When school resumes this fall, students anticipate returning to the classroom and, hopefully, a sense of normalcy. We asked local schools about their post-pandemic educational plans.
Malibu Elementary School, 1st Day: August 19
We fully reopened in April 2021, when more than 92% of students returned, says Principal Christopher Hertz.
“We spread out recesses and created additional outdoor classrooms to help with distancing and hygiene,” he says. “We had offered remote learning; however, this service will be centralized by our school district for the 21-22 school year. Remote learning will now be structured as Independent Study with minimal zooming.”
To help students transition back to the in-person classroom, “we have been more systematic in delivering social-emotional learning beyond our morning meetings and have partnered with MBGC Wellness Center to offer additional programs, such as How to be a Friend,” Hertz says.
Safety guidelines will continue like they did in the spring: “We have parents prescreen their child each morning; we take temperatures upon arrival, and we require masking and distancing,” says Hertz, adding that these procedures remain subject to the L.A. Department of Public Health.
It’s important for children to know that “school will be really fun,” Hertz emphasizes. “We are planning a lot of extra events for students and their families that are sure to generate excitement and a sense of inclusion.”
As always, “our students are encouraged to maintain their summer studies as outlined in the Principal's Newsletters,” says Hertz. “Sample ideas are to use our online math and reading programs and review all the returned work from the previous school year.”
Malibu Elementary School is a great place for children to grow and learn, he further emphasizes.
“We offer art instruction, marine science instruction, systematic thinking and writing instruction, social-emotional learning, daily PE, and a top library that boasts nearly $20,000 in new books, and we have a highly involved PTA,” Hertz adds. “When students came back last Spring, they reported that they were done with remote learning, and by June, 100% of surveyed students reported that loved being at school. Summer came too soon!”
Malibu Elementary School is located at 6955 Fernhill Drive in Malibu. For more information, visit MalibuES.SMMUSD.org or call 310.457.9370.
Malibu High & Malibu Middle School, 1st Day: August 19
“Malibu High School is a public, college preparatory school with an anticipated enrollment around 450 for the 2021-2022 school year,” explains Principal Patrick Miller, adding that Malibu High shares a campus with Malibu Middle School, with an anticipated enrollment of just over 300 for the 2021-2022 school year.
All indications from the state of California—and from the Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District—appear to indicate that “our return to school in the fall will look and feel like our normal schooling experience,” he says. “We are so excited to be able to get back to what we do and for students to benefit from the range of programming our in-person experience provides.”
Malibu High and Malibu Middle schools were amongst a few public schools in California—especially in Los Angeles, Ventura and Orange counties—to resume 5-day-a-week in-person learning last April.
“I am extremely proud of our staff who again rose to the occasion and led the way, ensuring high levels of learning and care continued regardless of the instructional model,” Miller says.
He noted that Malibu High School has offered a successful independent study program as an alternative educational option for students and families.
“While in the past this option has largely served students with employment in the entertainment business, we do expect some families to choose this option in place of a full return to our traditional school model.” Independent study will also be available for Malibu Middle School students for the coming school year.
Regarding accommodations to help students transition back, “staff and parent groups worked this spring to approve a new bell schedule,” Miller says, adding that during distance learning, classes started at 9 a.m. in place of the normal 7:50 a.m. schedule. “As we transition back, we have adjusted our start time to 8:30 a.m., which was required by law for the 2022-2023 school year.”
Malibu High and Malibu Middle School’s “normal in-person experience” provides a number of built-in supports that students were unable to benefit from during distance learning.
For instance, beyond the daily interaction with peers and the caring staff, both schools have a hybrid traditional/block schedule, a built-in support person, an on-campus wellness center through a partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of Malibu, partnerships with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and partnerships with Westside Family Health Centers.
“The work our staff did this year regarding identifying essential skills and key content, student-centered approaches including changes to grading and homework policies, and others will all continue to support students,” Miller said.
As far as safety guidelines and procedures are concerned, “we will follow all of the safety protocols required by L.A. County Department of Public Health,” Miller says.
He emphasizes that students “have been incredible” through this challenging time.
“I don’t buy into the whole notion of learning loss—I don’t think our students do either,” Miller says. “While there has been disruption to schooling and schooling loss, our students have continued to apply themselves and learn a ton about themselves, about community and about our world.”
He wants students to know “that we are excited for a new school year—we are excited to work with them next school year as they continue to pursue their individual goals. We love them, we care about them, we want the best for them.”
Looking back on the challenges that were faced and overcome, Miller offers his deepest gratitude to the entire Malibu community.
“MHS is a special place and thanks to the combined efforts of students, parents, community, teachers and staff, we will continue to do great work in 2021-2022 and beyond,” he adds. “We should celebrate what our community did this past year.”
Malibu High School and Malibu Middle School are located at 30215 Morning View Drive in Malibu. For more information about Malibu High School, call 310.457.6801, or visit SMMUSD.org/Malibu. For Malibu Middle School, call 310.457.3801 or visit SMMUSD.org/MalibuMS.
