Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District offices (File photo)

California public schools are likely to be closed for the remainder of the academic year, said Tony Thurmond, California State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

In a letter sent out Tuesday morning, Thurmond detailed a need to keep schools across the state shuttered for the safety of students and staff.

“Due to the current safety concerns and needs for ongoing social distancing, it appears that our students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year,” Thurmond said in the letter. “This is in no way to suggest that school is over for the year, but rather we should put all efforts into strengthening our delivery of education through distance learning.”

In March, when social distancing orders were first being implemented across the county, leaders of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District said they were monitoring the situation closely and would adhere to any directives made by state officials.

SMMUSD Sut. Ben Drati said Wednesday that the district “will follow the latest directive to keep campuses closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.”

However, distance learning will continue, Drati said.

“We will have another letter for (parents) this week with additional details regarding our continued plans for distance learning and additional resources for our families during this difficult time,” he said.

Prior to the dismissal of students in mid-March, elementary students were told to pick up packets that they would be expected to complete while they participated in online learning sessions, said Jacqueline Mora, assistant superintendent of educational services. Secondary students were instructed to submit assignments online and communicate with their teachers by email or phone.

“We have entered uncharted territory with distance learning,” district staff said in a previous letter, but SMMUSD has responded by launching a new family resources website that contains updated instructional materials as well as a community and mental-health guide that lists local organizations who may be willing to help those in need.

But some local parents worry if children will have the resources needed to actually learn while they are away from the classroom.

With a daughter in fourth grade at John Muir Elementary School and a full-time job with Los Angeles County, Mariah Quevedo said in an interview last week it’s been difficult to adjust to the school closures.

Quevedo said her daughter has been completing her daily workbook activities in the morning.

“She’ll do her math or reading and I add an art project in there or some extracurricular stuff, so she can have something fun to do during the day,” she said. “But my concern is I just feel like schools should be showing more of an effort to set up online classes, check-ins and online attendance — to keep that class routine going.”

Quevedo added there are many parents who don’t have the luxury to pay for tutors and other programs, so she hopes to see SMMUSD implement a teaching model similar to the Los Angeles Unified School District, which takes attendance and holds mandatory Zoom meetings.

“I’m not one to compare but I have a lot of friends and family in LAUSD, and my daughter catches up with her friends on the weekends and they’re talking about how they see their teacher every morning,” Quevedo said. “They take attendance and assign projects just like it’s regular class time.”

Not all parents have the skills to help with the lessons children are studying, so it’s important students have an opportunity to ask their teachers questions, she added.

“That class routine is important, and I feel like here in Santa Monica and Malibu, kids are using this time as a vacation because they don’t have to report to anybody, so I think a setup like (LAUSD’s) would be very beneficial for Santa Monica,” Quevedo said.

brennon@smdp.com

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