Tag Archives: covid-19

Burbank Unified Parents And Students Share Perspectives On Remote Learning

Since the first day of school on August 17, families, caregivers and students in the Burbank Unified School District have had to adjust to a rigorous remote learning program as schools in Los Angeles County remain closed to in person instruction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many perspectives – positive and negative – have been posted online via social media recently. We reached out to a few families and their students to share their experiences with online learning.

“So far, my family and I are adjusting as well as we can,” commented Pamela Di Andrea, parent of William McKinley Elementary School students Joseph (fifth grade) and Evelyn (third grade.) “Obviously, none of this is ideal, but with the current situation the world is facing, we are determined to do our best to continue to move forward and accept the challenges ahead.”

“Though we are only a few weeks in, overall, I feel things have been going well with remote learning. When we have had any questions, the teachers and McKinley staff have been helpful and timely. That said, we fortunately have not experienced any major issues these first few weeks,” Di Andrea continued. “My husband and I have spent a lot of time talking with our kids to make sure they were prepared for this new way of learning. We both feel it is very important to maintain a positive morale and keep them on track with everything, which at times can be a big challenge.”

Lana and Georgia Dadekian, eighth- and seventh-graders, respectively, at Luther Middle School, are at home with their remote learning stations. (Photo Courtesy Kristi Dadekian)

“Going into this school year, our family is at a bit of an advantage because of the age of our children. Although they do need assistance from us throughout the day from time to time, they are able to navigate the technology fairly well because they had used some of it before at school prior to the pandemic. They are also at academic levels where they are reading proficiently, which allows them to read directions and navigate assignments on their own. Also, my children do not require any additional services or interventions.”

“I have not personally needed to reach out to the district or school for any special assistance, but they both have made it very clear that they are available to help students and their families with any educational support or assistance they may need,” she added.

“My kids were disappointed when the decision was first announced that we would be having remote learning. They both really enjoy school and because we have been on lock down orders for so long, I think they were really looking forward to leaving the house and seeing their friends! I also think they were somewhat apprehensive towards continuing with remote learning after their experience in the spring since all of the learning had been done asynchronously, with only some occasional live meets with their teachers. This was a bit difficult at times for all of us in trying to maintain some normalcy with school.”

“Though I know they would much prefer going to the school site every day, I do think the addition of synchronous learning via live meets every day has made a big difference in a positive way. Overall, I am okay with how remote learning has been structured for the fall, and with the current situation that we all are facing in the world, I believe this is the best solution for now.,” Di Andrea went on to say. “The health and safety of my children, family, friends and the community in general, is paramount and we need to do our best to make it work and be as patient as possible.”

Burbank High teacher Amy Winn shares remote teaching and learning space with her son Matthew Winn, a seventh-grader at John Muir Middle School. (Photo Courtesy Amy Winn)

Di Andrea talked about what her children’s day of online school looks like.

“It is a big help that the school day begins for both of them at 8:30 a.m. with live, synchronous learning. My husband and I are fortunate enough to work from home, so this synchronous aspect of remote learning is essential with our schedules. Again, because of the ages of my children, they can be self-sufficient for the most part during the times of the day when they need to complete work asynchronously. However, my husband and I are able to provide guidance whenever they need.”

“One of the biggest challenges is keeping track of their schedules. My phone has more alarms than I can count!” Di Andrea also said. “Even though my kids login for their first live meet at the same time, the rest of the day their schedules differ, which has been a bit of a challenge for me to keep things straight. I wouldn’t mind if at least their lunch and recess schedules were the same!”

“Although, now that we are into the second week, we are all getting the hang of their new routines. In addition, I feel that both of my children’s teachers have been working hard to make sure and be available for their students as well as the parents for any questions that we might have. So far, I am feeling optimistic that my kids will be able to learn and be successful in the remote model.”

Burbank High Principal Tom Crowther works from home while his daughter practices piano. He’s wearing a mask because his son is working with a tutor in the next room. (Photo Courtesy Tom Crowther)

“The school has sent out recommendations on how to get your child ready to learn for the day and we definitely have adopted many of the suggestions which were already very similar to our usual routine during a ‘normal’ school year.

For example, we wake up with plenty of time to eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, etc., but now we include making sure to login early to check for any tech glitches and we have our daily talks on expectations for the day and what assignments they will need to work on.”

Tech and internet issues prompted the Di Andrea family to upgrade their services and equipment.

“My husband is working full time from home and I am currently a full time college student embarking on my own journey with remote learning. In order to make it work, we did need to purchase another laptop so we all could have reliable devices. We did encounter issues with our internet connection due to of all of the use, so we made the decision to upgrade our cell data plans to utilize hot spots in the event we needed them.”

“Both the school and district have said that they can provide technology and internet hot spots for families to borrow if needed. We did consider at first reaching out to the district for assistance because we had faced some economic hardship at the start of the pandemic, however, we were able to overcome this hardship, so we no longer required any assistance.”

“I feel good about how we get to learn from the teacher seeing them at a Google Meet everyday,” commented Joseph. “I like Google Classroom because we can ask questions really fast and chat with the other kids in the class about school work also. I do miss seeing my friends and playing with them at lunch and recess.”

“I feel pretty good but not too good because I miss all of my friends, seeing my teacher and past teachers in person,” said Evelyn. “I don’t really like being on the computer because I would rather be in the classroom. But I am glad that I get to still do school at McKinley because I love McKinley. Even though I miss being at school, I like doing the Google Meet everyday so I can at least see my teacher and friends in class.”

