The wait is over: RBUSD schools are coming back to campus

Schools across the Redondo Beach Unified School District reopen with an emphasis on safety

Adams%27+Middle+School%27s+mascot%2C+Steve+the+Eagle%2C+welcomes+students+back.+Photo+via+Adams+6th+Grade+Return+Presentation+on+Youtube

Adams’ Middle School’s mascot, Steve the Eagle, welcomes students back. Photo via Adams 6th Grade Return Presentation on Youtube

After much speculation and planning, students have finally started to return to school. However, the path to getting to this point has not been a smooth one, nor will be the path moving forward. Steven Keller, RBUSD Superintendent, has dealt with many of these issues first hand.

“We want to do the right thing, we want to be safe. The focus we have to keep is on the kids,” Keller said.

Keeping this goal in mind, Keller has had an endless amount of meetings with different officials, some with whom he has never had to work before.

“The obstacle in all of this is that we’re being driven by an entity that is different from a school board or school district or county office of education. It’s the LA County Department of Public Health,” Keller said. “It’s a whole different bureaucracy than what I’m used to.” 

Tanaz Bruna, Adams Middle School’s new principal, shared similar sentiments. When designing the schedule for sixth grade’s return to school, decisions had to be made around the current cohort restrictions, which limited the number of students a teacher could interact with. That resulted in a condensed school day, at least for now.

“So even though it is one period of the day, that is one period that they are getting to see their teacher in person and receive live instruction. Another benefit meets social-emotional needs. Students can connect with their teachers in person, connect with peers in person, as well as have a routine in the morning” Bruna said.

However, as COVID cases in LA County have started to improve, administrators look forward to a better in-person learning situation for their students, with more time on campus and teacher interaction.

“Now that we have moved into the Red Tier as a county, we can make this happen by moving toward our period-by-period rotation hybrid schedule. This will allow students in sixth to eighth grade to participate in in-person learning two days a week and see each of their teachers,” Bruna said.

Bruna sees the impact in returning to campus, as the direct benefits to students have been “clear.”

“Socially, students are able to connect in person with peers. Many have been isolated for almost a year, and not every student has access to a smartphone or regular use of technology to be able to connect with each other,” Bruna said. “It’s been great seeing old friends unite, and watching students make new friends with those in their cohorts.”

Teachers, like Wendy Demaria, a fifth grade teacher at Tulita elementary, have observed the same patterns. 

“When they walked in on their first day, you could see them soaking in the experience because they haven’t been in any classroom for a year, let alone our classroom,” Demaria said. 

Hybrid learning requires teachers to lead both online and traditional classes at the same time. Though she initially had some reservations about the formatting of the system, Demaria soon realized the advantages.

“It gets the best of both worlds. It’s far more ideal than solely Zoom, not quite as ideal as a traditional classroom setting, but it’s a perfect middle ground,” Demaria said. “Students who maybe didn’t share or volunteer very much online, they’re so much reinvigorated. They’re engaged and more comfortable, and I get to hear from everybody and see people laugh.”

The reopening of schools has been a major concern since the beginning of the pandemic, back in March 2020. As the excitement for returning builds, Keller emphasizes the importance of doing it safely.

“At the end of the day, I’m like everyone else. I want my kid to come back when it’s safe. Now that we know it’s safe and can prove it’s safe, I think we should continue to keep kids coming back,” Keller said.