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SMMUSD has begun limited in-person services and is gathering further input from students, staff, and families before the School Board votes on a broader reopening plan on Dec. 17.

In a Nov. 19 School Board meeting Superintendent Ben Drati provided a review of ongoing in-person services, the TK to grade 2 waiver application, and the upcoming steps for deciding on a Tier 2 reopening model.

Limited in-person services began on Monday Dec. 16 and are off to a strong start, according to Drati. This includes preschool special education cohorts, a child care hub for staff, an adult transition program, and athletic conditioning.

Based on a review of these initial programs the District plans to expand in-person special education services K through 12. There are five phases of planned program reopenings, however the timeline on each phase is still to be determined.

While the County is in Tier 1, schools are allowed to open up to 25 percent capacity for in-person services for highest need students. Schools are also allowed to apply for waivers to open classrooms for TK through Grade 2 while adhering to LACDPH safety protocols.

SMMUSD is in the process of applying for these waivers and strives to submit the application by the end of the month, according to Assistant Superintendent Jacqueline Mora.

While many private schools have received waiver approvals, public schools have been hindered by a requirement that they have a letter of support from the teacher union.

A survey by the Santa Monica-Malibu Classified Teachers Association found that sixty-seven percent of teachers did not support resuming any in-person instruction while in Tier 1.

LACDPH recently changed its policy to only require consultation of the union before submitting an application in an effort to approve more waivers for public schools.

“Even if we were approved within the next month or so we probably won’t be able to be ready until sometime January,” said Dr. Drati. “We still need to get an agreement with the union in order to be able to facilitate the students coming back. I’m confident that we will, because I point to the agreements we had with other programs.”

As part of its preparation process the District is sending staff to observe and work with the Las Virgenes Unified School District, which was the first district to reopen under the TK to 2 waiver program.

Once L.A. County moves into Tier 2, the District will be allowed to pursue further reopening. It is currently deciding between a hybrid model and a distance learning plus special activities model.

Next week there will be follow up meetings to discuss this with principals, teachers and parents. The District plans to send a survey to all staff, parents, and secondary school students asking their opinion on Tier 2 reopening by Nov. 25.

“We will use that information and everything else we have gathered so far, and make a recommendation to the board on December 17,” said Drati. “Distance learning plus approved activities seemed to win the day so far.”

Clara@smdp.com