Burbank Unified Responds To Covid-19 Concerns Ahead Of Back To School Start

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

The Burbank Unified School District responded to common health and safety concerns driven by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, as teachers, school staff, families and students prepare for the fall semester and a return to in person education and a typical full school day.

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Superintendent Matt Hill issued an email on Wednesday, August 4, detailing the school’s preparations and positions in the “BUSD Health And Safety Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).”

“We are excited to welcome back students and staff this August. Please see this link https://www.burbankusd.org/Page/3080 for the Burbank USD Covid-19 Containment Plan, the LADPH Reopening Protocols, the Exposure Management Plan, and Face Mask Guidelines.”

Each Burbank Unified School site has “a Covid-19 Compliance Team, a Covid-19 Plan (see school website) and established routines for health and safety measures, reminders about hand washing and mask wearing, exposure management and other health and safety guidelines. In addition, all sites have had several visits by the District Covid Team and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health. Nurses and Health Assistants have also been assisting with health and safety protocols.”

School officials emphasized “that Los Angeles County Department of Public Health guidelines are changing frequently. We will continue to work to provide the most updated information, but the community is encouraged to check the LADPH website http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/.”

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Burbank Unified is not requiring vaccinations at this time for students, staff or teachers, but has strongly encouraged them and has held multiple vaccination clinics in recent months to ensure availability for all those ages 12 and up.

“The certification process for vaccines for children takes longer, hence the delay. Vaccine administration for children will be guided by LADPH guidelines and the CDC.”

Masks will be required, in line with LADPH regulations, for all people indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

If a student or staff member does not have a mask, then one will be provided. If a student is struggling with wearing a mask, then the teacher and administrative team can work to support the student and help them learn the correct way to wear a mask. If a student is defiant and refuses to wear a mask, then we will follow progressive discipline. Link to policy https://www.burbankusd.org/Page/1070.”

“The Special Education Department has already reviewed students who may need accommodations and they have worked with site administration and staff to create a plan to assist the student. This group is very small in number, but if you have any concerns, please see your administrative team or the special education team at your site. Please see our Mask Wearing Guidelines for Students in Special Education or who have medical conditions. Link to policy https://www.burbankusd.org/Page/3080.”

While BUSD is not planning to test students and all staff regularly, the District does require that unvaccinated teachers be tested weekly. The District says it will post the percentage of vaccinated employees on its website.

If an employee or student tests positive, we have resources for testing. If an employee is unvaccinated they will be required to be tested weekly. Weekly surveillance testing for students is currently not required by LADPH for school districts.”

Image Courtesy Burbank Unified School District.

The District is requiring a daily health check for students and staff before attending school, however the process is voluntary according to school officials description: “Parents will be asked to complete health checks before students attend school. Parents will not need to complete a form. Parents, students, and staff should take their temperature in the morning before school and conduct a quick self-assessment forCovid-19 symptoms – cough, fever (100.4), chills, shortness of breath, loss of taste or smell, muscle or body aches, diarrhea, or vomiting. If a student or staff member are experiencing any of these symptoms, they should remain home and consult a medical provider. Please remember to notify your school if your child is sick. Parents and staff will be receiving a weekly reminder email regarding home health checks.”

Cleaning protocols have been clarified and custodians trained, according to school officials. Additional personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies have been provided to each classroom. All school sites have been upgraded with MERV13 filters on HVAC equipment.

According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), “Research has shown that the particle size of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is around 0.1 µm (micrometer). However, the virus does not travel through the air by itself. Since it is human generated, the virus is trapped in respiratory droplets and droplet nuclei (dried respiratory droplets) that are predominantly 1 µm in size and larger. ASHRAE currently recommends using a minimum MERV 13 filter, which is at least 85% efficient at capturing particles in 1 µm to 3 µm size range.”

“The MERV13 is considered an “upgraded HVAC filter” by the Environmental Protection Agency, but “by itself, using an upgraded HVAC filter is not enough to protect people from COVID-19. When used along with other best practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an upgraded HVAC filter can be part of a plan to protect yourself and your family.”

Additional measures to promote air flow and ventilation throughout classrooms and hallways were not detailed in the FAQ.

If a student or staff member or a family member tests positive for coronavirus or becomes symptomatic, “BUSD will follow the decision pathway as prescribed by public health. Nurses, health assistants and administrators have been following exposure management protocols all year for child care, staff and cohorts. They will consult with the LADPH and the District Covid Management team for guidance. We will continue to follow the LADPH decision pathway for exposure management and case management. In the event we are informed of a positive Covid-19 case in your child’s classroom, you will be notified if your child has had an exposure. Link to Exposure Management Plan
http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/coronavirus/docs/protocols/ExposureManagementPlan_K12Schools.pdf.”

Quarantine will not be required for those who have been exposed if they are fully vaccinated: “If a vaccinated individual does not have symptoms and has an exposure, they do not have to quarantine but they should test for Covid. As long as it has been 14 days after being fully vaccinated and the individual does not have symptoms of Covid-19.”

Band, orchestra, performing arts and choir activities will be permitted. However mask use continues to be required for all activities, including singing, dancing and instrument playing, when held inside.

Nutrition and lunch will be provided on campus by BUSD Food Services and schools “will physically distance as much as possible” during those times while students are eating and drinking.

While the school district is preparing for a return to full in person education for all grades, with a typical school day schedule akin to pre-pandemic times, there are options for families with students in grades TK – 12 who choose to remain on remote learning. Students in grades 7 – 12 may enroll in the Independent Learning Academy by August 11. Families of students in grades TK – 6 are asked to contact their respective school principals before August 11 to learn more.

If schools have to close again due to Covid-19, BUSD “teachers and staff are prepared to switch to Distance Learning if it is necessary. In addition, our students will have a Chromebook and access to technology.”

Burbank school officials will host an online workshop for parents, caregivers and students, focusing on the return to in person school, on Wednesday, August 11. The first day of school is Monday, August 16.

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