John Muir Middle School seventh-grader Matthew Winn pay attention during his remote learning class. (Photo Courtesy Amy Winn)

On Monday through Thursday, the elementary school distance learning plan for grades one through five allows for two 60-minute periods of live instruction in Math and English/Language Arts in the morning, with a break in between, followed by lunch.

After lunch, there are 110 – 120 minutes of asynchronous learning, which includes 45 minutes of live virtual instruction (which can include small group interactions, individual support and teachers answering questions/emails or providing enrichment in PE, Reading, Social Studies, Science, Art or Music, or Math and English/Language Arts if needed.)

On Fridays, one hour of live virtual interaction with students is held. The weekly plan is similar for Kindergarten students, but with the live interaction typically in 40 minute intervals for Monday through Thusday.

Carey Bennett-Dean and Kevin Dean are the parents of fifth-grader Olive Dean, a student at McKinley Elementary. They have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“My husband and I both work in the entertainment industry; Kevin is a Key Grip and I am a Costume Designer. Neither of us has had work since school closed on March 13,” Dean explained.

“We are grateful that BUSD pulled together a distanced learning model so quickly,” she said. “Truthfully, one of the most important things my daughter has learned [is] that everyone has challenges and it takes all of us being thoughtful and super patient to sort them out. She’s also really seeing how much stuff parents, teachers and administrators do behind the scenes to keep everything running smoothly.”

“Online learning has been a welcome way to organize our day and serves as a path to keep us learning.”

Olive Dean, a fifth-grader at William McKinley Elementary School, pauses during her remote learning education. (Photo Courtesy Casey Bennett)

“Overall it has worked rather well. There are the occasional assignments that won’t open or are otherwise compromised. Like today, Olive opened an assignment that had already been filled out by another student. In our experience there’s some funny issue like that each day but the kids write their teacher about it and it gets resolved,” Dean continued. “I have yet to need to seek help from the school district or even her teacher. I do have a text chain going with other parents in her class and we communicate any issues and challenges and help each other sort them out.”

Olive says she likes “not being in a rush to finish assignments, doing things at her own pace and having snacks whenever she wants.”

“She definitely gets computer fatigue and often finds learning by herself at home boring,” Dean admitted, and “she says the hardest thing is that she dearly misses her friends and the social aspect of school.”

“This go around, having the teachers there in person is huge for us. Olive would much rather be taught from her teacher than from me and her morale is much better with the enthusiasm and connection from her teacher,” Dean said. “I appreciate that the assignments are posted per day, as opposed to posting all the work for the week on Monday which is overwhelming.”

“Overall, with the computer model, I think creativity suffers greatly as they are no longer drawing or using color in assignments. Being able to communicate that way and express herself through art or artful assignments is really what makes Olive tick. She used to thrive on those type of assignments, even making wonderful doodles on regular assignments and going the extra mile to make the assignment great. Now she keeps a piece of paper next to the key board on her desk to draw on while listening.”

“I think she also learns kinetically, so having to sit for long stretches and be at attention in a computer screen is hard and exhausting for her. Normally, being able to move around and be in the flow of her day, energizes her.”

Fifth grade student Olive Dean works intently from her at home remote learning station. (Photo Courtesy Carey Bennett)

What does Dean find positive about the remote learning model?

“Having the assignments post each day and notated as to when they are due is so helpful! I go over everything with her after the first in-sync session and I do have to monitor to make sure it is all getting done. Olive will talk herself out of needing to do ALL of the assignments, so it takes paying attention on my part and finding the right balance of keeping her motivated but not being too much of a nag,” she explained. “Breaks, snacks and ultimately making sure I hold space enough so she is not so distracted that she can’t get all the reading done.”

“She mostly works independently and only asks for help on assignments here and there. It’s really more the stamina and motivation to press through and get everything done each day that is a true challenge.”

Olive wishes there was “time to socialize.”

“I am acutely aware of how little exercise she is getting,” Dean continued. “It is tough to get her to do the GoNoodle assignments anymore so I really have to work in ways to get exercise. We do a daily walk, for sure, but she never gets to run and scream and laugh with other kids like she got to do daily at recess.”

“I have heard that older kids have to prove that they are exercising; is there something we could do to that end?” Dean wondered. “Some team building or off line challenges that they compare notes on each day would definitely help with motivation and make it more fun.”

What does the Dean family’s typical day of remote learning look like?

“We wake up, do some chores, check in on Teddy Bear the hamster, eat breakfast then she’s off to school. I monitor from a distance and work to keep her motivated to keep going and get everything done. We often read our separate books while sitting together as it’s the only way to create an atmosphere to get reading done. She’s mostly done with all school assignments a little after lunch.”

Six third grade Dual Immersion Spanish students, placed at tables socially distant from each other, from McKinley Elementary meet twice a week for their supervised learning pod. The families manage the pod and agree to a contract about social behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo Courtesy of a Burbank parent who wishes to remain anonymous)

“In the afternoon she has online art classes and we are going to be starting in-person-distanced volleyball and Japanese lessons (her wish because she loves anime so much!) We also make time to play with friends online on Roblox or Minecraft or just chat on the phone together. We are seeing friends safely in person, maybe only once or twice a week. Exercise is the real challenge. We go for a walk everyday but the quality of exertion and silly exuberance is just not the same as what she used to get at school and playing with friends.”

