07.18.20. SMMUSD School Board Approves Distance Learning to Start the 2020-21 School Year
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education approved distance learning to begin the 2020-21 school year. This model was selected as the most health-protective model for students and staff to begin the new year, scheduled for August 20, 2020.
The unanimous vote followed a robust discussion, review of data, parent survey results, and public comments, at the regular July 16, 2020, school board meeting. The school board plans to continue the discussion on Tuesday, July 21, 2020, at 5:30 p.m. via Zoom. No additional public comments will be taken during the continuation of the July 16 meeting. The agenda and Zoom login instructions are online.
The district had been leaning towards starting the year with a hybrid approach, (a combination of on campus and distance learning); however, the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in LA County has delayed the return to school buildings until it is safe to do so. The goal is to return to on-campus learning when all protocols established by the LA County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) are met, and when newly announced state requirements are met..
Governor Gavin Newsom announced on July 17, the day after the board’s unanimous decision, that all public and private schools in California counties on the state’s monitoring list for rising coronavirus infections would be required to provide education through distance learning. Los Angeles County, along with other counties on the monitoring list, must be off the list for 14 consecutive days and meet the county health protocols before returning to in-person learning. With this directive, all school districts in Los Angeles County will now begin the school year with distance learning.
“We are committed to providing our students with a rigorous and engaging distance learning program for the fall,” Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati said. “We heard loud and clear that distance learning in the spring had some bright spots, but also presented challenges. We have been working with CTA, teacher leaders, site leadership, and consulting with parent groups, to develop the framework for a more robust distance learning program, knowing that we may have to transition back if conditions worsen. We did not expect it to begin with this model immediately, but we will be prepared to do so.”
The framework will include professional development for our educators before school starts, attendance expectations, grading, deployment of textbooks and devices, connectivity assistance, plans for continued meal service, family resources and supporting student learning at home. Students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), 504 plans or are English learners, homeless, or in foster care, will receive information from their school sites regarding plans and expectations.
Communication with parents and students regarding expectations of teaching and learning will be coordinated with the district and delivered by school principals and site staff. Superintendent Drati stated that he expects principals to be engaged with their families about these matters prior to the start of school and for teachers to engage students and parents regarding expectations of their class or classes during the first two weeks of school.
School administration will engage families on a regular basis regarding how distance learning is advancing. District leadership will also provide opportunities for feedback and encourage parents to stay engaged with the mechanism used to evaluate the work. Details about these evaluative tools will be provided soon.
Additional information in the coming weeks will also include possible child care and/or student supervision offerings, the status of extracurricular activities, distance learning platforms and digital privacy, internet etiquette and guidelines (Netiquette).
The district is concurrently preparing for on-campus learning, as per our guiding agency protocols, including LACDPH and Los Angeles County Office of Education. Creative ideas including use of outdoor spaces and other indoor campus spaces for in-person learning are all being discussed.
“We will be nimble and creative as we prepare to return to our campuses and be ready to do so in a health-protective and safe manner,” Dr. Drati said. “Until that time, we are working through the summer to create a high-quality distance learning program for all students, including those who are the most vulnerable.”
The California Department of Education announced that all districts must develop a Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan requiring that districts explain how they will implement distance learning. SMMUSD will present its report at two public hearings and will adopt it by the required September 30th date.
“Our goal is to return to campus learning as quickly as it is safe to do so,” Dr. Drati said. “We will follow the directives from the state and county to determine this date. Until then we are confident that our teachers will provide rigorous and robust distance learning education to all students.”
Gov. Newsom encouraged everyone to wear masks, physically distance, wash your hands frequently and minimize mixing, during his public address on July 17th. More state info: www.Covid-19.ca.gov
SMMUSD school reopening information: www.smmusd.org/School2020-21
5/27/20. 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 of: 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 schools would have to adhere to 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? There are three options the county and state has each district considering keeping in mind the questions of:
- How do we do so that is protective of the health and safety of students?
- How do we do so that makes teaching and learning successful for all students and can be adaptable and flexible as needed?
- How do we do so realize that some of our parents need to get back to work and can not stay at home with their children?
- How do we do so realize 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 with in 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 are consideration of an alternating schedule throughout the week where a group 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 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.
