Grant: Students in elementary schools have returned to the class for limited in-person instruction. District officials are working on plans to return students to secondary schools at the end of this month. Courtesy photo

A deal to bring students back to campus in SMMUSD under a hybrid model is likely to come at the end of this week.

With so much misinformation spreading throughout the community in recent weeks, Superintendent Ben Drati said he believed it was important to take the time to address residents and the district’s Board of Education on Wednesday and clear the air on what the district can and can’t do in the pandemic.

Since Los Angeles County is now in the red tier, all students are now permitted to return for in-person activities as long as they adhere to specific safety protocols.

“It does not mean that we can come back full time at this point,” Drati said Wednesday. But that soon may change.

Earlier this week, students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade returned to campus in a limited manner for orientation in an effort to help them reestablish routines once again. Starting on April 12, after spring break, students will return in a maximum capacity under a site-specific hybrid model to receive 10 hours of in-person instruction, according to Drati.

“Secondary, as I mentioned earlier, is now allowed to reopen for in-person experiences… so starting March 22, next week, we’re going to reopen for grades six through 12 in a limited fashion to orient students and provide social emotional enrichment experiences and just to get kids and students back,” Drati added as he detailed how sports at the high-school level will soon be in full swing as well. “I can’t get into the details of the plan because we’re in negotiations; we hope to settle negotiations by this Friday and then make an announcement over the weekend about what the structure is going to look like.”

The superintendent later noted a return will utilize some form of a hybrid model before he moved to address the need to social distance. At the time of the school board meeting, CDC recommendations remained at 6 feet distance per student.

“There’s buzz out there that three feet is allowed to bring students back. That is a conversation that’s been had at CDC right now. I believe there’s a study by one of the Ivy League schools that did a study that compared three feet and six feet and whether they made a difference — and I guess the research showed that it didn’t make a difference and the CDC, Fauci, and some people are talking about that. It’s in conversations, but that’s research and research has not transitioned to policy yet,” Drati said. “I’m already getting called to say what the rule is and science says that three-feet is okay. I recognize that… no one is challenging the science there, but we need that science to change the policy at the CDC level, and then the state level, and then the county level. Only then can we go to three feet. And, by the way, if we go to three feet, then we are coming back. I believe, just based on what we’ve cased out, we have already started having these conversations, and we believe with three feet we can bring 100% of the students back and that will be our intention.”

Conversations have already been had and that would be great news, Drati said, sharing he isn’t exactly sure when the rule will be changed but he is confident SMMUSD schools can accommodate relaxed social distancing requirements.

“So,” Drati added, “it’s a waiting game.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following the publication of this story, the CDC updated its official recommendations to three feet of distance per student when students are masked and six feet in common areas.