“My husband and I are not working from home in a significant way as we are out of work until the movie studios are able to open up,” Dean added. “However we are all usually on Zoom calls of one nature or another. Sometimes there are three Zoom calls happening at once and the challenge is finding a place to take the call where we are not interrupting each other.”

“Our house has a desktop for Olive, two laptops and two iPads, two phones and an iPod, all of which we have accumulated over the years and all seem to get a work out every day. We have alarms on all the devices to remind us to put them down.”

“Our internet has been seeming slower but we’ve luckily not had any significant issues. We have definitely had issues with Zoom and Google along the way as we learned the little tricks to making things run smoothly, like turning devices completely off more frequently, clearing the cache and sometimes just having to hop onto another device quickly while we sort out the one that’s not functioning. It’s a group effort to keep it all running smoothly.”

Georgia Dadekian is in seventh grade at Luther Middle School. (Photo Courtesy Kristi Dadekian)

Kristi Dadekian has three children utilizing remote education in her household: John Burroughs High School (JBHS) junior Sonya, and Luther Burbank Middle School eighth-grader Lana and seventh-grader Georgia.

The first week of 100% distance learning was “up and down” for the family, Dadekian admitted. “Fortunately for me I have older kids who are more self sufficient and tech savvy so it’s a bit easier than those who have elementary school kids.”

Most of the issues the Dadekian girls faced involved technology.

“For some reason the Google Classrooms don’t work as well as Zoom,” Dadekian said. “My younger girls are using Chromebooks that we got from the school. When they are on Google Classroom they sometimes get kicked off and have to try to get back on. My oldest is using an older Mac laptop that we had and she doesn’t seem to have that same problem.”

“We are trying to work it out here, but might have to talk to the school soon if it keeps happening.  I have given my laptop to my youngest when it keeps happening to her.”

Sonya Dadekian, a junior at John Burroughs High School, shows off her at home education work station. (Photo Courtesy Kristi Dadekian)

Dadekian acknowledged her daughters are doing fine with remote learning “but they really miss being at school with their friends and teachers. I feel the same. I miss them being in school too.”

“In some ways it’s kinda okay because we aren’t running from one thing to the next or having to rush out the door in the morning. I don’t mind the slower pace. However, we all feel more cooped up than ever. Some days my girls don’t even leave the house and it can get to them. I told them they need to walk around the backyard during class breaks.”

“I think the fact that the teachers are actually teaching them live is great. At least for the age of my girls. I think the only thing that could be better is better connection with the computers.”

The Dadekians also had to upgrade their internet service to accommodate learning and working from home by multiple members of the famile.

“My husband is a movie trailer editor. Currently he doesn’t have a steady job, because of the pandemic, but he does do freelance work when he can. When he does, he needs the WiFi at top speed for the videos he edits,” Dadekian explained. “We had to switch over to a different provider with a faster internet during the spring for that.”

“We kept our other internet provider too because it was cheaper, although slower. This way we have two different internets to use when everyone needs to get on. I substitute in the district, and so far haven’t had any jobs for that yet and not completely sure how that will work yet.”

Remote learning is “fine for now, but I want to go back to school!” commented Lana.

“I get frustrated when I get kicked off of Google Meet,” said Georgia. “I miss being in school.”

“I think so far it’s going ok, but obviously I’d prefer real school,” added Sonya.

Eighth-grader Lana Dadekian pauses from remote education work. (Photo Courtesy Kristi Dadekian)

Diana Lucas is a Kindergarten teacher in a charter school outside of BUSD and is currently teaching her class remotely. Her three children attend Burbank schools: seventh-grader Dylan and eighth-grader Jared go to Luther Burbank Middle School and daughter Lauren is a senior at John Burroughs High School.

“We are all adjusting to remote learning and our new settings at home as our classroom. The first week back, the kids experienced delays, glitches and disconnections at times during their live instruction,” Lucas commented. “We anticipated needing a good WiFi signal, so we had our service provider come to the house to relocate our router to the middle of the house where the signal can be reached by all learning areas. This week has been much better.”

“On a typical day, the kids are receiving synchronous, live instruction from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They attend three classes per day. We lunch for an hour, and then  go back to complete asynchronous (online) assignments until they are completed.”

Luther Burbank Middle School seventh-grader Dylan Lucas works on his remote learning lessons. (Photo Courtesy Diana Lucas)

Lucas noted her son Dylan takes about one to two hours to complete his work on those days, Monday through Thursday, “He is a G.A.T.E. student who works hard at his academics.”

“I don’t really need to monitor the kids’ study habits, but like to check on what assignments they are assigned and help answer anything they may not understand.”

“I like the distance learning schedule,” commented Dylan. “I like that the school day is shorter and I only meet with three classes a day. I have less homework because of this. I don’t like distance learning because I miss seeing my friends.”

“I am fortunate to work from home and be with my family,” said Lucas.

“Last Spring, when the kids weren’t able to return to school, it was more difficult for families. We were all new to the challenges we were facing. For example, we were all sharing one laptop! That was tough!” she continued. “The kids were assigned work via Google Classroom without any type of teaching or instruction. So, there were many days where we would take turns doing research and completing the assignments.”