All three approaches have details to be worked out and all three approaches have different implications and challenges for elementary, middle, and high school grades levels. Dr. Jacqueline Mora, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services, and her team are working with teachers and principals to identify issues with each model and developing solutions and protocols.
You have received an important parent and staff survey so we may learn from your experience this past two-and-a-half months and about aspirations and concerns you may have for the opening of school in the fall. I highly encourage all parents, guardians and staff to complete the survey. Statistics teach us the more people we have completing the survey, the more accurate we will be in understanding our community’s needs. Our desire is to engage our parents and staff to the issues and challenges we need to address before a final recommendation of our plan for fall is presented to the school board for approval.
I realize many people are expecting more specific details to what school will look like when we open, but this is the most I can provide to you at this moment. I know that you may be anxious and that is understandable. The situation is fluid and the needs of each community are different in terms of child care and access to all necessary tools and environment to maximize a student’s learning experience while keeping student and staff health at the forefront. More details will be shared as the information and refinement of our plans evolve.
Thank you for your patience, stay safe, and continue to look after one another as a community.
Dr. Ben Drati, Superintendent
4/22/20. Welcome Back and Expressing Appreciation for our Classified Staff
I hope you were able to take some time during spring break to relax with your family as we move through this difficult time of staying safe at home to protect our health and the health of others.
As we return to distance learning this week, we want to acknowledge a dedicated group of classified employees who continued to work during spring break as essential workers at our sites.
In this letter, I want to recognize this core group of our SMMUSD family who are doing tremendous work keeping our students fed, our campuses safe, and our distance learning supported. Our classified personnel performed a variety of duties during spring break and continue through distance learning including: food service for ALL students who need a meal, providing security on our closed campuses, and supporting our teachers and students in our distance learning journey.
Our classified staff continues to provide support to our district and site teams, and families, in our human resources department, maintenance, operations, custodial, facilities, administrative support, special education support, payroll, purchasing, fiscal, business, translation and family support services.
We often do not see these vital jobs being performed, but the continued operations of our programs during this trying time is made possible with the support of these dedicated employees.
Please take a moment to thank them, either in person (from at least 6 feet away!), by email, or even on social media. During times like these, let us all pause to reflect on all the individuals who are supporting everything we do, every day, even in these challenging times.
Our classified staff have big hearts and are dedicated to their work and supporting all of us. Thank you to all of you for your passion and commitment to our families.
Distance learning continues to be our education delivery system through the remainder of this school year. Our teachers, administrators and district staff have worked hard to create a robust system to meet the needs and goals of all students. Our principals have reached out to families regarding plans for your school and students. Please check with your teacher(s), counselors / advisors and school administrators for more information for your particular school. Please make sure your email address and phone numbers are up to date at your school to ensure receiving important messages. If you have previously opted out of school / district messages, please ask your school to opt you back in. It’s very important to stay connected and also receive any emergency information. Our Blackboard Connect voice, email, text and push notification system is our communications platform for general information and emergency information.
Our Distance Learning / Family Resources Online Hub: www.smmusd.org/familyresources is our portal for information on distance learning, instructional resources, community and mental health resources and special education information. I encourage parents and staff to check out this hub.
Meal Service Program
The district continues to provide breakfast and lunch grab-and-go meals for students on weekdays from 8-10 a.m at Samohi, McKinley, Rogers in Santa Monica and Webster in Malibu.
My letter prior to spring break includes information regarding Enrollment for 2020-21, Permits and Continuing Enrollment Verification, facility improvement projects and Census2020. The letter also mentions discussions taking place now regarding grades and graduation requirements, end-of-year activities and summer school. More on these topics will be forthcoming.
Please contact your teacher or administrator if your student needs use of a device for distance learning or complete this form: https://bit.ly/SMM0420. We understand that families who have devices may be strained to share between students and parents working from home, and we will also accommodate devices under this circumstance.
For up-to-date health guidelines and recommendations, please visit: www.smmusd.org/coronavirus.
Please stay healthy and safe and continue to take care of each other.