Palisades Charter High School, 1st Day: August 18
Campus life will be fully in person and at full capacity, says Executive Director and Principal Dr. Pamela Magee. “We also offer a full-time Virtual Academy for families who prefer remote learning.”
Additionally, accommodations are in place to help students transition back into the traditional in-person curriculum and classroom.
“PCHS offers a variety of mental health and academic supports, including a Study Center, Math Lab and a mental health team that is available to help students who are having difficulty with the back-to-campus transition,” says Dr. Magee, adding that “we offer a credit recovery program at Pali Academy, a small learning community that provides more flexible scheduling while allowing self-paced instruction.”
As far as safety guidelines moving forward, PCHS will follow guidelines provided by the L.A. County Department of Public Health.
“At this time, this includes daily temperature checks, health screening and evidence of a recent clear COVID-19 test,” explains Dr. Magee, adding that masks and social distancing are also required on campus.
Students can prepare for an optimal school experience by reading the registration materials that outline safety protocols and requirements. Additionally, “allow a little extra time in the morning to get through the daily health and safety screening,” Dr. Magee recommends.
In other advice, plan to participate in the Back to School Orientation meetings scheduled before the start of the school year.
“These meetings are designed to give students all the information needed to be prepared for August,” Dr. Magee says. “They are also a wonderful opportunity to become reacquainted with campus, or for the 9th and 10th graders who have never attended classes in person, this is a chance to become familiar with the school grounds and learn more about the school culture.”
PCHS is also offering Dolphin Leadership Academy for 9th and 10th grade students through Aug. 4.
The most important thing student should know about the upcoming school year is to “be patient with themselves and others as we all adjust to the full in-person experience,” Dr. Magee emphasizes. “This will be a year of new opportunities. Some things will be familiar and the same as before, others may be re-imagined based on experiences of the past year to better meet students’ needs.”
Palisades Charter High School is located at 15777 Bowdoin Street in Pacific Palisades. For more information, call 310.230.6623 or visit PaliHigh.org.
Pepperdine University, 1st Day: August 30
Pepperdine continues to make plans to fully reopen its campuses in anticipation of the fall semester and welcome the Waves community home.
On June 17, the university announced COVID-19 protocols for social distancing and face coverings on campus have changed, relaxing many social distancing and face covering guidelines. At this time, however, updated social distancing and face covering guidance may not be reflected in all current COVID-19 signage on Pepperdine campuses.
As far as specific safety guidelines and procedures are concerned, the University’s COVID-19 protocols are available on the Pepperdine COVID-19 website.
“Reopening plans will be further updated and issued to the Pepperdine community as the University receives further guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA, in addition to the COVID-19 protocol updates already issued by the State of California,” according to Alex Forero, Public Relations Manager at Pepperdine.
“In some instances, remote and hybrid learning options will continue to be available, especially at the graduate level. The university will continue to operate in compliance with the COVID-19 guidelines issued by county and state health agencies, prioritizing the health, safety and well-being of the Pepperdine and surrounding communities.”
In the coming days, as the university evaluates updated guidance being released, additional changes can be expected to COVID-19 protocols, including but not limited to, daily wellness checks, campus visitor restrictions and travel policies. As always, the university strongly encourages everyone to get vaccinated if able.
For questions regarding COVID-19 or the university’s pandemic response, reach out to the COVID-19 Information Line at 310.506.8111; or via email at email@example.com.
Learn more at Pepperdine.edu.
Sycamore School, 1st Day: September 1
“As far as we know at this moment, we will be fully in person at full capacity,” says Tedd Wakeman, cofounder and director of Sycamore School along with Christy Durham. “We were actually conducting classes through our county waiver like this since November 2020.”
“At Sycamore we provide a curriculum that is rich with engagement, including a play- and project-based approach that allows for student interest, inquiry and creativity,” Wakeman says.
For the previous year, “we created beautiful outdoor learning spaces on campus and finished the year exclusively outdoors, distanced and in masks,” he notes. “While we do not yet have clarity from the county/CDC about mandates for the fall, we anticipate a loosening of these restrictions and hope to be able to utilize all learning spaces on campus—indoors and out.”
The most important thing students should keep in mind is that “We are ready to engage, build, and design; that we look forward to opportunities where we can collaborate, critically think and solve problems; that our staff is super excited to guide your wonder and explore a beautiful and interesting world together—and that Sycamore is a place where learning is alive with possibilities,” Wakeman emphasizes.
Students can prepare for an optimal experience by bringing their questions, curiosities, creativity and ideas, and by being ready to think big, take action, work together and have fun, he adds.
“We're going to take on challenges, learn from failure, be adaptable and do amazing things!”
Sycamore School is located at 3504 Las Flores Canyon in Malibu. For more information, visit Sycamore-School.org or call 310.456.1980.