School Board Discusses Decline in Enrollment in Beverly Hills

On the heels of in-person instruction resuming to five days a week for all grade levels, the Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Board of Education discussed the decline in District-wide enrollment at its April 27 meeting. Enrollment for the 2020-21 school year was down by 259 students across all grade levels from the previous year. Of those 259, the largest decline was seen at the elementary level, with 112 fewer students. Grades six through eight lost 93 students, and a decrease of 54 students at the high school. Excitement surrounding the return to in-person instruction was also tempered by cautionary warnings to remain vigilant in adhering to Public Health guidelines and uncertainty surrounding mask mandates.

According to Wade Roach, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, permit issues account for 78 of the 259 decrease among students. “We had 234 permit students last year, and this year we only have 156,” Roach said. “That’s something to note. As we look at our overall enrollment…we’re having students reenroll who disenrolled from the District. So, I think we’re getting new students every day, so our resident population actually may be fairly stable. But we may continue to lose students because of our permit losses, as students go other places.”

In addition to the overall enrollment, the Board was presented with a breakdown by school of the number of students currently enrolled in full time in-person learning, hybrid learning (Live@BHUSD) and the ILC. While Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy said that attendance varies day by day, the District expects to see it rise. “It was a little surprising, some of the data,” Bregy said. “But I think it’s worked in our favor, as far as being able to demonstrate how we can manage successfully larger groups of students coming back into our schools.”

At Beverly Hills High School, 838 students chose to enroll in the hybrid learning option, 189 in the ILC and roughly 212 who have returned to full-time in-person learning. At Beverly Vista Middle School (BVMS), 306 students are enrolled in the hybrid learning option, 40 students in the ILC and roughly 521 students who have returned to full-time in-person learning. At Hawthorne, roughly 442 students have returned to full-time in-person learning, 112 in the ILC and none in hybrid learning. At Horace Mann, roughly 414 students have returned to full-time in-person learning, 195 in the ILC and none in hybrid learning. 

Last week, the Board held a Special Meeting and approved Addendum #7 of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for 2020-21 school year between the District and the Beverly Hills Education Association (BHEA), which specified the April return dates to full day instruction for elementary, middle and high school.

“As case rates in Los Angeles County continue to decrease, there have been continued changes to the school reopening guidelines put out by Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,” BHEA President, Alana Castanon, told the Courier. “Due to the physical distancing requirements for students decreasing to three feet, BHUSD sent BHEA a demand to bargain in order to bring back students for in person instruction five days per week and eliminate the cohort model.”

Castanon added, “As we move into these new schedules, it will be more important than ever that staff, students and families observe and closely follow the health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID infections in our school settings. We cannot relax our precautionary behaviors; we must remain vigilant to protect our community.”

For students enrolled in the Independent Learning Center (ILC), an entirely virtual learning option, and Live@BHUSD, a distance learning option that includes live instruction that mirrors the bell schedule, the fall remains unclear. Bregy speculated that he anticipates the District will be “going back to a situation where we will not have the ILC, that will be classroom instruction only.” 

During his Superintendent’s Report, Bregy addressed the effect of the updated guidance from the CDC, which states that fully vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear a mask outdoors. “I know that that raises a lot of anxiety, as far as what we are going to do in LA County,” Bregy said. “We do know that, as of late this afternoon, that LA County is going to align their practices with the CDC, but we do not have the exact language yet.”

With the end of the school year weeks away, Bregy urged the community to follow best practices ahead of in-person graduation events. 

With the news of relaxed mask mandates, Board Vice President, Tristen Walker-Shuman offered this precautionary warning. “I was really dismayed to receive videos of middle school parties that were happening on the weekends outside of school,” Walker-Shuman said. “And I know that’s not our jurisdiction, but I would just like to remind everyone, that if we have three cases that are tied at Beverly Vista, that will shut down the whole district.”

BHUSD Public Relations Director, Rebecca Starkins, confirmed that while currently there are no positive COVID-19 cases within BHUSD, “at one point there were three cases at BVMS. However, after thorough contact tracing there was no epidemiological link between them.”

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, “at least 3 laboratory-confirmed cases with symptomatic or asymptomatic COVID-19 within a 14- day period in a group with members who are epidemiologically linked, do not share a household, and are not a close contact of each other outside of the campus” meets the criteria for an outbreak and potential school closure. According to the California Department of Public Health, “a Superintendent should close a school district if 25 percent or more of schools in a district have closed due to COVID-19 within 14 days, and in consultation with the local public health department.” Should one of the four BHUSD campuses close, the entire District could potentially close.  

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