“BUSD was much better prepared for the return of students by loaning out Chromebooks for any student who needed one, and the teachers and students now have class meetings via Zoom or Google Meet, Monday – Thursday, with a full day of asynchronous learning on Fridays,” Lucas also said. “For now, we are taking it a day at a time. We are blessed to be healthy and safe at home, but look forward to the day that we return to in person schooling.”

The Goulet family have also adjusted to the remote learning approach and have marked the differences between the last few months of school in March through May as compared to the current Fall semester.

“Things have, surprisingly, been going very well for Eliza. You can feel and see the difference from how the school year ended in May,” commented Amy and Derick Goulet, who also noted their older son, who graduated from JBHS in May, is currently a college freshman taking classes remotely at home. Daughter Eliza is a seventh-grader at Luther.

“Thankfully, we have only had minor issues with distance learning. A few times last week while Eliza was in a live class session she was disconnected or bumped off. Being disconnected caused her to panic a bit, but she was able to log back in, get connected and carried on. We requested a hotspot from the District before school started and I think that has helped alleviate any major technology issues.”

Eliza Goulet, a seventh-grader at Luther Burbank Middle School, shows off her at home remote learning station. (Photo Courtesy The Goulet Family)

“Eliza has adapted well to distance learning. She enjoys only having three classes a day and likes the slower more leisurely pace of learning from home,” Amy went on to say. “She hasn’t felt the same pressure as when in-person, moving through six classes per day combined with homework and extracurriculars.”

“Her one complaint is that it is still sometimes hard to understand assignments, especially those given for asynchronous or independent learning. She knows she can always seek help or ask questions through the Google Classroom or via email, but because you are not face to face the response is not always immediate. Because you have three classes per day, not seeing and connecting with teachers daily is difficult too.”

“As parents, our biggest concern is that these students are only experiencing three classes a day. Are they learning half as much as they would if in-person? Will they be prepared to advance to the next grade? Are they forced to learn/complete material independently that they would have otherwise learned in person and therefore risking not grasping the concept correctly?”

“Eliza is extremely self sufficient and responsible. She needs to be monitored very little. She knows how to log in, be on time, navigate the Google Classroom, ask questions electronically and submit homework assignments. We are very lucky in that respect, but with that said, I still log into the Aeries Student Portal to monitor attendance, grades and missing/incomplete assignments.”

“The typical day of distance learning consists of getting up and ready for school, having breakfast and being logged in to class by 7:55 a.m. There are three classes per day, each consisting of a 45 minute ‘live’ instruction followed by 35 minutes of teacher support where the teacher is available and ‘live’ to answer questions and help with classwork or independent learning assignments. There is a 10 minute break between classes. The last class of the day ends at 12:20 p.m. followed by a lunch break until 1:30 p.m. Students are expected to be working on asynchronous or independent work from 1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.”

“My husband is currently working out of the home due to COVID, so he’s able to provide support and answer questions for Eliza as well, in real-time,” continued Goulet. “The hotspot allows Eliza to have her own WiFi dedicated to schooling, even though my husband is working only ten feet from her. It has alleviated the strain on our network provider so far.”

“Our son started remote learning at UC Berkeley just this week, though, and he’s already expressed issues with our current WiFi situation. We have been able to manage our computers pretty well and are conscious of each other’s virtual calls and schedules. If two people are having Zoom or Google Meets at the same time, things can slow down. We will have to see how it plays out in the next week or two, if we have to bump up to a better network.”

“What I would like to say to parents and fellow students is, I know it’s hard and I’ve had my hard days too, but I’m telling you, you will get used to it for the time being,” said Eliza. “I believe in each and every one of you!”

George and Michelle Robinson’s son Dylan is a sophomore at Burbank High School. So far, their experience with 100% distance learning has been positive.

Dylan Robinson, a tenth grade student at Burbank High School, pauses from his remote education work. (Photo Courtesy Michelle Robinson)

“Thus far it has been going well. One of the benefits was our son took an online class over the summer. It helped him prepare for some of the technology hurdles students are facing today,” they said.

“As expected with technology, some days it works seamless. But we have had the internet go down but thankfully we were able to reconnect, or have the backup device that does not require WiFi,” the Robinsons continued. “We ended up upgrading our WiFi system just prior to school start. Especially because we have two students and both parents working from home.”

“With the support of teachers and counselors, the routine, class expectations and Zoom etiquette laid out, this week is going better,” they acknowledged. “Also, our employers are very supportive and are aware of the challenges. As parents we are here to support Dylan in any way needed.”

“I feel more comfortable with it now, especially with what I learned with online learning with World History over the summer,” commented Dylan. “Especially with uploading assignments and calendaring.”

“What I like about it, is that all we are all learning and working in Zoom, with Google Classroom and Google Meets,” he continued. “My assignments are easily accessible in Google Classroom. I check what I need to do and what I am missing with Google Classroom, which is great. I’m currently liking the class structure, and the amount of time spent in each class.”

“What I dislike is not being with my classmates and interacting with my teachers in person,” Dylan added. “Especially, when there may be a time that we could all discuss a problem or assignment, and sometimes it’s hard when everyone is talking at the same time on Zoom.”

“Being on Zoom means making sure you pay attention, that is important. It’s important for the time we have with the teachers to listen and understand. You just can’t go back to the classroom and ask a question,” he explained. “That doesn’t mean you can’t reach out to the teacher, it’s just different and not as immediate. I also miss seeing everyone on campus. Especially the excitement that is normally felt the first week of school. I’m an athlete as well, and missing my Football and Baseball teammates. Not being on campus affects students in so many ways.”

