April 2, 2020

Dear MBUSD Community,
I hope you are all doing well and remaining healthy during these challenging times. State health officials have made it clear that the safest place to be is at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and that we all need to practice safe social distancing whenever we are outside of the home. Yesterday, the Governor of California, the California State Superintendent, and the Superintendent of L.A. County Office of Education all recommended that schools remain physically closed for the rest of the academic year. As you know, we made the determination on March 23 that MBUSD schools are closed officially until May 5, and I have been clear that keeping our schools closed until the end of the year is a distinct possibility. With the recommendations from the state and the county, that possibility is turning into a probability. Accordingly, our Board will discuss the matter at our next meeting on April 15, and I will keep you informed.
Importantly, although campuses are physically closed, school remains in session and distance learning instruction continues . As I write this newsletter at home, I can hear my wife Jill as she speaks online with her 5th grade students. I also heard my son’s Spanish teacher giving a lesson and conversing with her students. It’s comforting to hear education happening while I write.

As we wrap up week three of distance learning, I would once again like to take a moment to acknowledge and thank our teachers, staff, students, and parents who are demonstrating amazing creativity and out-of-the box thinking to deliver and strengthen remote learning. I appreciate the emails I am receiving from parents and teachers about the variety of learning experiences our students are having. I think it’s wonderful that through this challenging time, school remains a very real, though very different, part of our students’ lives. Here in MBUSD, we are working to get better and better at achieving the MBUSD Distance Learning objectives . This does not happen district-wide overnight, but we are making continuous progress every day. Thanks to all who are making this effort. I am grateful and impressed.

As I have conveyed before, we are going to see more and more people we know who are personally impacted by COVID-19. The trajectory of infection remains steep, and the spread continues, but we are all doing our best to slow that curve. We continue to take steps necessary to maximize the safety of our employees, and I know all of you are doing the same for your families.

Most of you are aware that we still have some employees who have been continuously working on district campuses to fulfill essential services that cannot be conducted remotely. Yesterday afternoon, we learned that one of these employees has come into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. The employee, whose most recent day at work was Tuesday, March 24, has been self-quarantining since that date. We appreciate the employee informing us even though the contact occurred outside of work, and we have not been informed of any direct risk to other employees or school community members by the Department of Public Health or any other agency. While all essential employees have been maintaining safe social distancing practices at work, the District is using an abundance of caution and has sent all employees who may have had contact with the affected individual home until at least Wednesday, April 8. We will be asking all of our essential site-based employees to monitor their health, and we will make a decision about return dates as we determine it is safe to do so. We have also closed all school fields and blacktops to the public.

We are headed into Spring Break this week. Some have asked if we are changing Spring Break, and I want to make clear that we are not! I do believe the April 6 - 13 break will provide an opportunity for all of us to rest and recharge. The national stress level is remarkably high right now. Our stress levels are no different. There are concerns about health, finances, education, family, and the future in general. Each of us has to keep that stress in mind, and take steps to address it. I am asking and expecting that employees who are not working during Spring Break take a true break, so they are more ready to jump back in to support our students on April 14. Our PTAs have put together an amazing list of activities that all of us should look at as we seek to take care of ourselves and our families during this time off. I thank our PTA leaders, and I encourage all of you to take a look at that list here . Try one or two of them!

I f there is one thing that I can encourage us all to do, it is to read. For our students, reading has the double advantage of providing escape and improving our children’s reading ability. For the adults in the community, it can be a stress relief as well. Right now, I’m reading a great book that my dad recommended to me, The Book of Joy , by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I have never highlighted more passages in my life, and I find it to be the perfect book at this time. Another book I often turn to when the outside world is uncertain is The Power of Now , by Eckart Tolle. He pulls from the wisdom of many religions, cultures, and philosophies, and I find it helpful. I’m also writing and trying to share stories of this time of distance learning. You can find my blog posts (five so far) here .

I remain proud of how our community has come together and has found creative solutions to an unprecedented challenge. I feel confident that we will continue to rise to the occasion.
Thank you, and stay safe.
Mike Matthews, Ed.D.
Manhattan Beach Unified School District
325 S. Peck Avenue
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310)318-7345, x5900
[310-318-7345, x5902]  [mmathews@mbusd.org]  [www.mbusd.org]