Venecia Benjamin

Cafeteria manager Venecia Benjamin presents a bagged lunch during the first day of lunch pickup at Webster Elementary during school closures during COVID-19.

Update [March 23]: The district's breakfast and lunch meal service will now be held from 8-10 a.m. starting tomorrow, March 24, through April 3. The free meals are available at Santa Monica High School, McKinley Elementary, Will Rogers and Webster Elementary schools. 

Those who are sick are asked to stay home. A parent or guardian must accompany elementary and middle school students. High school students may pick up their own meals.

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In line with school districts around the country, public schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District will be closed to students through next month due to safety concerns regarding COVID-19.

The decision, formally approved by the SMMUSD Board of Education at an emergency meeting on March 16, allows for the closure of Malibu Elementary, Webster Elementary, and Malibu Middle and High schools locally. Schools are tentatively set to reopen on April 20; however, district staff “will be evaluating during this closure to determine whether an extension is recommended,” an email sent Monday night read. 

The closure covers three school weeks and two designated for spring break—five in total. 

Originally, school sites were to be closed for two days, March 13 and 16, “in an abundance of caution,” per the district in a March 12 correspondence. Teachers and staff were asked to arrive on campuses as usual. During that time, they were tasked with—in part—developing materials and lessons for students to promote remote learning.

Families with kids in grades 6-12 are asked to take a survey regarding internet access and device availability during the closure. The link is bit.ly/2w6xN4z.

An update to the correspondence made a brief mention of “several situations where people MAY have been exposed” to the virus—the possible points of contact were all schools in Santa Monica, per the district.

Schools have reached out to their respective students regarding instruction. School Board Member Craig Foster said Malibu was “quite far down the road” toward remote learning.

“We went through this in the aftermath of the Woolsey Fire as well as the mudslide concern after that,” he said in a phone call with The Malibu Times.

“We’ve been doing online learning,” Foster continued. “What potentially is different here, since everybody was so displaced last time—this time I would expect it would be more routine.”

As for nutrition, the district has set up a meal service of “grab-and-go bagged meals” for kids enrolled in any district school or program. Free breakfast and lunch pick-up is available at Webster, Santa Monica High School, McKinley Elementary and Will Rogers Learning Community from 7-9 a.m. A parent/guardian is required to accompany any student not in high school. 

Staff asks anyone feeling or exhibiting any symptoms of being sick to stay home, away from the sites.

The SMMUSD Mental Health Services team created a list of resources for support in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and closures, available at bit.ly/SMMUSD-COVID19.

The upcoming March 19 regular school board meeting has been moved to livestream, access is available at https://cccconfer.zoom.us/j/985837254. According to a March 18 update, the meeting will only cover "routine and time-sensitive items." Other action items have been postponed. Public comments can be submitted through 4 p.m. March 19 at the following link: bit.ly/2QhkchY. The agenda for the meeting is available at www.smmusd.org/domain/2977

Any athletic obligations, including practices and games, have been postponed. It is still unclear whether graduation ceremonies will occur as scheduled in June.

As for school sites, with the exception of Webster, they will be fully closed—all sites have intrusion alarm activated and the district asks anyone who witnesses suspicious activity to report it to local law enforcement.

Up-to-date information, including additional resources, from the school district is available at www.smmusd.org/coronavirus.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect changes to the March 19 SMMUSD Board of Education meeting.

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