“We like that we are able to be there for Dylan if he needs us. We dislike that he is missing out on the interaction with teachers and friends,” the Robinsons also said. “We do provide tech support when needed. Making sure the headphones are still working, connectivity works, or if there are issues with the mic which are challenges anyone can face.”

“Dylan has a zero period and Zoom begins in our house at 7:00 a.m., Monday through Thursday, and goes until 1:30 p.m. each day. He also has class check ins on Friday. He continues with assignments after school.”

“It can be challenging at times, with both parents online, and two students, one of whom is a college student (recent BHS 2020 grad Justin Robinson,)” they said. “We each needed our own computer set ups, whether hardwired or WiFi based, so that we are all able to be successful throughout the day. It’s being mindful of the student needing to focus and have an area they can do that. Along with parents needing to balance phone calls and Zoom calls.”

“We support each other through it all, as we navigate through these ever changing times,” the Robinsons added.


Burbank Unified Back To School Approach Looks Different For Fall 2020

Due to the COVID -19 pandemic, Burbank Unified’s reopening and back to school efforts, with the implementation of 100% distance learning, made the first day of school look very different for teachers, administrators, students and families for the start of the 2020-21 school year on Monday, August 17.

For the past several years, myBurbank staff photographer Ross Benson has accompanied Burbank Unified Superintendent Matt Hill as he would check in at the various school sites, usually visiting about 10 schools on the first day.

This year, on the first day, students logged in to their online classrooms from home and teachers welcomed their new students virtually in Google Meet or Zoom either from their homes or their otherwise empty classrooms at school sites.

McKinley Kindergarten teacher Kasey Palermo teaches her class remotely from school. (Photo Courtesy Liz Costella.)

Once BUSD decided in July to open Fall 2020 with 100% distance learning, the remaining summer weeks turned into a focused effort for teachers and staff alike to get up to speed with technology and remote learning.

“Our teachers and staff did an amazing job getting ready for the first week of the year,” commented Hill. “This is definitely going to be a challenging year, but everyone rallied together to support our students. We also appreciate the partnership with our parents as we navigate this new learning model.”

One of the benefits of the Measure S parcel tax bond passed in 2013 was the technology and infrastructure upgrades carried out over several years. The money raised from the bond measure allowed BUSD to upgrade wiring/cable and tech infrastructure at all school sites, which in the current environment of remote learning has proved almost prescient, while at the time the upgrades were simply viewed as bringing BUSD up to a current standard.

Burbank Unified has made a huge effort to get Chromebooks and hotspots into the hands of students and families who didn’t have the access to individual workstations or reliable access to the internet. The District has loaned out more than 1000 hotspots and 5000 Chromebooks to date and continues to work with families in need.

McKinley first grade teacher Lisa Fuentez works from her empty classroom. (Photo Courtesy Liz Costella.)

While the teachers and staff put in a lot of work to be prepared for remote learning, perhaps the biggest challenge facing the District and its students is the need for consistent, reliable internet access via devices that work up to current tech standards.

“Google Meet and Zoom have had periodic issues and we have experienced other technology glitches that our help desk is working through,” Hill also said. “Parents can call the help desk at (818) 729-3401.”

Emails detailing troubleshooting actions have been sent to all BUSD families over the past week, outlining steps to try and rectify tech issues.

Hill noted that Chromebooks and hotspots are still available for loan and encourages families in need to contact their school principal.

Another important aspect of school is access to Nutrition and Lunch, particularly for families who qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program. BUSD provides a week’s worth of Nutrition and Lunch, available for pickup from each school site on Fridays, for students who qualify for the program in addition to students whose families choose to purchase the meals.

Burbank’s William McKinley Elementary School yard is empty. Normally it’s filled with children for recess and activities. (Photo Courtesy Liz Costella.)

“In our first week of distribution, our participation was 1089 meal kits (10,890 meals),” said Hill. “Meal distribution will continue to be every Friday from 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Meals need to be picked up from the school site your student attends and pricing will be determined based on the meal benefits your student qualifies for. Families need to fill out an new meal application every school year.”

Approximately 35% of BUSD students qualify for the Free and Reduced Lunch program. The application can be found online at www.busdfoodservices.com.

“Families who qualify for Free benefits will not have to pay for these meals. Families who qualify for Reduced benefits will pay $3.50 per student/per week (.30 cents for each nutrition meal and .40 cents for each lunch meal),” explained Kathy Sessinghaus, Director of Food Services for BUSD.

“Families who do not qualify for benefits will need to pay full price for each meal. Elementary will pay $28.75 per student/ per week ($2.25 for each nutrition meal and $3.50 for each lunch meal),” she added. “Middle and High School will pay $31.25 per student/per week ($2.50 for each nutrition meal and $3.75 for each lunch meal.)”

Luther Burbank Middle School Principal Oscar Macias gears up for on site work at the school. (Photo Courtesy Oscar Macias.)

There has been a lot of concern voiced online in thought pieces and via social media, going into the new school year, over how students – particularly, the younger ones – will do with remote learning. While some parents have opted for homeschooling, hiring tutors for individual attention or creating small learning pods with other families for support, in general, most families have continued to stick with the Burbank Unified School District for education.

Overall, Burbank Unified’s enrollment is steady, according to Hill, at approximately 15,000 students throughout the District.

“We have fewer kindergarten students than projected, but we have enrolled more middle and high school students than expected,” he said.

