John Bowes
Superintendent's Newsletter
September 10, 2021

US flags
Dear Manhattan Beach Unified School District Families,

I hope everyone had a fun, safe and relaxing long Labor Day weekend. Today’s updates for the MBUSD community focus on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, mask wearing, student COVID testing and student vaccinations.

20th Anniversary of 9/11
I am sure that everyone who is old enough can remember exactly where we were and how we felt on September 11, 2001. It was a terrible time as we learned that nearly 3,000 people died when the four hijacked commercial planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Through the tragedy, though, our communities and our country came together to remember and support the victims, their families, and the many heroic first responders and ordinary citizens who were on the front lines that day.  

It is often in times of crisis that we remember that we are stronger when we come together, and this week, 20 years after the tragic events of 9/11, we remind ourselves of this lesson. 

Last night, I was joined by our elementary principals at the dedication ceremony of the newly installed Peace Pole at the Manhattan Beach Civic Center Plaza. The Peace Pole is a symbol that signifies a community’s hopes for peace on earth. It is an internationally-recognized symbol of hope and unity, and its installation was organized by Stand4Peace with the help of Mira Costa High School Principal Karina Gerger. In her prior role as principal at Pennekamp Elementary School, students partnered in a PEACE Pals program with students from Emerson Elementary School in Compton Unified School District, and also erected a Peace Pole at Pennekamp. The Peace Pole displays the phrases, “may peace be in your homes,” “may peace be in your schools,” “may peace be in your communities,” and “may peace prevail on earth.” The Manhattan Beach Peace Pole is one of 250,000 poles that have been installed around the world. It was a powerful experience to see our principals, our City, and our community come together to celebrate the Peace Pole’s dedication and pledge to support World Peace Day on September 21, 2021.

Our schools’ health and safety efforts are focused on ensuring our ability to continue to support and provide daily in-person instruction for our students. We are following guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and the California Department of Public Health requiring indoor masking at all times on school campuses which are important parts of this work. In addition, out of an abundance of caution due to increasing numbers of students and staff testing positive for COVID-19 in MBUSD, and to be best prepared for any possible post-Labor Day surge, the District is temporarily requiring all students and staff to wear masks outdoors at all times when on any District campus or District facility, except to remove them momentarily when eating or drinking, unless they are able to maintain six (6) feet physical distance from all others.

We will continue to monitor the fluid nature of the Delta variant in our community and will reassess this short-term protocol on a regular basis. Please watch for further advisement on this matter. 

COVID Testing
We have received questions about whether we will provide regular COVID testing on our school campuses. We are exploring ways in which we might be able to do this with our health partners and the Board. Please watch for follow up communications from the District on this topic.
As shared in last Friday’s communication, some testing for students is already underway. On September 1, 2021, LACDPH’s Protocol for Organized Youth Sports (including school athletics programs) went into effect. This protocol requires weekly testing for all unvaccinated coaches and athletes participating in indoor moderate or high risk sports, as well as for all unvaccinated coaches and athletes over the age of 12 participating in outdoor moderate or high risk sports. 
With the help of Beach Cities Health District, we are offering weekly on-site testing at Mira Costa High School to meet this requirement. We will be gathering information about the vaccination status of our athletes, as well as all of our students over 12 years of age, in the coming weeks so that we can both meet these testing requirements and more effectively manage our contact tracing efforts. 

Beginning on September 9, 2021, Beach Cities Health District began offering referral-based testing for MBUSD staff and students with symptoms or who have been close contacts of people who have tested positive for COVID-19. 

As mentioned above, we are continuing to explore options for expanding our testing programs, and all of them will be important in helping to limit the spread of the virus. We encourage families to consider establishing a regular cadence for testing as individuals as well. However, the most important tool in fighting the pandemic remains vaccination, and we continue to ask that all eligible individuals in our community get vaccinated when they are able to do so.

Yesterday, President Biden announced nationwide COVID vaccination and testing rules for businesses with over 100 employees. This follows the California Department of Public Health Order in August requiring all school employees in California to be vaccinated or participate in weekly COVID testing. We began this process by having all employees get tested prior to the start of school and are in the process of implementing the State Health Officer Order with the expectation that we will have it fully implemented by October, and sooner if possible. 

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education voted to require all LAUSD students 12 years and older to become vaccinated as a condition of participating in in-person instruction.  LAUSD students who do not become vaccinated will receive instruction through Independent Study.  The MBUSD Board has not previously discussed mandatory vaccinations; as of August 29, 2021, 57.8% of LAUSD students have received at least one dose of COVID vaccine, compared to 89.1% of MBUSD students.

Please tune in to our next MBUSD Regular Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, September 22 at 5:00 p.m. to learn more about masking, testing, and vaccination updates in MBUSD. In the interim, you can stay up to date on COVID-related matters by reviewing this LACOE Update for Parents of School-Aged Children: Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in TK-12 Schools and by visiting our Reopening our Schools: 2021-22 webpage.

Let’s all continue to support our community, schools and one another.   

John Bowes, Ed.D.
MBUSD Superintendent
Manhattan Beach Unified School District

325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266