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

On Wednesday Oct. 21, SMMUSD Superintendent Ben Drati gave a Zoom presentation on two potential models for reopening secondary schools: a hybrid in-person and online model and a distance-learning-only model that has limited on-campus activities.

Drati is expected to give a similar presentation regarding elementary school reopenings on Monday Oct. 26 and the School Board will take action on a plan on Nov. 12.

“The options were developed through analysis of the safety protocols set by the state and L.A. County Department of Health, recommended models by the L.A. County Department of Education, and what a majority of school districts across the state and the county will be using for reopening,” said Drati.

The earliest reopening date the district is looking at is January 5 and this is dependent on L.A. County entering the red tier of infection rates. In order to do this, the county will need to maintain a test positivity rate of less than 8 percent and a daily new case rate of 7 per 100,000 residents for two weeks.

The proposed hybrid model will divide classes into two cohorts and half the students would attend class in-person six feet apart while the other half would join via livestream. Cohorts would either alternate day-by-day or week-by-week and there would be an option for students to participate in distance learning only.

The District is exploring different technology that can facilitate simultaneous in-person and livestream teaching. One of these is the Swivl camera system which follows voice fluctuations in the classroom. When a teacher is speaking the camera will focus on them, but if a student in the classroom asks a question the camera will zoom in on them so livestream students can follow the conversation.

In the second model students would continue in distance learning as it ran in the fall and there would be opportunities to come on campus for select activities such as arts, labs, sports teams, special education programs, and clubs. This would be the least expensive and safest model, but it does not offer the benefits of providing child supervision and in-person learning.

“I’d like to first remind everybody about the factors we will ultimately use to make our decisions. These are first and foremost the safety of our students, and secondly, the quality by which we are able to deliver instruction, and lastly, the fiscal constraints that we are under,” said Drati.

Under both reopening plans anyone who enters campus is required to pass a health screening questionnaire and a temperature check. There will be isolation rooms on all campuses if anyone starts experiencing symptoms or finds out they were in contact with COVID-19 while on campus.

General cleaning will take place once a day and high touch surfaces like doorknobs, elevator buttons, and handrails will be disinfected up to three times a day. Outdoor learning will be encouraged, most windows will remain open, and air filters will be upgraded to MERV 13 efficiency.

Per County requirements the District and each campus will form COVID compliance taskforces that are responsible for establishing and enforcing all COVID-19 safety protocols and ensuring students and staff receive education about COVID-19. The compliance teams will meet with the County Department of Public Health on a weekly basis and enact an exposure management plan if there is a case at school.

Between Oct. 27 and Nov. 2 the District will survey parents, staff, and students for feedback on the two reopening models. Questions, suggestions, and concerns can also be submitted by going to www.smmusd.org/superintendent and clicking on school reopening input.

Clara@smdp.com