Currently, Burbank Unified remains focused on providing 100% distance learning for its students’ education, while planning for an eventual return to in person education.

Burbank High AP Stats and Algebra I teacher Robert Hammell shows off his at home remote teaching setup. (Photo Courtesy Robert Hammell.)

“Reopening will depend on current health conditions and guidelines,” commented Hill. “Current guidelines require six feet of physical distancing, so when it is safe and appropriate to reopen we would phase in with a hybrid model.”

Hill noted in a recent Board of Education meeting that the District does not want to reopen schools only to have to shut them again with a resurgence of the COVID-19 virus. Thus, BUSD’s approach to reopening for in person education will be cautious and measured.

Remote learning will remain accessible for those students and families who wish to utilize that approach for the remainder of the ’20-21 school year, Hill said, even when a hybrid or fully open education model becomes available.

Burbank Unified is comprised of 11 elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools including Monterey Continuation High School, along with the Horace Mann Child Care Center, Community Day School, Magnolia Park School, the Burbank Adult School and the Independent Learning Academy, an established online-only program. More information on the Burbank Unified School District can be found on their website.

Rick’s Sports Corner: How COVID-19 Wreaked Havoc On Local Sports Teams

By Rick Assad

Eight months into 2020, it’s safe to say that it has been an ugly and harrowing year.

It began ominously, when, just before Oregon outlasted Wisconsin 28-27 in the Rose Bowl Game on New Year’s Day, it was announced that David Stern, the longtime NBA Commissioner, whose 30-year reign helped popularize basketball around the world, had died at 77.

Twenty-five days later, on an overcast Sunday morning, Kobe Bryant, age 41, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others perished on their way to a youth basketball game in a helicopter crash in Calabasas.

The news didn’t get any better when in January, a mysterious virus was infecting and killing thousands of people.

The World Health Organization named this virus, COVID-19 on February 11.

A fall sport, football won’t begin until January. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

Nothing like it had been seen since the Spanish Flu infected 500 million people worldwide from February 1918 until April 1920 and killed between 17 to 50 million people.

It was one of the most deadly pandemics the world had ever witnessed.

On March 12, COVID-19 became real in the United States when the NCAA decided to cancel the highly-popular and highly-profitable men’s basketball tournament.

The NBA, NHL and MLS followed suit and suspended their seasons. MLB was holding exhibition games, but sent its players home, weeks before the baseball season was set to begin on March 26.

COVID-19 didn’t spare anything in its way and that includes high school sports. The following week, I was scheduled to cover a Burbank High girls’ volleyball match.

Patrick McMenamin, the Burbank co-athletic director and math teacher, said it would be played, but with no fans in the stands and no media.

High school classes in Burbank and elsewhere became virtual and all sports were put on hold.

I’ve covered high school athletics for three decades, including eight years at this website.

Basketball will be put on hold until March 2021. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

You get to know athletes, coaches and administrators. I started thinking how awful it must be for a senior to not be able to finish out their athletic career on the field or court.

Being a prep athlete isn’t easy, as it takes  skill to juggle sports, academics and a social life.

Doug Nicol, the longtime softball coach at Burroughs, chimed in with his thoughts on what it was like to have the season end.

“It’s been extremely hard. The bonds that you build and share with your players. It is hard to just put that aside,” he said. “It was an abrupt stop. Stopped us in midseason so that made it even harder. We were just starting to come together and build our culture back up. To have it stop so suddenly was really hard.”

Nicol also knew it would be difficult news for the seniors. “I feel for our four seniors because all four were performing at such a high level and giving me 100 percent,” said Nicol, who is in his second tour of duty as coach. “They were so bought in and invested and it was hard to not let them finish. Third baseman Memorie [Munoz], pitcher Sidnie [Dabbadie], center fielder Isabella [Kam] and right fielder Sabrina [Englebrecht] laid the groundwork last year for our foundation and any success we have next year, they will be a part of.”

Baseball was interrupted in March because of COVID-19. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The football season, which usually begins in late August or early September, will begin in January.

Adam Colman, the Burbank football coach, said he expects his team to be ready, but realizes there will be roadblocks.

“It’s obviously been a challenge and very different, but we’ve tried to approach it with optimism and as an opportunity,” he said. “One of our core values is resiliency and what better way to work on that then in this setting. We’re focused on working on the mental side of the game and linking it to handling any adversity life throws at you.”

Colman feels confident that his players will be prepared when the games commence.

“Our team has responded tremendously. They’ve taken initiative and many are working out on their own, staying active and engaged, watching film and asking questions, reviewing the playbook and all that,” he said. “So as much as I miss being out there with our team, and I think everyone misses it, we’re really focused on controlling what we can control. Complaining and being upset about it doesn’t do anything, so we might as well use it as an opportunity to grow and get better.”

Allan Ellis, the Burroughs boys’ basketball coach, is looking and hoping for the best despite what lies ahead.

Softball hopes to begin its season in 2021, like the other sports. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“COVID-19, the pandemic, quarantine, school closures, business closures, it’s taken a toll on me personally, and our team, players as a whole, as it has with a lot of people,” he said. “But myself and my coaches always try to teach our players that, we don’t make excuses and we don’t dwell on problems. We look for solutions. And we also must remind ourselves that there are people dying, suffering and livelihoods being affected at the same time, to keep everything in perspective.”

