Candice Anvari staff writer
After months of preparation, superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy released the Ready Together plan on Oct. 4. The plan outlines a physical reopening plan based on the guidance of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s order for all schools in Los Angeles County.
Bregy and his cabinet collaborated to create a plan that would allow students and teachers to “return as safely as possible.” Both Bregy and his cabinet wanted to create an organized way for students, teachers and parents to understand the guidelines the district needs to follow in order to safely reopen. The plan outlines five guiding principles: health and safety, educational rigor and consistency, social and emotional well being, and childcare.
Bregy and his team worked closely with the Board of Education to discuss what needed to be prioritized in the Ready Together plan.
“What you or your parents believe is important may be different than what I think is important, so we had to take that all into consideration when we were creating this plan,” Bregy said. “The guiding principles of our plan is what we chose to prioritize. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to create a plan that every single person in our community would like because life just doesn’t work that way, but we tried our best to take into consideration many concerns that have been presented to us.”
Director of Public Relations Rebecca Starkins is a member of the cabinet. She is in charge of communicating to students, teachers and parents to keep them “in the loop” when COVID-19 updates arise. Additionally, Starkins works with signage and she makes sure that there is a “clear” system for both the staff and the students to understand upon their return to school.
“My role has certainly evolved. I am certainly staying on top of what’s new and what new rules are being enforced, how to best communicate this out and making sure that Dr. Bregy has all the information for his superintendent reports,” Starkins said.
Health and Safety
Bregy and his team outlined health and safety as their “highest priority” because it is an “emotional” part of the reopening process that has drawn concern from “all” aspects of the community.
To help “ease” health and safety concerns, the cabinet incorporated health screenings into their plan. When students and teachers return, a new aspect of Aeries Communication will contribute to the health and safety of everyone on campus.
“When you log in to Aeries, it will link right to your account and it will say who needs to still check in for a health screening,” Starkins said. “We can use a QR code so kids can just scan it when they arrive at school, then the health screening just pops right up for them. This will make sure that everyone is staying as safe as possible.”
Bregy worked to not only communicate with students and parents, but also with staff because teachers are able to provide the cabinet with “direct feedback” that will help revise the plan when needed.
“In many of our schools, teachers are back in their classrooms, and this helps us understand how we can best accommodate them and receive feedback about what’s working and what’s not,” Bregy said.
Currently, health and safety preparations are being put into place, all of which follow Los Angeles County guidelines. However, Bregy believes that the sight of these precautions can be “startling” to students and staff once reopening begins.
“The optics are a little surprising, and this even shows that this is how ready we are for people to come back. People will think that [school] looks and feels different, but every safety measure that we are taking is so everyone will feel safe during the school day,” Bregy said.
Starkins believes that it’s important for students, parents and teachers to know that there will be many new requirements in the extensive process.
“We have to require the basics like social distancing and masks, but our plan also outlines the best ways that we can keep everyone as safe as possible,” Starkins said. “At the end of the day, it’s also up to our community to realize that cases are higher than they have been, so we have to make sure that we are all taking the proper measures to stay safe and keep the others around us safe as well.”
As the reopening process rolls out, students who cannot follow health and safety procedures in school will be “removed” from campus.
“Clear expectations will be put into place on campus,” Bregy said. “We will have very specific expectations and if somebody is not able to demonstrate that they can follow the guidelines, then they will not be able to stay in the learning environment because we can’t allow that to happen.”
Similar to Bregy, principal Mark Mead believes that everyone on campus will need to develop a kind of “discipline” that may seem unfamiliar.
“Students need to be ready for it. We’re still going to provide the same love and care for our students, but we’re going to have to be disciplined,” Mead said. “For example, it may be very tempting to go to the bathroom when no one is in there and take your mask off, but that would be an example of being undisciplined because taking your mask off at any time will put you at risk. But, I believe that we’re up for the challenge and we can all develop the discipline we need to successfully return.”
Educational Rigor and Consistency
Bregy and the cabinet believe a rigorous education is what students “deserve,” despite the pandemic’s obstacles.
“Our students require an extensive academic experience. Our teachers are phenomenal so they are making this so much more manageable for our students and parents,” Bregy said.
Although parents complained about educational rigor when the pandemic initially hit Beverly Hills, Bregy is “not embarrassed” that the school was not prepared for such a challenge at that time.
“If we look at what happened outside of Beverly Hills, no other schools knew what to do either. In the spring, I think our teachers and the administration did their best, but at that time we just weren’t as prepared as we are now. However, that is nothing to be embarrassed about because at that time, it was completely uncharted territory,” Bregy said.
Mead cannot “be prouder” of the staff and the students for the educational rigor currently taking place.
“Our staff and our students are absolute rockstars. The education our teachers are delivering and our students are receiving is absolutely amazing, and it can only go up from here,” Mead said. “I’m super proud of our ingenuity, our flexibility and our love for kids and their education.”
Social and Emotional Well Being
The social and emotional aspect of the plan is something that Bregy and the cabinet are trying to revise and improve to further support students.
“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a student at this time. I can only imagine that it’s hard and the screen time is tough,” Bregy said. “Many students have different experiences because some parents let students go out and about, while others want their kids to stay in. Everyone’s experiences are different at this time and we are really trying to do the best we can to support our students.”
The childcare aspect of the plan involves cooperation with the city to figure out a way to “accommodate” Beverly Hills families that struggle with childcare. However, the cabinet is working to find a solution.
Bregy wants both students, parents and teachers to understand that the plan is not “perfect,” but the community needs to “come together” to navigate these unprecedented times.
“This plan is really easy to poke holes in and criticize, but at the end of the day it’s going to take all of us to do this together,” Bregy said. “We all share this experience together so everyone has a responsibility and working together is what it’s going to take for all of us to be safe and successful. We want to bring people back as soon as possible, but it has to be done in an environment where everyone feels safe and comfortable.”