Since the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) began following recommended lockdown and distance learning procedures earlier this year, Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati and his team have made it a priority to keep students, parents and teachers as up to date as possible on changing developments.
While teachers, support staff, admins and the students themselves have all showcased their adaptability, there are many factors that keep returning to physical classrooms contingent. The “wait and see” aspect may be maddening for some, and Dr. Drati’s practice of posting messages on the district website has never been more important.
Superintendent’s Message: Planning for Fall 2020
Dear parents, students, and staff,
As we near the end of the 2019/20 school year, I want to express my empathy and understanding to all of you during this unprecedented time in our lives. I feel especially bad for our seniors who did not have the culminating experience of their last days of public education as other students have experienced in the past and will experience in the future. Perhaps going through this will distinguish them from all other graduates in some positive and yet to be determined way. Just consider the life lessons they have had to endure as I stated in a letter sent to all seniors last week.
To our parents and students, I appreciate all of your patience with our distance learning approach as our staff had to switch, adjust and put together plans in short order to continue your education. Although it was not ideal in many ways for everyone involved, it was important that we kept going and did not throw in the towel. We know there were positives and successes, but also some challenges. I will expand on how we will get better at distance learning should there be need to continue in the fall.
Every district and community is currently grappling with the question: What will school look like in the fall? To date, the guidance we have received from the governor and Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) is that students can return to their respective campuses as a part of phase three of the governor’s road to recovery plans. Within phase three, there are criteria to which schools will have to adhere, such as physical distancing and proper cleaning of facilities. You will be fully informed of the criteria as our plans evolve.
LACOE and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health have convened a task force of school superintendents and other stakeholders to develop a framework of possible procedures to open in keeping with the governors four-phase plan. A framework of these possibilities will be provided to us this week for school districts to use as guidance in developing their respective plans for opening. This letter does not describe a definitive plan, but provides an outline of where we may be headed and the process toward our goal of providing an exceptional education this fall.
I will start off by restating that school will open for students to start learning on August 20, 2020. This is the day we were scheduled to open prior to the stay at home orders were executed due to COVID-19.
What will this look like? The county and state have three considerations each district is keeping in mind:
- How do we do this in a way protective of the health and safety of students and staff?
- How do we do this in a way that makes teaching and learning successful for all students while being adaptable and flexible as needed?
- How do we accommodate those parents who need to get back to work and cannot stay at home with their children?
- How do we do so while acknowledging some parents may not want their students to return in person, even if clearance from guiding agencies has been provided.
Options under consideration:
- Distance learning continues. We would need to stress test this idea with the questions posed above.
- Classroom experience: I believe we will have clearance on a version of in-classroom experience where physical distancing is required. This option is the most intriguing one I’m seeing being talked about by many superintendents I am collaborating within our county and state. We would accomplish this through a hybrid approach between distance learning and in-classroom experience so that fewer students will be in a classroom at one time.
Variations being discussed
Under this hybrid approach, we are considering of an alternating schedule throughout the week where a groups of students stay home, and a group are in school on any given school day.
Another variation of a hybrid model being discussed in the county is a version of a half day schedule where a group of students come in the morning and another group attend in the afternoon.
Full return to school
Once we are released from distancing as part of the state and county plan. We understand there may be families who do not want students to return to campus for a variety of personal reasons and we would create a program to address these concerns to support these families and continuity of education.