Superintendent cites surging COVID-19 cases
By Sam Catanzaro
Santa Monica public schools will likely be online in the fall, the superintendent announced Tuesday, the same day LA County reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases in a single day.
“Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District staff will recommend that the School Board announce a plan to reopen with distance learning, following recent state and local health recommendations and a surge in Covid-19 cases in Los Angeles County,” reads a letter to parents from Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati Tuesday.
The school board meets on Thursday to discuss and take final action on the proposed plan.
The announcement comes a day after Los Angeles Unified School District said that it would start the school year online-only. According to Drati, SMMUSD had been preparing to recommend an in-person, hybrid model that included both in-person and distance learning but a recent surge in COVID-19 spread forced the district to change course.
“The steady upsurge in coronavirus cases in our region combined with the advice of public health experts has led us to the conclusion that distance learning is the most prudent model to start the 2020-2021 school year,” Drati said.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles County reported the highest number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in a single day with 4,244 new cases and 2,103 people currently hospitalized. The County also confirmed 73 new deaths of COVID-19. This is one of the highest numbers of new deaths reported in a day and may reflect a lag in the reporting of deaths over the weekend.
“Today’s numbers are alarming and unfortunately are the result of many businesses and individuals not adhering to the basic public health requirements of distancing and wearing face coverings. We are just not able to continue on a recovery journey without everyone doing their part. Keeping businesses open is only possible if we get back to slowing the spread,” said Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
Testing results are available for over 1,387,000 individuals with 9 percent of all people testing positive. To date, officials have confirmed 140,307 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and a total of 3,894 deaths. In Sanat Monica, there have 521 cases and 36 deaths.
According to Drati, since the pandemic began the district has worked toward the reopening physical buildings on campuses following guidelines and protocols presented by public health officials. Conducting learning remotely will provide the district an opportunity to fully implement these recommendations and prepare for the return of students and staff as quickly and safely as possible, Drati said.
“This was not an easy decision,” Drati wrote. “We understand that distance learning may present a challenge to many families. We will address these concerns in the upcoming school board meeting and during the next month and beyond, along with how we plan to deliver distance learning to our students in a consistent and effective manner.”