With a greater percentage of the general public set to receive COVID-19 vaccinations in the coming weeks, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District leaders said they expect students to be back on campus, participating in-class activities by the start of the 2021-2022 academic year.
Superintendent Ben Drati confirmed the local K-12 school district is currently planning for the upcoming school year with the expectation that students will be back on campus this coming August in an email Tuesday.
“We say this with the understanding that unforeseen events have altered our plans in the past,” Drati said. “However, we are committed to in-person instruction as our priority for the fall.”
The plans assume that educators will be fully inoculated in the next distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations, Drati said as he explained how education workers are scheduled for Phase 1B under the state’s priority for vaccines, and the county is currently finalizing Phase 1A3, which is a group that includes SMMUSD nurses, health aides and special education staff who need to be in close contact to students for health purposes.
“And I’m happy to report that most, if not all, have received their first and, in some cases, second round of vaccines,” he said.
Those who haven’t will soon because Phase 1B vaccinations are expected to start within the next two to three weeks, according to the local superintendent, who added the federal government has recently mentioned that members of the student body may be vaccinated by the start of fall. None of the available vaccines are approved for students under age 16, but Drati said the district is still looking to finalize plans with St. John’s Medical Center so SMMUSD can offer vaccination clinics to anybody who is eligible for vaccinations in the future.
Children in grades TK through fifth could return to school under new state regulations when Los Angeles County case counts reach 25 per 100,000 residents, which is a threshold the region is likely to surpass soon. This means Santa Monica schools would be allowed to reopen for on-campus learning but Drati has said SMMUSD does not currently intend to reopen for live instruction without a teachers union agreement.
“I will be meeting with parent representatives, PTA and school site council, and staff representatives — faculty advisory council and site leadership team — from each site this week in two meetings, one for elementary and one for secondary,” Drati said. “The goal of these efforts is to establish agreements with our bargaining units in the following two weeks.”