Dr. Ben Drati, Superintendent
4/2/20. Student Meal Service Continues, Including During Spring Break
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District announced plans to continue to provide breakfast and lunch to all students under the age of 18, including during spring break. Service is Monday through Friday from 8 – 10 a.m. at four schools: Santa Monica High School, McKinley Elementary, Will Rogers Learning Community in Santa Monica and Webster Elementary in Malibu. Meals will not be served in observance of two holiday dates: April 10th and 13th.
SMMUSD families may go to any of these schools even if not enrolled there. All students under the age of 18 will be served grab-and-go bagged meals. A parent or guardian must be present, except high school students may participate on their own.
If you or your child are sick, do not come to school.
Rogers, McKinley and Webster pick up will be at the front of the school, either right out front, or in the usual drop off/ pick up drive through. Samohi pick up will be at the 7th and Michigan gate.
Spring break is April 6 – 17. Meal service will continue while campuses are closed and education is through the distance learning program.
“We understand that many of our families are struggling right now and these meals are providing an important service,” Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati said. “We are working to support our families during this difficult time.”
3/16/2020 Superintendent’s Message: School Closures – Meals for Students
Dear parents, guardians and staff,
The Board of Education approved an emergency resolution this afternoon, approving the closure of all Santa Monica and Malibu schools, Child Development Services and Adult School for five weeks, with the planned return of April 20, 2020. This closure includes three weeks of regular session and two previously scheduled weeks of spring break. Effective, Tuesday, March 17, 2020, SMMUSD offices and schools are closed. We will be evaluating during this closure to determine whether an extension is recommended, or we may safely return to school on April 20th.
- Meal service: While our school facilities are closed, beginning Tuesday, March 17th, children enrolled in any SMMUSD school or program will be able to pick up free breakfast and lunch from 7 to 9 a.m. at the following schools: Santa Monica High School, McKinley Elementary, Will Rogers Learning Community in Santa Monica and Webster Elementary in Malibu. SMMUSD families may go to any of these schools even if not enrolled there. All students under the age of 18 will be served. A parent or guardian must be present, except high school students may participate on their own. We are providing grab-and-go bagged meals.
If you or your child are sick, do not come to school.
- Rogers, McKinley and Webster pick up will be at the front of the school, either right out front, or in the usual drop off/ pick up drive through. Samohi pick up will be at the 7th and Michigan gate. (Please note the time change from Friday’s email to 7-9 a.m.)
- Continuity of Learning: Our staff and teachers have thoughtfully developed materials and lessons to continue the continuity of learning for your student during this time. Your principal or teachers have reached out to you at this time so that our students may have continuity of learning during the first three weeks of this closure. There will not be planned education during spring break. Your school sites will let you know how to keep in touch during this closure.
- School sites are closed with intrusion alarms activated. If you see something unusual at a school, please report to local law enforcement and report to www.WeTip.com.
- School websites will soon have a designated coronavirus webpage where specific site information will be posted. The district continues its website: www.smmusd.org/coronavirus
- Internet / devices at home? Secondary families (grades 6-12) are being asked to take a short survey regarding access to internet and availability of a device at home while school is closed. We appreciate parents letting us know if either is needed and our team will be in touch with you. We want all students to continue learning during this closure. Direct link: http://bit.ly/2w6xN4z (If you have taken the survey, thank you! No need to take it again.)
Please continue to take all possible precautions to help reduce the risk of spreading germs to others. Center for Disease Control and Department of Public Health recommends everyday personal prevention actions:
- Stay home when you are sick. Stay home for at least 72 hours after you no longer have a fever or symptoms of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medicines.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and then dispose of the tissue and clean your hands immediately. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands).
- Maintain six feet distance between people
- Limit all contact to within household only. This means no playdates or get-togethers!
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipes.
We have additional resources in English and Spanish on our FAQ webpage, updating regularly, including local resources. We will continue to send you updates through BlackboardConnect via email, voice, text, as will your principals. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @smmusd and @MalibuPathway
We understand that this is not an ideal situation, but this action if being done for the best health outcomes for our families, staff and community. Closure is the best response to this pandemic.
We appreciate your support and patience as we all work through this crisis together.
For more information about COVID-19, visit the Department of Public Health’s website here.
For general information about COVID-19, LA County residents can also call 2-1-1.
Dr. Ben Drati, Superintendent
Check this website for city updates: https://www.santamonica.gov/coronavirus