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

State officials recently released a manual for the safe reopening of schools this coming Fall, but Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District officials said they are still unsure how classrooms will look when school resumes Thursday, Aug. 20.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond spoke about the new road map for school districts who are preparing to return to classes in a news conference last Monday. In the half-hour discussion Thurmond shared how districts like SMMUSD will have to adapt to the times by making a number of changes in and out of the classroom.

“We know that guidance is only as good as its implementation, so think of this as the beginning of the conversation — not the end,” Thurmond said. “We know that for many of us, this is the toughest challenge that we’ll ever face, perhaps in our lifetime. But when it comes to ensuring that California students continue receiving a high- quality education—and doing so safely—we must rise to meet the challenge.”

There are a number of detailed adaptations suggested by Thurmond and the California Department of Education in the recently released guide that would allow schools to welcome students back safely, but SMMUSD Superintendent Ben Drati said this week the district has yet to decide on a specific format.

“Classes will resume on August 20, 2020, our originally planned start date,” Drati said before mentioning the district will honor and respect the health and safety guidelines put forth by the CDE, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

“Our goal is to keep our students and staff safe and healthy, physically and mentally, while maintaining excellent teaching and learning,” Drati added, which is why principals, teachers and staff across Santa Monica and Malibu have already scheduled meetings with PTA Council, the District English Learner Advisory Committee, the Special Education District Advisory Committee, and the Local Control Accountability Plan Parent Advisory Committee to discuss the best plan of action moving forward.

“I realize many people want a definitive answer as to what school will look like,” Drati said, sharing the best answer he could give based on the most presently available information is SMMUSD will most likely provide a combination of distance learning and an on-campus experience.

District staff does intend to have an actionable and more definitive plan in early July, according to Drati, and a full survey report from Hanover Research will be posted online as soon as it’s available in a few weeks.

“We know that regardless (of the plan), many families will face challenges in balancing work, school and childcare,” Drati said. “We appreciate your ongoing patience as we evaluate and plan with the focus on what is best for creating successful outcomes for our students.”

brennon@smdp.com