A panel of medical and education experts are set to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on local schools, reopening efforts and the future of schools and education this Thursday during a symposium organized by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

The event is set to begin at 7 p.m. Thursday and will be available online via Zoom or Facebook Live. Sen. Ben Allen is expected to moderate the event to bring perspective from a government viewpoint to education needs and guidelines, Board President Jon Kean said.

“Over the past six weeks we have gone from a raging epidemic to an imminent move to the Orange Tier. While I have literally played a doctor on television before, I don’t think our families want to hear me to draw the distinctions between changes in the interpretation of the science versus the changing dynamics of infections in our community,” Kean said. “We need to hear from the experts and that is what this symposium will do — gather local experts from our community to answer the questions that our families have right now.”

Kean acknowledged that students will soon be back in the classroom like the before, only with masks and other necessary safety precautions, so he and other district leaders found it important to inform parents on the most important safety measures, the realities and misconceptions of COVID-19, and what the public can expect after the coming summer and fall.

“At the end of this symposium we hope that parents, guardians, and students will have facts at their disposal to help them make an informed decision about returning to classrooms for in-person instruction,” Kean said. “We don’t want to push people one direction or the other, we just want to educate them.”

Dr. Rita Kachru, an Associate Professor and UCLA Health Section Chief, who also serves as a Health and Safety District Advisory Committee Member, is one of the three speakers who will join Allen and Superintendent Ben Drati Thursday. Dr. Will Nicholas, Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s Center for Health Impact Evaluation, and Dr. Jamie Lloyd-Smith, UCLA Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology who is studying COVID-19 aerosol and surface stability, will also be available to answer any and all questions.

“We are so fortunate to have this amazing team of health and science experts within our community and right now facts and science matter,” Kean said, mentioning he also expects the trio to talk about the implications of the reduced physical distancing in classrooms from six feet to three feet. “Who better to help inform us than those researching the virus and helping to form public policy?”

More information can be found along with a stream of Thursday’s broadcast online at facebook.com/smmusd.

Brennon@smdp.com