July 20, 2020

To the MBUSD Community,
On Wednesday, I sent out my most recent newsletter , discussing our process as we determine how we will reopen on August 26, 2020. Since then, there have been many critical conversations across the state, the nation, and the world regarding what our schools will look like when they open in August. 

On Thursday, LA County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer spoke to all LA County superintendents. While falling short of ordering schools to open in distance learning mode, she stated:
  • As long as there is a high rate of community transmission, reopening any sector, including schools, comes with increased risk and increased spread. If schools reopen as scheduled in August, they would be reopening at a time when we are seeing a peak increase in infections. Schools that reopen in August need to be prepared for outbreaks, even if you allow all of the directives.
  • With exception of Sweden, which never really shut down, schools that reopened did so when transmission rates were low. No one opened schools at height of the pandemic, and all countries saw an increase in transmission when schools reopened.
  • Researchers are still learning a lot about the virus. None of us should rush to conclusions about children and asymptomatic spread. Standing on hallowed ground of certainty does not make sense. The idea that children do not get sick is inaccurate. I do know that children get sick, and children transmit.
On Friday, Governor Newsom announced criteria on school reopening that all but guarantee we will begin the academic year in remote learning models. In partnership with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), Governor Newsom also provided  revised guidance  and a detailed  framework  for reopening schools this fall. Accordingly, in order for in-person instruction to resume, counties must experience 14 consecutive days off the California Department of Public Health’s COVID-19  Monitoring List . As of today, Los Angeles County is still identified as one of the local areas that does not meet the criteria to reopen schools with an in-person format. 
In speaking with a variety of medical and educational professionals, no one believes that we will be moving from the height of the pandemic to the lower and more stable numbers required for in-person school by MBUSD’s start date on August 26. Many estimate our physical return to campuses between early October to January, but it will all depend on whether we as individuals, and as a society, start to abide by the recommended safety guidelines. Getting back to in-person school will take all of us working together.
Please know that our Steering Committee is continuing to work on in-person hybrid models which we will implement at the appropriate time. During this Wednesday’s board meeting (click here to see the agenda; click here to watch it live) , we will be discussing a phased plan that follows the Governor’s directive, begins with distance learning, and eventually phases in a hybrid in-school learning program. We will be discussing a distance learning program that stresses classroom consistency, ensuring teaching with appropriate levels of rigor, requiring daily live interaction, and supporting age-appropriate student progress through the District’s grade-level content standards. We are also seeking best practices to address our students’ social and emotional needs, which can be a challenge in a distance learning format. Committee members, made up of teachers, students, and parents, are reviewing several on-line learning platforms to support teachers and students in distance learning, which will be used in conjunction with our curriculum. We will continue to share learning opportunities for teachers, and provide MBUSD training on the most important distance learning tools throughout the summer and the school year.
When school begins, we must ensure that there are appropriate procedures in place to monitor student attendance and participation in remote learning, and to provide for follow-up when students are not engaged. We also anticipate a return to standard marks and grades, which will involve ongoing discussions related to accountability and assessment measures. 
Thank you again for your patience and support as we work to fully understand the impact of new state guidelines for schools and school districts.
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]