Ellis is fairly certain his team will bounce back from this adversity.

“I believe we’ve done a good job of keeping our kids connected with our coaches in general, keeping them informed and also trying as best as can be done to conduct workouts with many of our kids, whether that’s with Zoom workouts, emails, with specific personal information,” he said. “So I’m pleased with the overall efforts of my staff and the resiliency of our kids during this time. Nothing takes the place of actual gym time as a team, but we’ve learned to adapt, like most programs are doing across the country.”

Burbank baseball coach Bob Hart saw the Bulldogs’ season end prematurely. “Like everyone, we have been greatly affected. Team sports is about camaraderie and it’s hard to develop when you can’t be around each other,” he said. “Our approach is going to be that patience and resolve and as we tell the players, that will ultimately serve them well in life.”

Hart has faith in his players. “We will be doing individual training in the fall and adjust as we are able to. Predicated on decisions made by the powers that be,” he said.

Sports are going to be different, but at least the coaches and athletes will hopefully have a chance to finish the season on the field or court.

Application Period Begins for Burbank Rental Assistance Program

The City of Burbank is committed to assisting renters impacted by COVID-19. A commitment of $439,910 in Community Development Block Grant and Los Angeles County Measure H funds will be used to provide emergency rent assistance to low-income renters. The assistance is available on a first-come, first served basis until funds run out, at which point, the program will end.

Renters financially impacted by COVID-19, may apply for the Burbank Rental Assistance Program for up to $800 per month for up to 3 months if specific criteria is met.

  • Reside in Burbank
  • Do not exceed the annual income below based on your household size as a result of COVID-19


No. of









  • Be financially impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Experienced a job loss, furlough, or reduced work hours due to COVID-19
  • Not receive any form of rental assistance or reside in housing with affordable housing covenants
  • Have a current rental agreement
  • Have fallen behind on your rent for the month of April, May, and/or June

The application period will begin on Monday, June 22, 2020, starting at 8:00 a.m. (Pacific Standard Time (PST)) and end on Friday, July 3, 2020 5:00 p.m. PST. Due to limited funding, the City will only accept 300 applications by or before the application period end date, whichever comes first. All applications must be submitted on-line at: https://www.burbankca.gov/ by clicking the Rent Assistance Program Banner that will appear on the top header at 8:00 a.m. on June 22. Applicants should have a rental agreement and payment arrangement agreement (if applicable) electronically available. Only one application per household will be accepted.

For other general questions or assistance, please call the Application Call Center at (818) 238­5180, Monday – Friday, from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., and someone will be able to assist you.


City of Burbank Gives Guidance to Reopening Businesses in City

On May 26th the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced the reopening of some business sectors, including all indoor and outdoor retail shopping centers, at 50% capacity. If you are a business owner or employee, we want to provide you with the necessary information to reopen. 
The most recent Order issued by the Los Angeles County Department of Health on May 26, can be found here.
When opening, each business sector must meet certain protocols. Please review the protocols before you open to ensure that you are meeting these requirements. As a part of these protocols, you must place a sign reminding customers and employees to meet the social distancing guidelines, to not enter the building if they are sick, wear a face covering, and to wash and sanitize their hands. 

The City has developed a downloadable poster or you may pick up a hard copy from our office. Please call (818) 238-5580 and we will leave you one in our pick up box.
Additionally, the City of Burbank would like to get your input on how COVID-19 has affected your business. Linked here is a short six minute survey to help the City develop plans and programs to assist the business community as we move though the stages of economic rehabilitation and recovery. Thank you in advance for taking this survey and sharing your thoughts. City of Burbank COVID-19 Business Survey

Questions? Please E-mail: COVID19@burbankca.gov or call: (818) 238-5180 (Monday-Friday, from 8:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m) and we will assist you.

Burbank High Seniors Pick Up Caps And Gowns For Graduation

On Monday, April 27, the graduating class at Burbank High School picked up their caps and gowns for commencement, slated to be held online later in May.

According to Burbank High Principal Tom Crowther, 656 students, including those who also study via the Independent Learning Academy, will graduate BHS in 2020. More than 400 students stopped by the school, following social distancing protocols, to pick up pre-ordered caps and gowns. Crowther noted many students borrow an older sibling or friend’s graduation wear as well.

Burbank High graduating seniors picked up their caps and gowns on Monday, April 27, following social distancing guidelines. (Photo by Salvador Cabezas)

Faculty, staff and parents showed up and lined the streets around the school, to support the graduating class with signs and cheering.

“We were happy with the smooth process, and the fact that people honored the social distancing guidelines and safety procedures put in place,” said Crowther. “It was proof we could have a little fun, and stay safe.”

Crowther noted that school resource officer Dustin Rodriguez spent the whole day on site and that Athletic Department secretary and Cheer Coach Megan Burkhart “deserves a ton of credit for planning and executing the day from start to finish.”

“She cares so much about the students and it really shows in the way she took care of them during this,” he said.

Photo by Salvador Cabezas

Cars lined up beginning where Burbank Boulevard and Third Street meet. Cars were guided in a line into the parking garage, located at the corner of Third and Delaware.

Cap and gown pickup “worked well,” Crowther said. “Our vendor distributed and kept everyone at a distance. New orders pulled into parking spaces and waited to be seen from afar.”

“We took the safety of the students, parents and staff really seriously and folks noticed the attention to details on this,” he added. “I know JBHS had a similar plan that went well at their place on Tuesday.”

