Burbank Unified Will Reopen With 100% Distance Learning In August

(Photo By Ross Benson)

Burbank Unified Superintendent Matt Hill released a statement on Monday, July 13, confirming that the Burbank Unified School District will reopen with 100% Distance Learning for the first day of school on August 17 and for the foreseeable future.

“We are seeing a dramatic spike of COVID cases in Los Angeles County,” said Hill in a video statement released Monday afternoon, July 13.

“For example, gyms have been following amazing strict guidelines – masks at all times, gloves, social distancing, six feet apart, limited people in the gym. And now they must close again,” Hill noted, referencing Governor Gavin Newsom’s announcement earlier Monday closing malls, salons, bars, gyms, inside dining and interior businesses/offices in 30 California counties.

“We’ve sat together with our teachers, our employees, our parents and the reopening committee,” Hill continued. “We’ve been trying to have a scenario where we can all go back to school. We know how important that is for everyone to have that education in person.”

“However, if a gym can’t even guarantee the safety of its clientele… how can we in clear conscience do that as a school district?”

“The answer is, no we can’t.”

“We are going to focus on the distance learning,” Hill said. “We still have our plans for hybrid. So when health conditions say we can return to the schools safely, we will make that decision and we will inform you with plenty of time.”

“We have to do scheduling and have to make sure our teachers are prepared,” Hill also said. “So we want to make a decision right now so we have clear focus and you know what the model is and we will make it the best model we can.”

“I know this will create hardship on many families. But we are going to work through those hardships. We know child care is an issue. So we want to look at what we can do with our City partners – Boys and Girls Club, YMCA – our own program… how can we help families, with appropriate health guidelines, how can we help them with child care.”

“We want to go back to normalcy,” Hill added. “But we know right now we have to create our new normal. We have to work together and create that stable environment for our children.”

“We want to make sure it’s safe for our employees and it’s safe for our children.”

“The moment we can go back in person, we want to do that… But for now, we are going to focus all our energy on 100% Distance and provide the best education for your child, for your children.”

Reached for comment after the video statement release, Hill clarified that the District will send out an email when the hybrid model becomes a possibility, “It depends on health conditions. We will reassess the hybrid model when conditions improve.”

When asked about students who participate in group activities such as sports or choir, Hill responded, “Courses will be taught via distance learning. Each activity is assessing how to provide after hour activities based on current health guidelines. At this time health guidelines do not allow sports.”

Hill encouraged parents and caregivers to continue emailing questions to the reopening committee. Questions may be emailed to the Reopening School Committee at: Re-openingSchool@burbankusd.org.

The Reopening School Committee also has an online FAQ viewable here. The committee plans to update the online FAQ this week and also provide updated information at the Board of Education meeting on Thursday, July 16.

Armond Aghakhanian (President, BUSD Board of Education), Diana Abasta (President, Burbank Teachers Association (BTA)), Louis Ayala (President, California School Employees Association (CSEA)), Oscar Macias (President, Burbank Association of School Administrators (BASA)) and Wendi Harvel (President, Burbank Council Parent Teacher Association (BCPTA)) joined Hill to release a joint statement:


Dear Families, Students, and Employees:

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all of us and things are changing on a daily basis.

Today, the Governor announced that additional organizations will need to reclose due to current health conditions. Over the past couple of weeks, we have seen the alarming increasing in COVID-19 cases due to reopening organizations too quickly. We will continue to make decisions based on science and facts. As you know, members of the Board of Education, Burbank Teachers Association (BTA), California School Employees Association (CSEA), Burbank Council Parent Teachers Association (BCPTA), and Burbank Association of School Administrators (BASA) have been working collaboratively all summer via the Reopening Committee to make plans to reopen schools in a safe manner. We had hopes for opening with students on campus in a hybrid model with students attending school for part of the day and an option for 100% distance learning. We have been surveying our parents and planning for this. We know everyone wants to see students back in school as soon it is safe to do so, however, the current health data does not support this.

Los Angeles County has seen a surge of new cases over the last week. The rate of those who test positive for the virus is approaching 10%, significantly higher than the level of 5% the World Health Organization indicates in their guidelines for safely reopening communities. On July 12, the total number of new cases reported by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health was 3,332. The health and safety of our students and employees is not something that we are willing to take chances with in the current environment. Therefore, we have decided that BUSD will open in a 100% distance learning model on August 17. We will continue to monitor health conditions and guidelines throughout the year and will let our community know when there is an opportunity to resume in-person instruction.

We have been preparing for this possibility and will be ready to start the school-year in a 100% distance learning model. Distance learning will include regular schedules for students with live instruction, regular grading, and attendance. Schools will also evaluate learning loss and provide extra support when necessary. We will continue to provide specific details over the next several weeks. We look forward to opening schools physically at some point in the year, but will need extra support from both the state and federal government in order to do so in a safe manner and we must continue to follow the science as it relates to this virus.

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