Grace Inez Adams / SMDP Staff Writer

With school starting for local students this week, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is updating parents on efforts to track COVID-19 infections, provide transportation and continue funding for free food programs.


Students return to school on Thursday, Aug. 18 and will be greeted with updated, less stringent COVID-19 guidelines than the previous two years. 

Following the results of a survey of parents and staff, SMMUSD announced it will be providing free weekly at-home antigen test kits to students to be used on a voluntary basis. Of the 3,500 responses, 42% said they preferred this option over mandatory at-home testing or mandatory PCR testing as was done during the previous school year. Masks will also be optional but are strongly encouraged by the district.

SMMUSD Superintendent Ben Drati stressed that the new approach goes beyond LA County guidelines, which only recommend testing for individuals displaying COVID symptoms. 

“We are taking a more precautious step as a transition, considering survey results.” Drati wrote in a letter sent out to parents and guardians. 

He also cautioned that if there is a spike in cases or outbreaks the district will consider returning to mandatory testing.

“We are trusting of our families and staff to stay home when sick, and to take the weekly tests to best ensure we are protective of student and staff health while on our campuses,” he wrote.

Students have already been provided with an at-home test to be taken within 24 hours of the first day of school. Drati said the district is working on finalizing the plan for how test kits will be distributed to schools for weekly testing throughout the school year.

Other COVID precautions the district is taking include regular cleaning of school facilities, provision of additional handwashing and sanitation supplies and installation of air filters in all classrooms. Students and staff who are feeling sick or test positive are asked to stay home and positive test results should be reported to the school.

Transit and bus routes, Metro GoPass student TAP card

All SMMUSD K-12 students are eligible for free public transit rides for the upcoming school year as part of LA Metro’s GoPass Fareless System Pass Program. All students wishing to use the free GoPass TAP cards must fill out this form to register, regardless of whether they have previously been enrolled in the program and already have cards or not. Big Blue Bus will be providing free rides to all SMMUSD students from Aug. 18 to Aug. 25 to give students time to renew or obtain their cards. After this date students will be required to present a TAP card or pay a fare to ride. 

Free meal apps for funding

SMMUSD has announced it will be providing all students with free breakfast and lunch for the 2022-23 school year. The district is requesting that all families eligible for the free and reduced lunch program still fill out an application as the data will contribute to the amount of funding the District receives for programs at Title 1 schools such as music and other enrichment activities. The application is available on the SMMUSD website (