The Burbank Board of Education held their first meeting of 2021 on Thursday, January 21. The Board talked about health requirements for re-opening campuses to in person instruction and activities. They also heard reports from Student Board Representatives and Superintendent Matt Hill and approved a number of resolutions for the month of February.
Carmen Blanchard from Burbank High and Nadaly Jones from John Burroughs High both indicated their respective school’s Associated Student Body (ASB) groups were continuing to work on new and creative ways to engage and support their fellow students. Both school ASBs are also putting together gift bags for local essential workers.
Some questions about how and when the Burbank Unified School District will return to in person education were also brought up during Public Comments.
“The State requirement, as stated, cases must be below 25 per 100,000 to be allowed to reopen,” Hill responded. “And L.A. is triple that right now, between 75, 77. Case rates are getting better, so that’s the good news, so we definitely need to continue to plan. But as far as the potential for reopening schools to the fullest extent this year [academic year 2020-21], that is very unlikely.”
Hill emphasized that need for employees and parents to get vaccinated. He particularly encouraged those over age 65 who are now currently eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in Los Angeles County to not wait and sign up through the L.A. County Public Health website to receive their vaccine as soon as possible.
“It’s a little premature to start planning if it’s hybrid in the Fall or not,” Hill said. He expects that with the wider roll out of the vaccine in coming weeks and months, that the numbers will change. He plans to have conversations with staff and parents beginning in March, “about what the Fall will look like.”
Later in Spring 2021 semester, Hill noted that the school district plans to bring back small groups for a variety of in person education and activities.
“I believe in planning and I think our administrative staff… are an amazing group of people who have done incredible work,” commented Board Vice President Charlene Tabet. She expects to have more discussions about a return to in person education “as soon as we can have a stable plan that may not change in a week.”
“As much as I want to reopen and be back to normal, I think it’s a ‘wait and see.’ Because I certainly would hate to put a lot of effort, a lot of time and a lot of money, into a plan that all of a sudden we’re going to have to swing and change,” she added. “I need to see more of what’s going on. Yes, our numbers are going down. They’re not going down fast enough. They’re not in a safe place.”
“I think that the safety of our students is the number one priority we could have,” Tabet also said. “I think slow is the name of the game. We’ll make a decision at the right time we can stay behind our decision.”
“I do agree with Dr. Hill, the decision we made in November is showing to be the correct one, as we continue to look at the very high numbers in Southern California,” President Steve Frintner said. “Southern California is basically ground zero at this point for COVID both in the U.S and the world. We will not be allowed to reopen until the numbers get to be about one-third of what they are currently.”
Frintner mentioned the news conference Governor Gavin Newsom held during Winter Break, regarding a return to in person education; “It’s all very well intentioned but the details are all left to be handled by the individual districts.”
“We are in line for more support than we were previously with our new administration taking hold on the national level, but there’s still a lot of detail to work out. Even without in person learning, we have seen quite a bit of COVID spread within our community,” he added. “We will continue to look at that and try to find opportunities as we can to safely move forward.”
Hill also mentioned that BUSD is looking at an $18 million deficit for next year’s budget. His staff is still analyzing details of the Governor’s budget that was released earlier in January. He expressed hope that more federal funding for education would also be available in the coming months.
BUSD’s Distance Learning numbers are holding steady in similar pattern to previous months, averaging 14,000 meals distributed weekly to needy students and attendance rates steady at 97% for synchronous learning and 68-71% for asynchronous. Hill said that the replacement Chromebooks, which were ordered October 7, remain back ordered and are now expected to arrive in March.
Hill went over the First Reading of the Revised Board Policy, noting that changes were largely due to federal regulations.
“We receive frequent updates from the California School Boards Association where we review our existing policies and then update those policies,” he explained. “We have staff work on this and two Board members review this. This packet is more wordsmithing, or legislative changes. No significant changes.”
The Burbank Board of Education approved several resolutions, including recognizing February 2021 as Black History Month and Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month and February 1 – 5 as School Counseling Week.
The Board formally accepted the Certificate of the Canvass of Election Returns and approved the reorganization and assignment of member representation for various District and community committees and groups.
The Burbank Board of Education is comprised of President Steve Frintner, Vice President Charlene Tabet, Clerk Steve Ferguson and members Dr. Armond Aghakhanian and Dr. Emily Weisberg. More information on the Board can be found online on their webpage.