One of the Manhattan Beach Unified TK-2 classrooms that are set up to start hybrid learning the week after Thanksgiving break at Meadows Elementary School in Manhattan Beach on Tuesday, November 17, 2020. (Photo by Keith Birmingham, Pasadena Star-News/ SCNG)

Manhattan Beach Unified School District will soon bring students from transitional kindergarten to second grade back to campuses after months of entirely virtual learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But they will have to wait until after Thanksgiving.

The district has received approval from the LA County Department of Public Health to let those students return to campus on a hybrid basis — meaning part of their instruction will remain virtual — and will start doing so on Dec. 1. December, officials said, will help the district gauge how the district’s procedures are working.

“The first three weeks are really a kind of test run for all of us,” said Superintendent Mike Matthews.

Classes, which each have 24 students maximum, will be split in half, with one group on campus on Tuesday mornings and the other on Thursday mornings, Matthews said. They’ll learn from home the rest of those school days and the week.

That model will continue through the end of December, he added, then the board will evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

More than 80% of the district’s TK-2 families chose to send their children back to campus, Matthews said.

That was consistent with replies to two surveys, during the spring and late summer, Matthews said, that asked whether parents wanted their students to continue learning remotely or try to do a bit in person.

“We wondered once people had to make a decision that mattered,” he added, “would it stay the same and it did.”

Each campus will have 80 to 150 students on it at a given time, depending on a school’s population. The on-campus day will end before a typical lunch period, Matthews said, as the district is not comfortable trying to keep the TK-2 graders physically distanced while eating.

Every desk will have plexiglass installed around them, students and teachers will wear masks, and everyone will remain 6 feet apart. Some classrooms have already been set up, like at Meadows Elementary.

Before sending their students to campus, parents will self-screen by verifying that the child does not have a fever, been around anyone who is sick or has any other symptoms of COVID-19, Matthews said.

Teachers will avoid using technology as much as possible, Matthews said, because they’ve relied on it so much since March, when the pandemic first closed schools. Although the  physically distanced classroom setups will make things a bit odd, he added, the board wanted students to come back with some sense of in-person schooling, which will provide them the chance to talk to their peers and teachers while looking them in the eyes.

High-needs students started returning to campuses in cohorts for hybrid instruction last month and more continue doing so at all levels for special services, spending about 2.5 hours of there each day, either in the morning or in the afternoon.

Students above second grade who are not high needs still cannot return to campus, per county health rules.

Contact Lisa Jacobs or follow her on Twitter @lisaannjacobs.

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