Across town, seniors at John Burroughs High School picked up their caps and gowns on Tuesday, April 28. Parents, teachers, staff and community supporters lined the streets around the high school, honking car horns and holding signs, wishing the soon-to-be graduates well.

Photo by Salvador Cabezas

“The high schools are working hard to give our seniors a virtual graduation in late May,” continued Crowther. “It is our goal to honor the original dates for each school. We are drilling down details as we speak and will share details over the next few days.”

“If the COVID-19 pandemic situation improves, BUSD hopes to hold a real time commencement later,” he added. “For now, we want to ensure that the virtual effort is special and that it will be a keepsake for our Class of 2020.”

“While nothing will replace losing Grad Nite, and other culminating events, we want this to be something that they look back on and see the effort made on their behalf,” Crowther also said. “This is a special group of students and they deserved better than this thing that had been put in motion.”

Photo by Salvador Cabezas

“They are mature enough to understand that all seniors are in the same boat, and also that there are bigger things happening globally. However, it still feels very personal for them. It is so unfortunate.”

“For Burbank High School, we are using Wednesday’s “BHS TV” broadcast to announce valedictorian and salutatorians to the school community. We are also providing samples and directions for how seniors will prepare a “senior video statement” for our virtual ceremony. Guidelines for this will go out all week, as our timeline is tight.”

Photo by Salvador Cabezas

“This senior class will always hold a special place in my heart as my first class as Principal at Burbank High School,” Crowther, who’s also known as “Dr. C” around campus, said. “So while I have a bias, I want them to know that this is a special group of young people. They are talented beyond belief and they will make a difference in this world.”

“Their legacy at BHS will not be defined by the last few months, but rather how they left their mark over four years and what they will do as an encore in life’s next chapter. We wish them well and much love.”

Photo by Salvador Cabezas

Burbank Restaurants Treading Water to Stay Afloat

Burbank eateries have been hit by an economic tsunami after State and Federal orders shutdown non-essential businesses and required the public to stay at home in an attempt to stop the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

As an exception to the orders, restaurants were allowed to stay open with no in house dining allowed; only food to go was permitted to be sold. The orders have affected businesses big and small, locally owned and chain restaurants. To stay afloat eateries have laid off workers, reduce prices and are offering specials. Anxiety is high as restaurateurs wonder how much longer they can keep their doors open, while the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the worst that has happened since we have opened. We’re trying to do the best we can. Our hopes are going down,” said Yammy Brambile the owner of Mexcocina Cafe, a locally owned eatery serving authentic Mexican food.

Customers loved to sit down and relax while dining in, said Brambile. The lack of dine in sales have impacted the Cafe’s revenue severely dropping it from $35,000 a week to $15,000.

When office buildings and non-essential businesses closed, sales were cut further.

At the family owned Central Park Pizza, sales are down more than 50%. Located at the Batcade, an arcade with batting cages, half of Central Park Pizza’s sales disappeared when the Batcade closed. Now only sales for pick-up and delivery are made, and they offer no contact delivery. An innovation borne of the need to assuage customer’s fears of infection, some people are even afraid to order food, no-contact delivery is offered by restaurants eager to boost sales. The driver leaves the food where the customer had requested and departs; no contact is made between the driver or the buyer.

Siri Thai lost its lunch crowed when the entertainment studio’s closed their offices.

“It’s been very difficult. Lucky to still be open,” said Siri Thai owner, Max Kongvisawamit.

With sales down 60%, Siri Thai only serves dinner for walk in pickup, curbside pickup and delivery—including no contact delivery. Drivers use hand sanitizer and gloves to protect themselves.

“Drivers—they are pretty scared, but they want the money. They want more hours.”

The Smoke House lost most of its customers when the studios closed. The steak house is now offering reduced prices and a smaller menu for take out. Despite their take away sales doing well, they still needed to lay off most of their employees. The remaining are working four to six hours a day.

Loyal customers and neighbors have been the pillars holding up most of Burbank’s restaurants up. With no lunch crowd and reduced to selling only dinners to go, the Italian restaurant, Centanni Burbank has been kept afloat by their regular customers. The three owners, one of who is the Chef, are now running the establishment on their own. Their employees were laid off.

To increase sales, Burbank eateries have offered a number of specials and discounts. Centanni Burbank’s entire wine menu sells for just $15 a bottle, Mexcocina is including free deserts with orders over $60, Siri Thai provides free drinks and cash back, and the Daily Grill offers alcohol, including cocktails, to go and meal specials for two or more people.

The Daily Grill’s revenue is 10% of its normal business and 91 employees have been furloughed.

“My team members, I am constantly thinking of them. I worry about them,” said the Grill House General Manager Jessica Kasilian.

Layoffs at Burbank eateries have been steep with most or all of their workers gone. Central Park Pizza has managed to keep all their workers with reduced hours trying to help them.

“We are just open for our employees, so they can have…a few hours,” said Brambile.

“We are offering employees free food to support them,” said Siri Thai owner Kongvisawamit.

Restaurants are using various food order and delivery apps while still taking online orders at their websites. With the future uncertain and no idea when they will return to normal, Burbank restauranteurs are swimming hard to not drown in the pandemic tidal wave.

Kasilian remained resolute, “Lets work hard, let’s stay open.”

For a list of Burbank restaurants that are still open, click on the link to go to myburbank.com‘s Burbank restaurant’s page.