“We are aware of a community member with children in our schools who was exposed to coronavirus,” says Superintendent
By Sam Catanzaro
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) has canceled classes in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak (COVID-19).
In a letter sent out to parents and staff, SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati announced that the district will be “dismissing” students from attending school Friday, March 13, and Monday, March 16, 2020. According to the district, a dismissal indicates teachers and staff will still report for duty on campus, while all students will not be on campus, for any purpose. This includes all schools and programs in Santa Monica and Malibu including childcare, infant toddler program, preschool and grades TK-12 and our adult school.
“We are taking this action to thoroughly clean our schools and evaluate the state of illness in our communities in order to make an informed decision for Tuesday into next week. We are aware of a community member with children in our schools who was exposed to coronavirus. We have noticed a higher than normal absentee rate on our campuses today and will take this time to determine if students are ill, with what type of illness, or if parents are keeping students home during the coronavirus pandemic. This allows us time to consult with our local agencies and consider the status of this health emergency in LA County and the communities we serve,” Drati said.
According to Drati, there were potential exposures related to Franklin Elementary, John Muir Elementary and Santa Monica High School.
“We want to inform you that we are aware of several situations where people MAY have been exposed to Coronavirus. These potential exposures are related to Franklin Elementary, John Muir Elementary and Santa Monica High School. We can assure our communities that we have no confirmed cases of COVID-19,” Drati added in a later letter.
According to Drati, staff and teachers will prepare for possible school closures next week.
In a Wednesday evening news release, SMC said it was temporarily transitioning most in-person classes to a remote learning environment, effective Wednesday, March 18. According to SMC, there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus at SMC.
SMC classes will be canceled Friday, March 13 through Tuesday, March 17 to allow time for faculty members, staff and students to prepare for the transition to remote teaching.
SMC remains open for business and most campus operations are continuing. Certain classes that require in-person instruction — some laboratory, physical education and performing arts courses— will continue to meet on campus as scheduled, according to the college.
In addition, SMC has suspended in-person classes and activities at SMC Emeritus saying there will be no in-person classes until further notice. Some Emeritus classes will resume via remote methods, says the college.
The college has also called off spring study-abroad trips to Costa Rica, Helsinki and Tallinn while suspending large gatherings and extra-curricular activities. Athletic events will be conducted wherever possible without spectators, says SMC.
“Santa Monica College has been monitoring the COVID-19 crisis constantly, ever since it first broke out,” said SMC Superintendent/President Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery. “The college has had to weigh a vast set of considerations—first and foremost, the safety and wellbeing of our students and employees, but also upholding our educational mission of equity and open access in this time of uncertainty. These latest changes were carefully considered keeping all these factors in mind, and to ensure that no student would be left behind in the transition to remote learning modalities.”
K-12 school Crossroads also announced that it will be conducting remote learning. The school is closed to students Thursday, March 12 and Friday, March 13 to allow staff and faculty time to finalize their remote learning plans.
“We want to stress that there are no known cases of any Crossroads community member having been exposed to COVID-19,” the school said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor events over the next two days and remain in close contact will local health officials, doctors and other advisers to help us make a socially responsible decision. We will let our community know by the end of the day Friday whether School will reopen on Monday or if we will proceed with remote learning.”
On Wednesday, health officials announced the first death from the virus. The individual (a non-resident visiting friends) was an older adult who traveled extensively over the past month, including a long layover in South Korea.
According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health), the total number of cases in Los Angeles County is 32 as of Thursday.
The City of Santa Monica has canceled all gatherings, including events, programs, and activities, both hosted by the City of Santa Monica and other groups.
In addition, the City has suspended City of Santa Monica Boards and Commission (except Planning Commission) meetings through March 31, 2020. The City says the are determining scheduling for City Council and Planning Commission meetings.