Burbank Unified Plans Limited Reopening For Last Two Months Of School

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Burbank Unified School District office. (Photo By Ross Benson)

UPDATE: Thursday, March 11, 2:38 p.m. Burbank Unified is now proposing to open afternoon in person activities on campus for all grades beginning Monday, April 12, according to a letter emailed to parents at 1:27 p.m. on Thursday, March 11.

“It has been reported that based on updated health conditions, Los Angeles County will approach the red tier no later than next week Tuesday, March 16, 2021. The district also received updated guidance for middle school and high school. Therefore, we are proposing to open grades 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11 for afternoon in-person academic opportunities on Monday, April 12, 2021,” said John Burroughs High School Principal Deborah Madrigal.

A similar letter was sent to families by other BUSD middle and high school principals.

“The details will be negotiated with the Burbank Teachers Association,” Madrigal continued. “More information will be shared over the next couple of weeks.”

Parents are asked to complete a survey by March 17 for students in grades six, seven, and nine through eleven for BUSD planning purposes.

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Students in grades TK through five, eight and twelve in Burbank Unified School District may be able to return to in person education in the afternoons, due to an agreement on the Safe Schools For All plan by Governor Newsom and the California State Legislature that sets aside approximately $6.6 billion in funds to support PPE and COVID-related supports for schools throughout the state.

State Legislature passed the bill March 4 and Newsom signed it into law on March 5.

With the announcement of State funds to be available for California school districts that open on a limited basis by April 1, Burbank Unified School District has sent home surveys to parents and caregivers of students in grades TK – five, eight and twelve, querying interest in those students attending an in person educational experience on campus during asynchronous learning time on weekday afternoons. BUSD officials require parents return individual student survey responses by March 12.

Superintendent Matt Hill recorded a video message released Tuesday, March 9, to update the BUSD community of recent changes that may make returning to school a possibility for some grades. Watch the video online here.

BUSD is making plans to return those students in grades TK through five who opt-in for afternoon in person education by March 31. As health conditions improve, the district aims to return students in grades eight and twelve who opt-in.

While the survey asks parents to choose between returning their elementary student to an afternoon hybrid in person education or remaining on distance learning for the remainder of the semester, parents also have the choice to change their minds later in the semester to opt-in or -out. Recess and lunch will not be provided.

Students in grades eight and twelve have some slightly different considerations and less flexibility regarding a return to in person education. For those who opt-in to the limited hybrid, teachers will be on campus in the afternoon to provide students with live reteaching and a place to work on asynchronous work. Depending on health guidelines, one, two or three periods will meet in the afternoon and only half the class can attend to maintain social distancing guidelines. Students may be assigned to a group that will meet Mondays and Tuesdays or one that meets Wednesdays and Thursdays and parents can not select the group/meeting days.

All students and all grades will remain in synchronous distance learning for weekday mornings for the rest of the Spring semester. While district officials have said repeatedly in recent months they hope to return small groups and activities for socially distant, mask-wearing in person activities after Spring Break, which is March 22 – 26, this new guidance and monetary support for PPE and COVID-related needs for schoos allows the district to offer larger numbers of students access to in person education.

Most teachers and staff who have wanted to receive the coronavirus vaccine have already received at least one dose, with the second round of doses scheduled to be completed by April 1.

“All BUSD employees have had an opportunity to receive their first dose,” Superintendent Matt Hill said, mentioning that the percentage of those employees who have received their first dose was not yet available as the data collection team was working at the vaccination clinic for employees being held on March 10 and 11.

“We have implemented safety measures to protect our employees and students even without the vaccine,” Hill added. “The vaccine is an additional level of safety for our employees. According to the World Health Organization, the Moderna vaccine has been shown to have an efficacy of approximately 92 per cent in protecting against COVID-19, starting 14 days after the first dose.”

Currently, BUSD administration is in negotiations with Burbank Teachers Association (BTA) and California School Employees Association (CSEA.) Details on what the in person education for students will look like are still being discussed and more information will be forthcoming for students and families after negotiations are finalized, with the goal to conclude negotiations by March 18.

“Elementary school grades can open if their counties are in the purple tier, as long as the average daily rate of new Covid-19 cases is less than 25 per 100,000 residents. For grades 7-12, counties must be in the red, orange or yellow tiers, with a new daily case rate of 7 or less. In the coming weeks, the definition of the red tier will be changed to a new case rate of 10 or fewer infections, once there is a significant rise in vaccinations in zip codes with high levels of infection,” according to an EdSource article that explains clearly how the Safe Schools For All plan works.

Los Angeles County is currently in the most restrictive purple tier, with expectations to move to red tier within a few weeks.

The specifics of Safe Schools For All plan can be found on the California Legislature website here. BUSD stands to receive approximately $4.5 million from the State “for any purpose consistent with providing in-person instruction, including Covid-19 testing, cleaning, personal protective equipment, facility needs, staffing costs, and social and mental health supports provided in conjunction with in-person instruction,” according to the new law.

With the passage of the federal COVID relief bill due to be signed by President Biden on Friday, March 12, “It is estimated we will receive about $12 million,” said Hill. Those funds will be spent on “learning loss and a safe continued plan for reopening.”

What happens if case numbers rise in Los Angeles and the State, as many experts anticipate after Spring Break, with its concomitant travel increase?

“Once schools open, they may remain open if we continue to implement the required safety guidelines,” Hill said.

Schools across Los Angeles County have recently been able to begin sports conditioning again, and some at risk and special needs students have already been invited back on campus in small groups for the past several weeks in Burbank Unified.

District officials have also been planning for on campus activities for all grades after Spring Break, as they have communicated during Burbank Board of Education meetings multiple times since November.

“It is our goal” to provide opportunities for students in other grades besides TK – five, eight and twelve to have some on campus in person activities with fellow students and teachers before the end of the semester, Hill also said.