MB Schools in session Pacific Elementary

Class is in session on a hybrid basis for TK-2 students at Pacific Elementary in Manhattan Beach. (Courtesy Heather Hoffman)

Some South Bay school districts are pushing younger students’ return to campuses to next month.

Both the Manhattan Beach Unified and Hermosa City school districts will postpone the return to campuses of students in transitional kindergarten through second grade until February after Los Angeles County health officials urged in-person instruction be put on hold until Feb. 1 amid a devastating coronavirus surge.

Both districts had planned to bring students back to campus this week, allowing students and staff who had traveled over the holidays 10 days to quarantine, per the county Public Health Department’s for anyone travelling outside of Southern California to stay isolated for at least that long.

Instead, Hermosa Beach’s second graders will be on campus Wednesday, Feb. 3, first graders on Feb. 4 and kindergarteners on Feb. 5, according to a Friday, Jan. 8 announcement from Superintendent Jason Johnson.

Manhattan Beach Unified’s youngest elementary students and those with special needs of all grades were supposed to return to hybrid instruction Wednesday Jan. 13, but instead will remain online only, Superintendent Mike Matthews wrote in a Sunday, Jan. 10 announcement.

Both districts announced the delay after the Department of Public Health sent a memo on Friday recommending all schools in the county suspend in-person instruction, services and activities until February due to the worsening coronavirus pandemic.

Los Angeles County has become the nation’s coronavirus epicenter.

And school districts themselves have seen cases hit their communities.

There are now 34 known cases in the Manhattan Beach school district since special needs students started returning to campus in September, Matthews wrote. 

“That’s a big number,” he said, “and it reflects the number of cases in our community.”

The Manhattan Beach school board will discuss on Wednesday whether to maintain virtual instruction until February. The district’s preschool and extended childcare programs will remain in-person.

The move may set MBUSD back a bit, since they had planned to possibly start morning/afternoon class schedules Feb. 1, a shift from students being on campus mornings only under the current hybrid model.

“I’m relieved we are making this choice for student safety,” said Shawn Chen, president of MBUSD’s teachers’ union and and English teacher at Mira Costa High School. “Society as a whole right now does not offer the usual safety net that schools rely on for day-to-day operations.

“If we have emergencies on campus of any kind in this climate,” Chen added, “we would be hard pressed to respond effectively with such a strain on health care, emergency responders and other community resources.”

El Segundo Unified, which resumed in-person instruction last week, will go back to hybrid learning Tuesday, Jan. 12, Superintendent Melissa More wrote in a Monday, Jan. 11, email to district families. The school board was set to discuss at a meeting that same day whether to keep that in effect until Feb. 1.

Redondo Beach Unified’s school board will also discuss at its Tuesday meeting whether to keep campuses closed until February or reopen them on Jan. 19 as planned, Superintendent Steven Keller said via email Monday.

Contact Lisa Jacobs lisa.jacobs@TBRnews.com or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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