Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Jack Simon
Observer Staff Writer 

SMMUSD Will Fully Reopen Elementary Schools April 19, Secondary Schools April 26

District also requiring parents to fill out 'decision form' to find out who is returning or continuing with distance learning only

 

Mary Leipziger

Girls playing soccer at Lincoln Middle School

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has just announced it will officially reopen its campuses for full-time, in-person instruction on April 19 for elementary students and on April 26 for secondary students.

In a letter to parents, posted online over the weekend, SMMUSD Superintendent Ben Drati said the newly-released, distancing guidance from County Department of Public Health – which allows students to sit three feet apart in classrooms instead the old requirement of six – "opens up tremendous opportunities for fully reopening for those students who are ready for return."

Drati noted that "many families are very excited to have their students return to school five days a week following spring break, while some families are still hesitant" and, as result, the district is requiring parents to fill out a "decision form so we know who is returning and who is continuing with distance learning only." (Decision form can be found at http://bit.ly/SMMUSDreturnPlans)

"It's critical that all families submit this form, so we may plan accordingly," the superintendent said.

Drati stated that principals and staff have spent the past few months planning for a hybrid return on April 12 but "this shift to full reopening cannot be achieved without time needed for many complex logistical concerns", including creating new bell schedules, campus protocols, providing new virtual classrooms for those students remaining in distance learning-only; creating outdoor eating areas for students to eat/drink with six-foot distancing due to masks off; activating child care programs; and restructuring transportation schedules.

The superintendent added that "current travel quarantine requirements will prevent some students and staff from returning to in-person on April 12. Our reopening focus is the health, safety and wellbeing of students and staff."

On April 12, elementary school students (K-5) "will engage in a modified distance learning model with both synchronous and asynchronous work" and return full time on April 19, Drati said. Those not returning to school will be assigned a new teacher and new class with other distance learning-only students in the same grade.

(Local elementary schools opened two weeks ago in limited capacity for hybrid learning, with students and cohorts sitting six feet apart and wearing masks. This hybrid model included 10 hours a week of instruction, school officials said.)

Secondary school students (6-12) will take part in a "modified distance learning model" the week of April 12, followed by hybrid learning the week of April 19 before the full-time reopening on April 26, said Drati. As for those secondary students continuing with distance-learning only, they will keep their same teachers and participate with the class via Zoom.

"We are confident that this is the best decision to ensure everything goes smoothly upon return," Drati said. "We are committed to reopening our schools and remaining open."

In the three-page letter, the superintendent also urged all parents to stay vigilant and follow health department guidelines during spring break.

Mary Leipziger

Boys playing soccer at Lincoln Middle School

"This is not the time to let our guard down," he said "We must continue to do our part to keep Covid-19 away from our staff and families. To accomplish that upon return, we will continue with strict health protocols, including wellness screenings, mandatory and proper mask wearing, regular hand washing/sanitizing and six-foot distancing while eating/drinking. It will be critical to keep sick children at home so as not to risk an entire class, or worse, an entire school having to shut down."

In addition, Drati stated the District will announce very shortly a COVID testing protocol for all the school sites as well as other safety measures that "we view as important elements in keeping all individuals safe while building confidence for families uncertain about sending their students back to in-person school."

"We are in this together and together we can fully return to school safely and continue delivering distance learning to those students who are not returning at this time," he said. "We look forward to enjoying the remainder of the school year to the fullest extent possible."

 

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