One week into summer break, Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy spoke to the Courier about masking requirements for next year, varying dips in enrollment, the future of the Independent Learning Center (ILC), and student vaccination rates as he prepares for a full district-wide reopening in August. Last spring, when Beverly Hills High School (BHHS) opened for hybrid learning, about 65 percent of students opted to remain virtual, zooming into their classrooms. For the 2022-23 school year, students are required to return to the physical classroom, with only 20 students remaining in the ILC. “We’ve learned that there’s no substitute for in-person learning with your teacher,” Bregy told the Courier. “Our expectation is to start next year like we were in the pre-pandemic ages.”
BHC: What does the future of the ILC look like?
“The ILC still exists. We’ve always had the ILC because we’ve always had the responsibility of providing an education to students that are your tennis players, or dancers or somebody that has a medical need. Right now, we’re looking at what certain criteria must be met for the ILC, but the expectation is that students come back full time and in person So, when we gave them a choice last year, I think a lot of our students said, ‘I’m already in a routine, you know, I’m going to go back next year.’ And some of it isn’t just academic. Some of it is social emotional, and that’s just as important. I think that with some of our students who didn’t return, it’s tougher for them to go back. It’s almost strange and unfamiliar to return.”
Bregy added,”By offering Live@BHUSD as well as the ILC, we were able to meet the needs and cover just about everybody,” Bregy added. “For some people, it just didn’t work. I’d be zooming into some classrooms, and I would see 5, 6, and 7-year-olds just leave.”
Last summer, many parents who were frustrated by the continued school closures decided to transfer their children to private school. How has that affected overall enrollment?
“We had a very small number that did that. We did have a high number of people who did go to a different location to ride out COVID. So, with our virtual offerings, a lot of people that were able to continue their education but be in a different time zone. There were some pockets of students who left from different grade levels, but it was a very small number. It wasn’t statistically significant. And the reason that I know that is because when we did reopen, we had a few people that then came back.”
“I think what was hard is that some people had expectations of us, as a system, to reopen before we were even allowed to. It’s been the most difficult, emotional, and stressful time in my professional career. I deal with controversial issues all the time, but never something that has divided the community like this before. And when I say that, I mean, not just closing and opening, but the timeline. The reason why I feel professionally beat up is that I think we did an amazing job with our communication. Yet, we would still have people that would be publicly denouncing us or upset with our decision when we weren’t even allowed to come back yet.”
What is the primary work ahead of you?
“We were able to identify a number of kids that experienced learning loss. We have more kids than ever in our summer programming, and many of them by invitation, which we hadn’t done before. I believe we have over 300 students involved in summer programs.”
“One of my biggest concerns is that I don’t think that we have an accurate understanding, conceptually, of what that learning loss is,” Bregy noted.
“I think our biggest challenge still lies in front of us. From meeting kids where they’re at academically, and from a social emotional perspective, so that kids feel that sense of belonging. There’s a lot of stress and pressure to make sure that kids are okay and be able to mitigate as many gaps as we can determine. We can’t just have an expectation that everybody is going to start in the same place.”
Will there be masking requirements next year?
“It’s really hard to say. We’re following the LA County Department of Public Health order and right now, students have to keep them on. I think that we will probably start the year with mask wearing and health screenings. But I think it’s just a matter of time until it’s going to change. Summer is short, and a lot will change in the next month.”
What percentage of the student population is vaccinated?
“I do know a large number of students that have been vaccinated, but we haven’t specifically asked because I know that we will not be mandating that somebody is vaccinated for COVID to attend classes.”
At the Beverly Vista Middle School graduation earlier in June, “students were very proud to tell me they had been vaccinated,” Bregy told the Courier. “It’s great to hear because it’s a huge step in mitigating any possible transmission.”
“We have great protocols in place. We worked so hard on our health screenings, temperature checks, labeling and have great signage. No matter what happens in the fall, I think the community is ready.”
Ed Note: During public comment at the June 22 BHUSD Board of Education meeting, a former teacher raised concerns about an allegedly racist incident at Horace Mann. The Courier will address the District’s response to those concerns in its July 1 issue.