Marathon School Board Meeting Nets Possibilities and Subcommittees

(Photo By Ross Benson)

On Saturday, January 8, the Burbank Unified School District Board met to discuss items associated with COVID-19 and the current surge of the Omicron variant.

After an extremely lengthy oral communications period which took over four hours, the Board came back after a break. The meeting was meant to provide the Board with reports for possible actions.

During the reports to the Board, it was stated that testing for all students and staff would cost $625.000 a week. After the Board exhausted their $5 million Federal budget earlier in the year, continued testing would be cost prohibited and would need Stat funding. Board Member Steve Ferguson brought up they wanted to start looking at mandatory testing in a couple of weeks after weighing in with different groups. They also said they were unable to secure tests kits at this time because of a shortage in the kits.

After others pointed earlier that the L.A. School District met a week before school was to resume and was requiring mandatory testing before students would be allowed back winter break, it was brought by Ferguson that the State basically gave L. A. Unified whatever they wanted but affluent districts like Burbank were often left out.

He proposed a subcommittee that would talk to State Senators to help.

An email by Superintendent Matt Hill after the meeting spelled out the Board’s decision regarding testing:

The goal is to implement mandatory testing for all students and staff by Monday, January 24th. In the meantime, it is highly encouraged that all students and staff take advantage of the free testing clinics being offered. Students should also use the take home tests.

Currently, testing kits are in short supply, so that may affect the start date of the mandate. Regular updates will be communicated to the community.

Mandated testing will be required where there is a high number of COVID cases in the community (I.e. above 6,000 cases per day in LA County) Click here for LACDPH’s current dashboard.

If there is a shortage in testing kit supply here are the priorities:

Tier I – Students participating in school athletics (this is in accordance with LACDPH mandates) and activities and individuals that must participate in required public meetings (i.e. Board of Education meetings, Local Control Accountability Plan meetings, etc.)

Tier II A – Secure testing supplies/clinics to test before returning to school after Spring Break and long weekends. (Depending on supply shortages, it is not likely testing kits will be available for the MKL Jr. weekend)

Tier II B – Weekly testing for all employees via clinics and a goal to provide all employees with 5 take-home test kits each quarter (depending on availability).

Tier III A – Pre-k through Grade 5 students

Tier III B – Grades 6 – 12

Tier III C – Adult Education students

It has been reported by parents that athletes were no longer being tested because of a lack of funding earlier in the year although it has been established that they need to be tested by the CIF. All athletic activities in L. A. Unified have been suspended for one week. Burbank and Burroughs have now bans fans from watching indoor games this past week.

Something that were not brought up included why the Board needed to meet on an emergency basis the day before school resumed instead of the week before like L.A. did to spell out policies, so people had time before the start of classes.

What is also confusing is that while they wanted mandatory testing, they say test kits are hard to come by but this past week they handed out a test package to every student from kindergarten through grade 12 which contained two tests per box. Why were those not used before school started to mandatory test all students before they returned? Of the over 14,000 test boxes they distributed, they reported only about one third of parents responded to their portal with the results as of Saturday.

Also brought up was that schools have been provided with the schools surigical masks for students. There have been complaints that the masks are to large for some students and it was said that they are in the process of purchasing Children’s sizes. It is unknown why only adult sizes were purchased and not children’s sizes in advance considering they were mostly for children to start with.

With a vaccine booster mandate for all staff, the Board said they will need to schedule panels with medical experts so employees can learn about boosters. There was no timetable set up for these panels. What was brought up is that if they made it mandatory before school ended, they would lose teachers and their virtual learning programs are at capacity already and they did not want students to have to deal with a new teacher during the semester.

Another decision was to create a subcommittee to study District’s Social Media Policy and Communication plan in February. Principals will be mailing information to all the families in their school with information.

The District has also set up testing for students and staff this week. Hill’s email spelled out the testing:

1. Testing for students and staff

a. At Home Rapid Tests – Every K-12 student should have received an at-home rapid test before Friday. It is critical that all students take this test before Monday and contact their school site if the test is positive. If the test is positive you must stay home. Please refer to the message your principal sent to you with instructions on how to report your test results.

b. Testing Clinics – Please see below for this week’s testing clinics that are available to all BUSD students and employees.

Monday, January 10, 2022 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

*please be prepared for a possible wait

John Burroughs High School at the auditorium foyer (the corner of Keystone and Clark)

PCR only (results in about 48 hours)

Wednesday, January 12, 2022 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Burbank High School at the primary entrance to Building 2* (Third Street where it intersects with Burbank Blvd) *note: not the main office

John Burroughs High School at the auditorium foyer (the corner of Keystone and Clark) 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, January 13, 2022 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Burbank High School at the primary entrance to Building 2* (Third Street where it intersects with Burbank Blvd) *note: not the main office

John Burroughs High School at the auditorium foyer (the corner of Keystone and Clark) 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.