.

Mike Matthews, Ed.D.
Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District
325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310)318-7345, x5900

This article originally appeared on the Manhattan Beach Patch

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