March 27, 2020

 
Dear MBUSD Community,
As we end our second week of distance learning, I hope this newsletter finds you all safe and healthy. MBUSD learned yesterday of our first employee who has tested positive for the Coronavirus. The employee showed no symptoms until after the last day of regular school on March 13 and has fully recovered after experiencing only mild symptoms. All information has been reported to the County. This is just one more example of how the number of cases continues to expand. As of yesterday, the City of Manhattan Beach website stated the following numbers of cases:

  • Manhattan Beach/Hermosa Beach: 21
  • California: 3,006
  • United States: 68,440

The number of cases is accelerating at an exponential rate. Sadly, I now know several people across the nation who have contracted the virus and even one person who has lost a relative from it. It remains essential for all of us to maintain social distancing practices, as we cannot even think about coming back to school until the number of cases begins to decrease.

Since it now appears that we are in this distance learning mode for weeks to come, we have developed Distance Learning objectives that can guide our MBUSD community. I hope that our teachers and parents examine these, as these objectives can shine a light on the complexity of distance learning, and provide guidelines for teachers, students, and parents. Thank you for taking the time to review.

MBUSD Distance Learning Objectives

Students will continue to learn. This is the message from the Governor of California, and it remains our primary objective in MBUSD. Our teachers have made spectacular efforts to be a source of strength, normalcy, care, and connection in our students' lives. Teaching and learning will continue in MBUSD through distance learning. 

Teachers will be streamlining the curriculum and focusing on what is most critical for students to learn. Our commitment is to utilize distance learning to prepare students for next year while understanding the evolving challenges that all of us face in the circumstances in which we find ourselves today. We will seek ways to focus our content on our essential standards, so we can better keep all of our learners engaged, and in order to have more opportunities to support students who are not meeting the standards. When we begin the 2020-21 school year, teachers will need to keep this unique year in mind and will teach or review critical concepts as needed before moving to new concepts.

Teachers will strive to help students regularly connect with their classmates and their teacher. The amount of isolation we are all experiencing during this epidemic presents a major challenge to our social and emotional well-being. Our students need opportunities to remain connected with their classmates and their teachers. Teachers will be using a variety of methods to achieve this.

Students will receive feedback on their assignments. We are continuing to communicate with other local districts, the county, and the state regarding report cards, final grades, and, for high school, grades on transcripts. This is an evolving discussion, and one that will place at its center the best way to reflect student learning in circumstances that are far from normal. Unless students are failing multiple courses or are notified that they are not meeting standards or are at risk of failure/retention, they will be progressing to the next level in 2020-21.

Teachers will receive additional time each week to collaborate with colleagues, discuss curriculum, and to share and learn best distance learning practices . Our teachers have done an amazing job in moving to online instruction. But there is still so much to learn, so we will build in one half day of time during one school day each week for additional learning, as this remains an extraordinarily new and evolving world of teaching. MBUSD supports each school in developing its own schedule to provide this time. Each school site will be in touch with its families once that is done.

Everyone needs to be patient and flexible with themselves and each other. Our teachers are working to adjust to a whole new method of instructional delivery and are learning as they plan, often while dealing with the same challenges that all of us face as we adjust to working from home and caring for ourselves and our families in this new reality. We will all work together to help provide students with the ability to plan, manage, and structure their day to the best of our ability. We understand that lessons and assignments may take a little longer or turn out differently than we expect. We know that flexibility is important - for students as well as teachers - and we will seek to provide that flexibility when it is needed.

We will strive to provide assignments and directions to students and families in a timely and consistent manner. Our community has many working parents, including teachers, who appreciate having the lesson plans ahead of time so they can prepare their students for the day/week, which is particularly helpful to students who may need more support from their parents to plan their day. As everyone begins to settle into this new structure, teachers will be more and more able to establish a routine for posting assignments and schedules for upcoming activities so that students (and their parents, when needed) can plan ahead. 

These Distance Learning Objectives will evolve . As we receive feedback from teachers, employees, students, and families, we will learn more about effective and meaningful practices for teaching and learning through distance learning, as well as ways to maintain strong connections within our classroom and school communities. This will be a living document that evolves as we learn.

We will get through this together. With kindness, compassion, creativity, support from the MBUSD community, and a commitment to teach and learn in a sea of change, our teachers and our students will prevail through this epidemic, and our community will emerge stronger and more together than ever.
Thank you, and stay safe.
Mike Matthews, Ed.D.
Superintendent
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]