March 18, 2020

To the MBUSD Community,
I hope this newsletter finds you and your family healthy and managing with our "new normal." We are all seeking information in a world where situations are changing every hour, and what is true today could very well be completely different tomorrow. Yesterday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced that there were four confirmed cases in Manhattan Beach. We have not been notified by the Department of Public Health of any cases that may have impacted our schools. Every expert out there says the number of cases will increase. I think we all need to expect that. However, we should also know that the steps that our schools, the nation, and the world are taking to all to maximize social distancing are all designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, and that by staying home now we are hopefully helping to avoid overwhelming our healthcare system. We now have to focus on how to help our students to continue to learn and protect ourselves and our families as we practice all of the hygiene and social distancing strategies that we are now all familiar with.
Status of Schools and the District
As of today, our school offices are closed to the public. Our District Office will be staffed every day but will also be closed to the public. Our fields remain open for play, but students should not be in the hallways or on play equipment. We appreciate parents helping us to keep students out of those areas. MBUSD Security and MPBD will be checking on campuses regularly. Teachers and administrators can be reached via e-mail and will respond. As I wrote to you earlier, MBUSD schools are closed through April 13. But as most of you probably saw on the front pages of the papers this morning, last night Governor Newsom shared his belief that it is unlikely that our schools will reopen at all in this school year. That idea is unprecedented and new for all of us. It is the responsibility of all of us to “meet the moment” (quoting Governor Newsom) to make the best of the situation we are in, to do what we can to stay healthy and protect others, and to find ways to best educate our students. 
Making the Transition to Distance Learning
Our teachers began thinking about the transition to distance learning a few weeks before our schools were closed. But it was not until last Friday that our teachers discovered that this new way of teaching and learning would begin Monday. I have to say, our teachers have exceeded my expectations and have made the leap into this new form of teaching. I have received many emails from parents praising the efforts of their children's teachers. I will soon be sharing distance learning stories from our teachers and how our students are participating.
Patience As We Learn
Whenever you have a massive change, you have some practitioners who are leading the way with innovative ways of adjusting to that change, some who learn gradually, and some who take more time. That’s true in every organization. I do not expect that all of our teachers will be in the same place at the same time, but I firmly believe we are all committed to learning. We are learning every day about what is working well and what is not as effective in the new distance learning educational realm. I ask our parents to let our teachers know when things are working well, and to be patient when they are not working as well. We are in Day Three of distance learning. Day Three . Our teachers are learning from each other, sharing good ideas, and constantly adapting. I applaud all of their efforts and look forward to continuing to see all of us grow through this time. Let’s give this time to grow and improve. All of the evidence points to this being a marathon and not a sprint. We will grow and learn together.
Parents' Roles During This Time
There are some pretty humorous posts from parents as they experience online schooling for the first time. I enjoyed the one that said, "Been homeschooling a 6-year old and 8-year old for one hour and 11 minutes. Teachers deserve to make a billion dollars a year." And laughed out loud at, "Home School Day 1: Wondering how I can get this kid transferred out of my class." So yes, it's a new world for parents. I have it relatively easy, as my younger son is a junior in high school and is fairly self-directed. But it is no easy time for parents. Some parents have asked me if we can have live online instruction from 8 am to 3 pm every day. This would go against everything we know about the effectiveness of and best practices related to distance learning. We cannot replicate a classroom experience in a virtual environment. There should be some screen time associated with this, but our students and children also need time for writing and reflection, practicing skills, time outdoors, exercise, or other experiences. 
From the information I have so far, it looks like most of our students are actively engaged with their lessons. If this really is going to last for the rest of the year, we all need to make sure all of our students are engaged, because it is becoming clear this is the main way that we are going to teach, support, and assess our kids as we prepare them for next year. By now, you and/or your child(ren) should have heard from each of your teachers. Please talk in detail with your child(ren) about how their teachers are structuring daily instruction and what their teachers’ expectations are on a daily, weekly, and ongoing basis. Make sure that it makes sense to you. Make sure your child(ren) know how to meet those expectations, and that they are doing so.
Contacting Us
As I mentioned earlier, MBUSD teachers and administrators are available via email. We will do our best to respond to all inquiries in a timely manner. We continue to update our COVID-19 page (of note: there were three important press releases from the City of Manhattan Beach today), and we continue to update our Parent Resource Page . I have received many suggestions from our community that have been added to this page.
My thanks go to each person for the part they are playing. We will do this together.
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]  []  []