After a letter that was sent to staff and parents from Burbank Unified School Superintendent Matt Hill on January 1 that stated the schools would reopen to students on Monday, January 3, the Burbank School Board called for an emergency meeting to discuss the situation.
The meeting, which was held on Sunday, January 2 at 4 pm was called after a post by Board Vice-President Steve Ferguson was sent out Sunday through social media. The post also said that Board Members Emily Weisberg and Steve Frintner were with him. It is unclear if it is a violation of the Brown Act to have the three elected Board Members together discussing school business outside of a public meeting.
Because of technology challenges, only speakers who were present at the meeting were able to address the Board, and no phone or virtual comments were taken. Four of the members were in attendance with Board President Charlene Tabet remotely from Oregon and the other three were in attendance in the chamber. Armond Aghakhanian was not present
Speakers included both teachers, parents, and students who mostly said they wanted schools to reopen on Monday, January 3.
The first item on the agenda was a motion to declare the meeting an emergency. The vote passed 3 to 1 with Tabet voting no.
Board members discussed the safety of students and staff and what an additional week off would mean not only for virtual learning but for the mental well-being of both teachers, staff, and students.
One item that was discussed was for the Spring Break week to be taken during the week on January 3 so that the student calendar would not change and the proper amount of classroom days would still be accurate.
The three-hour meeting was no more than a discussion that probably should have happened at an earlier time. Topics brought up included employee relations, communications, testing, and enforcement of mask mandates.
During oral communications, many brought up that students were constantly reminded to wear masks and there were no consequences. During their later discussion, Board Members acted that this is the first they were hearing of the problem and wanted to study it further.
It was unclear why the need for an Emergency Meeting was taking place at the last possible minute before schools reopened when new the variant situation in the country has been of great concern for weeks now.
According to the School District’s chart, since August of 2021, there have been a total of 304 cases from 15,280 students and 32 reported cases of 1,812 staff on campuses. They report there have been no on-site transmissions of Covid-19 to date.
In a time when the district says they are in financial trouble, it may be hard to justify a meeting that called many employees in on a Sunday where nothing was decided.
After the meeting, Hill released the following statement:
Dear Parents, Students, Staff and Community,
All BUSD schools will be open on Monday, January 3rd. The Board of Education held an emergency meeting today to discuss the pros and cons of opening school on Monday. After a robust discussion, the Board of Education decided that schools remain open. As shared in the last superintendent’s update, we will be following all health guidelines.
In addition, the District team will be working on the following action items this week and will provide an update to the Board and community during the Saturday Board meeting:
*Explore mandatory testing for students and staff
*Enforce the vaccine booster for all employees by April 1
*Provide a Friday update with testing results and post on BUSD’s website
*Provide stakeholders with contact information for site and district personnel to ask questions and express concerns
*Meet with labor partners to discuss pathways forward
*Make a plan to review the Social Media Policy
*Review and update policies surrounding support for mask requirements on campus
We know this is a very unsettling and frustrating time and there are many differing opinions on how to keep everyone safe. We will continue to work together to ensure our students, staff, and families are safe.
Matt Hill, Ed.D. (he/him/his)