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

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District has revealed three potential scenarios for the reopening of local schools this coming August, but a final determination has not been made yet, according to district leaders.

The three possible learning models were revealed during this week’s town hall events, which were organized by SMMUSD in an effort to receive input and share information with residents who have children attending elementary and high school campuses in Santa Monica.

Superintendent Ben Drati kicked off both of this week’s town hall conversations informing audience members on Zoom stating, “It is up to us to develop our plans given our local context,” because there are no mandatory guidelines for what school should look like when it begins next semester.

“Are these models going to be a perfect science?” Drati asked rhetorically. “No, there is always going to be a chance that (students) are not going to be as socially distanced as we need them to be… but we are doing our best to make sure that we are following the CDC guidelines and L.A. Public Health Department’s guidelines.”

Fresno will look different from Culver City, which could look different from Santa Monica, Drati added. “We aren’t sure what it will look like because we’re still in the middle of the process. For those that think a decision has already been made — not that anybody’s thinking that but I know how people may wonder if we have our plans are already baked in — that is not the case.”

There is still another meeting scheduled to be held for parents in the Malibu community to provide feedback on June 7, and board members aren’t scheduled to discuss the models until July 16, “at which time there will be an opportunity for public comment or discussion,” Drati said, mentioning no decision will come before then.

“I realize many people want a definitive answer as to what school will look like,” Drati said when the town halls were first announced, 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. “Our goal is to keep our students and staff safe and healthy (physically and mentally) while maintaining excellent teaching and learning.”

The Potential Models

A survey sent out to parents, teachers and the broader community determined most district stakeholders support alternatives that allow for “in-person learning with social distancing measures in place” or a “hybrid of in-person and online learning.”

The first return-to-school scenario proposed by the district is “Model A,” which calls for the return of all students in-class five days a week unless families specifically state their wish to have their child switch to a distance-learning format. Model B appears to better align with the survey results, though, since students would be divided into two cohorts to allow for social distancing.

Variations in the Model B setup include alternating the days that students are in school so that one cohort attends class every Monday and Tuesday while the other attends in-person on Thursday and Friday. The other three days would feature distance learning, but another variation in the model calls for the cohorts to alternate in-person and distance learning one week at a time.

This scenario would call for Cohort A to be in class one week before performing distance learning the next, and vice-versa for Cohort B.

The final proposal from district staff is Model C, which calls for all students to participate in distance learning only, though some specific programs may be able to happen in-person.

Prior to the close of Tuesday night’s meeting, Drati said he had also met with seniors from high schools throughout the district who had great insight into how they would like school to operate next year.

As one can see, staff has been gathering a lot of information from different groups, “so I feel confident that we’re going to provide something to the community that is representative of what people feel should happen,” he said. It may be hard to find a 100% consensus, “but we will do our best to try to reach everyone and get them to at least feel that they were heard. And we thank you for being a part of this.”

brennon@smdp.com