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

Starting next week the Santa-Monica Malibu Unified School District will begin limited on-campus activities for preschool special education, childcare for staff, English learners, and adult transition students.

The recent rise in cases has created uncertainty about a broader reopening plan and the School Board decision date has been pushed from Nov. 19 to Dec. 17. Prior to the School Board vote there will be two weeks of virtual stakeholder meetings followed by a community survey during the week of Nov. 30.

L.A. County is still in Tier 1, the most restrictive tier of re-opening, which means schools are only allowed to operate in-person at up to 25 percent capacity to provide services for the highest need students. On Nov. 13, SMMUSD released its in-person service plan per L.A. County Office of Public Health protocols.

“We are very pleased to be expanding our services for some students, in compliance with LACDPH protocols,” said District PIO, Gail Pinsker. “We are instructing our parents to prescreen students for illness, and they will be screened again upon arrival to school. Our on-campus staff is also screened daily. Our schools are clean, prepared and ready for students and we are looking forward to seeing them soon.”

Starting Monday Nov. 16, a child care hub for staff members will run at Grant Elementary and an English language learner hub will open at Edison Language Academy. Additional language learner hubs will open at Roosevelt and Webster Elementary on Wednesday Nov. 18.

Preschool special education programs will run three days a week starting Nov. 18 at Lincoln Child Development Center and McKinley, Muir, Rogers, and Webster preschools. Adult transition students at Samohi will attend half days on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting Nov. 19.

Families of students eligible for these programs will be contacted by the District. Following a review of the success of these initial in-person services, the District has a plan for opening four more phases of limited in-person services such as specialized academic instruction for life skills, positive behavior support, and academic skills support.

The District is also in the process of applying for the transitional kindergarten through 2nd grade reopening waiver as, under current restrictions, schools in the County are allowed to open for TK-2 grade instruction if they implement specific safety protocols.

Any further reopening is subject to the County moving into Tier Two of reopening, which requires two weeks of a daily case rate below 7 per 100,000 people and a testing positivity rate below 8 percent.

The District initially hoped to approve a reopening plan on Nov. 19 that could be implemented in the new year, but the recent rise in cases has set back this process.

“The optimism of us moving from Tier 1 to Tier 2 by January is now highly questionable,” said Superintendent Ben Drati in a Nov. 13 letter to the SMMUSD community. “We are learning that there is a high degree of anxiety about coming back for in-person, on-campus instruction; divergent views on the hybrid approach and its potential impact on teaching and learning; and many other questions to still address.”

Over the next two weeks the District will host discussions regarding a reopening model with teachers, principals, parents, staff, the SEIU steward, SMMCTA president, DELAC representative, and SEDAC representative.

A survey will then be sent to staff, parents, and secondary students, which will be used to inform the District’s recommendation for a reopening plan. The School Board is expected to take action on this plan during the Dec. 17 board meeting.