While Los Angeles Unified and other large school districts in the state are wrestling with how and when to resume in-person instruction, some smaller districts are already beginning to welcome at least some of their youngest students back to campus.
Public school districts in El Segundo, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach are all reopening campuses this week to serve students in transitional kindergarten through 2nd grade. Those students will attend under a hybrid model, with some taking classes in-person and others virtually.
Those districts are also welcoming back some students who need specialized services. They’re also resuming in-person athletic conditioning for student athletes.
Last fall, prior to the most recent regional stay-at-home orders that closed down schools, some districts had reopened partially under waivers granted by the County Health Department. These South Bay districts were among those that had their waivers granted.
In January, they heeded guidance from the L.A. County Department of Public Health to keep schools closed. Now, with coronavirus cases falling and the county easing restrictions, these districts are putting their hybrid learning and COVID-19 safety plans into action.
Starting Tuesday in El Segundo Unified, cohorts of students in transitional kindergarten through 2nd grade will spend two-and-a-half hours on campus in the morning or afternoon, four days a week. Students and school employees are expected to social distance and wear masks.
District Superintendent Melissa Moore says she’s confident in her district’s decision to resume in-person classes. She already has support from the school board, teachers’ union, mayor’s office, parent teacher associations and other community groups.
”Being a small school district—we have just under 3,500 students—we can be more nimble,” Moore said.
Moore is also planning a proposal to bring 3rd grade students back on campus in mid-February. Throughout the process, she plans to keep her eye on local reported COVID-19 cases.
“We have a very small residential population…so our case rates have been very low,” Moore said.
In the last two weeks, El Segundo reported 310 cases per 100,000 people. Other L.A. County cities have reported thousands of cases over the same time frame.
Redondo Beach Unified likewise has reported relatively low cases, and on Monday started TK-2 hybrid classes for the first time since the pandemic began. Superintendent Steven Keller said day one was successful.
“We can confirm that we did not see one child cry as their parent walked away,” Keller said. “What we take away is kids are excited to come back to school.”
Keller’s district is testing out concurrent teaching, meaning one cohort of students learns on campus each day while another group learns virtually. Keller said he plans to gauge parents, teachers and students’ thoughts on the program a little later this year.
In Manhattan Beach Unified, TK-2 students will also be divided into two cohorts. This week, the district will offer two on-campus days and next week it will ramp up to four.
As for L.A. Unified, Superintendent Austin Beutner said in his weekly video address that the coronavirus case rate remains too high to safely resume in-person classes. “There’s a lot that has to happen to get schools reopened,” he said.