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Superintendent Reflects on Difficulties of Reopening Schools - Health, Funds, Teaching Methods

This spring, our communities came together to help slow the spread of this illness, with the state creating a four-stage roadmap for shutting down and – eventually – reopening our community as we progress in the fight against the disease.

In Stage 1, schools, businesses, and parks shut down, students learned through virtual instruction, and health systems treated patients affected by COVID-19. In Stage 2, we began to slowly reopen our communities, starting with low-risk businesses. We are about to enter Stage 3, which allows schools to reopen.

As we prepare for that day, it is important to address how Monrovia Unified will ensure the safety of our students and staff, by tackling some key issues significant to our reopening – Health and safety practices, State funding cuts, Instructional models, and District services.

Health and Safety

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has issued specific guidance for the reopening of schools. Having also received guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the California Department of Education (CDE), we now await guidance from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) - which will be the most applicable to our district. As we continue to receive guidance from all four of these entities throughout the summer, we will update our planning accordingly.

State Funding Cuts

Reopening plans will need to be sensitive to new challenges we will face as state funding for schools drops.  Once the state adopts its budget, we will update our budget assumptions.  Due to the recession prompted by the health crisis, we expect grave cuts. As with so much else during this health crisis, our plan will have built-in flexibility to adapt to significantly diminished resources.

Instructional Models

We have developed task forces at both the elementary and secondary levels, to explore multiple instructional models ranging from continued distance learning to in-person instruction – commensurate with the state’s four stage road map to reopen California. 

Each instructional option is based on the state’s current status in its ongoing battle against COVID-19, including the possibility of returning to a Stage 1 status and renewed “Safer at Home” orders.  Our goal is to provide maximum flexibility for families, with the most effective instructional model, while ensuring the health and safety of students and staff.


Stage 1: Online learning continues and safer-at-home orders are in place.

If California and the County of Los Angeles return to Stage 1, Monrovia Unified will revert to the distance-learning platform and curricula. Teachers will set up virtual lesson plans and connect with their class through an online platform. Assignments will be graded and attendance will be monitored.

Stage 2: Blended In-person and distance learning model.

If California remains in Stage 2, Monrovia Unified will likely need to divide students into cohorts and alternate attending in-class and at-home learning. In this stage, we would need to limit the number of students in class at any one time.  When at home, students would complete assignments independently. While at school, social distancing would be required, with scattered desks and smaller class sizes.

Recess and lunch would be staggered as much as practicable to reduce the number of students together and allow for social distancing.

Stage 3: Students are back to school in a traditional manner with wellness practices enforced.

If the state is firmly in Stage 3, Monrovia Unified will open on Aug. 19, 2020, with additional health and safety protocols.

Students would return to in-class instruction. Recess and lunch would use a staggered schedule to encourage appropriate spacing as practicable.

Extra-curricular activities would return as appropriate, but field trips for the first semester would be canceled, extending as long as the full academic year or until the state moves into Stage 4 of the reopening roadmap – the final stage of the roadmap to recovery.

Handwashing and sanitizing will be required after all breaks and before and after lunch. Parents will be asked to check children’s health before school each day, and students and staff are encouraged to remain home if sick.

Independent Study

Even after the state enters Stage 3, some families may prefer to continue with distance learning full-time. Families who wish to continue with the distance learning model will have the opportunity to do so through our Mountain Park Independent Study School.

Mountain Park has provided distance learning to Monrovia students for decades. Administrators and teachers use the same K-12 MUSD curricula and provide the personal support students need to continue learning. The high school program is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and students often matriculate directly into a four-year college following graduation.


District Services

Viability will be determined not only by pedagogy, but by our ability to meet the needs of our families and continue to provide essential services:

  • Parental Priorities and Input: The exploration of every instructional model and schedule must include the needs of our community. While our greatest hope is that we would be able to start and continue the 2020-2021 school year with all our students back on campus at the same time, we will determine a clear Phase 2 plan with 50% of our students physically in school at any one time. Parent input will be solicited in the next week regarding priorities, concerns, and instructional schedules.
  • Food Services: Develop strategies to limit physical interaction during meal service such as serving meals in classrooms, increasing meal service access points, and staggering cafeteria use.
  • Buses: Determine maximum capacity of each vehicle while meeting physical distancing objectives and develop a plan for bus routes that accommodates capacity limits.
  • Cleaning and Disinfecting: Disinfecting surfaces between uses, such as desks and tables; chairs, seats on buses, copy machines, etc.


Our commitment to you

As always, our priority is to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, our staff, and our community before all other considerations. We remain steadfast in our mission to educate our students and guide them as they discover their passions and pursue their dreams.

Thank you for your patience and continued support as we navigate these unprecedented challenges together.  Information regarding the opportunity for input will be finalized before the end of this week. We will publicize those widely and continue to provide timely updates as we monitor the changing situation in our community and finalize our plans for instruction in 2020-21.

Dr. Katherine Thorossian

- Brad Haugaard

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