Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board unanimous in the decision
By Sam Catanzaro
Santa Monica’s school board has voted to begin the 2020-21 school year remotely.
On Thursday, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) school board unanimously approved distance learning to start the school year citing “the best interest of the health/safety of students /staff.”
Earlier in the week SMMUSD Superintendent Dr. Ben Drati announced that district staff were recommending the school board adopt a distance learning model.
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 Thursday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) confirmed 59 new deaths and 4,592 new cases of COVID-19. This is the largest increase in new cases, surpassing the count from July 14. To date, Public Health has identified 147,468 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and a total of 3,988 deaths. In Santa Monica, there have been 543 cases and 35 deaths among residents.
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.”