Some SMMUSD In-Person Learning Programs Start This Week; TK-2 Waiver Still in Process as LA County Remains Solidly in ‘Purple Tier’

Malibu Elementary Collection

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) announced Friday, Nov. 13, that it would begin phasing in specific programs at various schools in the district starting the week of Nov. 16. For example, SMMUSD’s English Language Learner Hub was projected to begin at Webster on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Special education preschool, which will run some weekdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., was projected to start on Monday, Nov. 23, after teachers have individually met with parents and students to show them the classroom. This includes special ed at Malibu’s Webster Preschool, where class will be held Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 

Distance learning options will continue to be offered for all families who want it. 

In an emailed statement, SMMUSD spokespeople wrote the district had “worked very hard to make sure we are following the lengthy and in-depth protocols required by the Los Angeles County Office of Public Health.”

Prior to children’s start dates, SMMUSD parents will be required to participate in an orientation session where screening, cleaning, personal protective equipment, and campus protocols and rules will be explained. Orientation times are dependent on the campus. 

SMMUSD said it was in the process of applying for TK-second grade waivers, which are the only in-person learning waivers LA County is currently allowing. Their statement also noted that the LA County Department of Public Health had previously required schools to submit letters of support from “bargaining units” to accompany their waiver applications, which resulted in mostly private schools being able to apply and receive waivers. SMMUSD, the statement said, is “still in the process of negotiating with the bargaining units and hope to get an agreement as we wait for the result of our applications.”

Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati addressed the community in a separate email, writing that the county’s current COVID-19 positivity rate numbers make “the optimism of [SMMUSD] moving from Tier 1 (purple) to Tier 2 (red) by January … now highly questionable,” especially with the approaching holiday and winter seasons. Counties must enter the red tier and stay there for two weeks before reopening schools without waivers. 

Drati said that through a series of meetings, the district had learned “that there is a high degree of anxiety about coming back for in-person, on-campus instruction; divergent views on the hybrid approach and its potential impact on teaching and learning; and many other questions to still address.” 

The district will commence with another round of discussions and surveys about reopening models over the next two weeks.