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Manhattan Beach Schools Reveal New Classroom Layouts

Apr 16, 2021 11:37AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

A Mira Costa High School history classroom.

The Manhattan Beach Unified School District has released pictures of the "new" look for classrooms as it prepares for students to return five days per week on Monday.

The schedule starting next week will bring the most students back to campus since March 2020, when schools shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Staff members and parent and community volunteers worked all through the spring break to prepare classrooms that accommodate more students while maintaining social distancing requirements. 

"The effort has been absolutely incredible. We saw everyone across the district pitching in to make this happen," Deputy Superintendent Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard told the MBUSD board on Wednesday. "It was an 'all hands on deck' effort. We’re in a good place that we feel good about for next week."

Murakawa-Leopard in particular praised the district's Maintenance and Operations staff, many of whom have not taken a vacation since last year. When they were called into service over spring break, staff members answered the call, she said.

Additionally, parent and community volunteers pitched in at each campus. Those volunteers included parents of current students, parents of students who had already graduated, and even city councilmembers.

Most of the work involved moving and arranging desks, and readying plexiglass shields for the desks. (The plexiglass shields came in boxes of 15, with clear plastic on each side that needed to be stripped off.)

As the desks were arranged, planners had to allow for a three-foot space between students, a six-foot space for teachers, as well as space to move around within the classrooms.

A Look at MBUSD Elementary Classrooms

(Note: All photos via Manhattan Beach Unified School District)

The kindergarten classrooms are some of the biggest classrooms on MBUSD campuses, so there should be no shortage of space for students.

However, students will mostly be in the desk areas and not, for example, sitting on a rug and working with manipulatives as they might have done in years past, said Murakawa-Leopard. 

First through third grade classrooms will take advantage of double desks, with one student per desk to allow for social distancing.

Planners attempted to leave plenty of aisle space and room in the front of the classroom for teachers to move around.

Older elementary grades will use a combination of single desks and double desks. In the example shared by Murakawa-Leopard, this classroom has had a "bulky" HVAC unit installed so planners had to work around that addition to the classroom. The rows are tight, but the teachers do less moving around, said Murakawa-Leopard. (In the photo shown here, the HVAC unit is in the back of the room.)

More Students to Fit at Manhattan Beach Middle School

In middle school, Manhattan Beach has the greatest number of students who are planning to return in person, so the district had to adapt to create enough space for students. 

These images of Manhattan Beach Middle School math and English classrooms show single desks spread out across the classroom. 

For the middle school orchestra, the class needed more room than the music room would provide so the orchestra has been moved to the gym. 

The middle school band and choir will practice outside, and the music room will be available if those classes have non-performing needs. 

Middle school art and science classes have students at collaborative or lab tables. It was "a little bit of a puzzle" to put the tables together with three-foot distance, said Murakawa, but now students have three feet apart on each side and diagonally. 

A science lab table in the Manhattan Beach public schools.


"Fine Tuning" at Mira Costa High School

Some of the classrooms at Mira Costa involved "fine tuning" after the movers moved furniture in, said Murakawa-Leopard. In one case, furniture movers left a big aisle on one side of the room, so staff shifted the furniture to allow an aisle down the center. In all of these classrooms, students sit at single desks. 

Also yesterday, MBUSD released a picture of what simulcasting might look like in a classroom, with Mira Costa band director Joel Carlson speaking with students at home and in person. (He began with an icebreaker question: "What is your favorite theme park ride?")


 Schedules Will Bring Back All Cohorts

For students returning back to school at the elementary school level, grades TK-2 will attend from 8:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., and grades 3-5 will attend from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Elementary students will be divided into four groups and on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, each of the four groups will have a chance to stay for lunch and receive additional enrichment. 

MBMS and Mira Costa will proceed with a block schedule that alternates each week. The MBMS bell schedule can be seen here and the Mira Costa bell schedule can be seen here.

Distance learning will remain an option for the rest of the year.

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