City of Beverly Hills | Education | News
Planning for a Safe Return to Beverly Hills Schools
“I do want to touch on the unique obstacles that are going to be the hardest for the middle school to think through,” Think Tank member Frank Chechel noted.
The Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) is scheduled to begin the 2020-2021 school year on August 17 with distance learning. Per order of Governor Newsom, students will be able to return back to the physical campus in phases once the county has been off the monitoring list — which tracks Coronavirus data — for 14 consecutive days. For students within the Los Angeles Unified School District, rules and schedules regarding distance learning are still unclear, as the United Teachers Los Angeles union and administrators continue to go back and forth on proposals.
At the BHUSD Board of Education meeting on July 28, administrators made it clear that they share one goal: to bring students back on campus as soon as it is safe to do so. The meeting began with public comment from an array of teachers nervous to come back to the physical classroom, citing underlying health issues and childcare concerns. On the main agenda was a presentation by the “Return 2 Learn” Think Tank regarding recommendations for the physical reopening of schools. The Think Tank, comprised of experts in the fields of medicine, healthcare, mental health, occupational safety, workplace controls and management, was formed in June to study, evaluate, and draft best practices for how to safely reopen. The team considered classroom setup, one-way directional signage, restroom monitoring to ensure six feet of distance is maintained, when and how to administer temperature checks and more.
Members of the Think Tank include Dr. Melody Levian Zarabi, Dr. Doris Nourmand, Rick Porso, Dr. Aaron Reitman, Joshua Reitzenstein, Andrea Rosenfeld, Pam Shinault, Dr. Shahriar Yaghoubi, Kathleen Blanco, Jocelyn Bresnick, Frank Chechel, Dr. Lynn Egerman, Dr. Steve Galen, Dr. Lee Hilborne, Stephen Hinden, Dr. David Hollander and Galina Inzhakova.
After five virtual Think Tank meetings as well as site assessments, Think Tank members and school staff presented the Board with reopening recommendations. Staggered arrivals, departures, mealtimes and cleaning schedules have not been finalized yet, and there will be pop up tents for rainy days set up for expanded waiting areas before being checked for symptoms. All porous furniture will be removed from the classrooms and all symptom checks will be documented. PPE will be readily available, and all students and staff will be required to wear a face mask at all times. Communication of potential exposure of COVID-19 will go to anyone who came into contact with and/or spent more than 15 minutes with during the two previous days with someone who tested positive.
“Our charge was to provide recommendations to our Board of Education on how to best reopen physical schools in our school district,” BHUSD Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy said at the Board meeting. “All the information from the data that we are learning is wonderful, but it’s different when you have to be in a physical location, and you have to actually put it into practice. It changes very quickly, depending on what school you’re at, based on the size of classrooms, hallways, entry areas and things like that. So, we spread out and we were able to do just that.”
Recommendations are as follows:
Beverly Hills High School:
Due to construction, this site has not yet been assessed by the Think Tank.
Beverly Vista Middle School (BVMS):
Students will line up outside the new wider entrance on Elm Street six feet apart to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms prior to entering school. If a student exhibits a cough, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, loss of taste, loss of smell, or has a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher (“COVID-19 indicators”), they will be required to leave school immediately. If a student has two or more of the following: chills, headache, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, fatigue, nausea, body aches, vomiting, or diarrhea (“COVID-19 symptoms”) they will be sent home. Staff will come in through a different entrance and be screened prior to coming in. Students will follow a staggered dismissal schedule and exit through the field gates, the bell tower exit on Charleville Boulevard, and the arch on Elm Street.
Playground aides will monitor restroom usage and hallways. It is recommended that only one person use the restroom at a time, and a monitor remain outside making sure that only one person goes in at a time. The BVMS multi-purpose room will the designated isolation room, with a minimum of 10 quarantine cubicles with six feet of distance between each.
Tape, arrows and other markings will be used to help maintain physical distance on campus. In addition to being designated one-way traffic, hallways will be given street names and stairwells will named after freeways to help staff and students navigate their way through school safely. The BVMS COVID-19 compliance team, comprised of assistant principals Josh Stern and Rich Waters, will be responsible for establishing, disseminating, and enforcing safety protocols.
“I do want to touch on the unique obstacles that are going to be the hardest for the middle school to think through,” Think Tank member Frank Chechel noted. “One is lunchtime. If you wear a mask, you stay six feet apart, and you wash your hands frequently you’re going to be okay. But when you pull your mask down to have lunch that’s going to be a challenge. I think staggered lunchtimes are something we’re going to need to think about and how to spread the kids out and so I think that’s going to be a key consideration for coming back to the middle school.”
El Rodeo Elementary School:
Closed for construction.
Hawthorne Elementary School:
All six entrances to the school will be open, and only the Rexford Drive gates will be used to exit, and the nurse’s office will be used as an isolation room. Due to the younger age group of elementary students, they will be asked to remain in their cars to be screened for symptoms and have their temperature checked using thermal scanners and touchless thermometers. If anyone exhibits COVID-19 indicators, they will be required to leave school immediately. If anyone exhibits two or more COVID-19 symptoms, they will be sent home. Staff will also be screened prior to coming in. Additional hand washing stations in the playgrounds and hallways are also being considered.
Engaging visual signage with pictures to remind everyone to maintain physical distance and direct traffic will be strategically placed throughout campus. Due to the layout of Hawthorne, hallways are not wide enough for two-way traffic. It is recommended that specific classes have designated routes.
Bathroom monitoring will be conducted in a similar fashion as BVMS. Assistant principal at Hawthorne, Kevin Painter, will be among other school administrators on the COVID-19 compliance team, responsible for establishing, disseminating, and enforcing safety protocols.
Horace Mann Elementary School:
Similar to Hawthorne, students will be asked to remain in their cars to be screened for symptoms and have their temperatures checked using thermal scanners and touchless thermometers. If anyone exhibits COVID-19 indicators, they will be required to leave school immediately. If anyone exhibits two or more COVID-19 symptoms they will be sent home. Staff will also be screened prior to coming in.
Students will use entrances and exits on Charleville Blvd, Hamel Drive, Robertson Boulevard and Arnaz Drive gates with staggered arrival and departure times to aid in crowd control. Room A-120 will be used as the isolation room and the nurse’s office will remain in the main office reserved for usual use. Bathroom monitoring will be conducted in a similar fashion as BVMS. Assistant principal Chris Regan will be among other school administrators on the COVID-19 compliance team, responsible for establishing, disseminating, and enforcing safety protocols.
Visual signage, with pictures for younger students who can’t read yet, will be strategically placed throughout the campus to reinforce physical distance and direct traffic. Students will use the side staircases of the L-shaped building to go up, and the middle staircase to go down, depending on the location of their classroom.
Bathroom monitoring will be conducted in a similar fashion as BVMS and handwashing stations are recommended to be made available throughout the campus.
To learn more, visit www.bhusd.org/return2learn/. The next BHUSD Board of Education meeting will be held on August 11.