For the past month, Superintendent Matt Hill warned of the possibility that Burbank Unified School District students would need to continue distance learning for the remainder of the academic year.
The recent surge of COVID-19 cases made that a reality on Monday.
BUSD officials had held out hope that students might be able to safely return to campus for in-person instruction in the second semester, but Hill this week sent a message informing parents, students and employees that the district has decided to commit to distance learning.
Los Angeles County reported 6,124 new coronavirus cases on Monday, shattering the record for daily cases that had been set the previous week, and health officials expect the numbers to remain high during the holiday season.
“An alarming increase in COVID cases in L.A. County has hindered our plans to reopen schools in January via a hybrid learning model,” Hill wrote. “This is disappointing news for all of us since we were hopeful we could return students and employees back to campus in January.”
Schools throughout the county shuttered in March due to the pandemic and cannot reopen for all students because Los Angeles remains — according to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ranking system — in Tier 1, a classification that indicates a widespread risk of COVID-19 infection. The county would have to meet the next tier’s thresholds for two weeks to move into Tier 2, which indicates substantial risk of infection but permits students to learn on campus.
The decision allows district staff to shift its focus from rearranging class schedules and teacher assignments at some point during the second semester to developing a plan that would allow small groups of students on campus for in-person activities.
Athletes were recently allowed back on campus for voluntary conditioning, and Hill hopes to give other students the same opportunity at some point during the second semester, which begins Jan. 4.
“When health conditions improve, and in accordance with health guidelines, we will bring students back to campus for extracurricular activities and clubs,” Hill said. “This would include end-of-year activities, especially for our seniors, 8th-graders and 5th-graders. We also want to provide opportunities for students to meet with their teachers and classmates.”
The district plans to provide in-person assessments and instruction for small groups of special education students. School officials will also provide in-person assessments for students struggling with virtual instruction.
“We acknowledge distance learning is not working well for some students,” Hill said. “Therefore, we are developing plans to help students with their academics and social-emotional needs. As a reminder, if your child needs mental health assistance, Burbank Family Service Agency is available 24/7.
“I realize this is not the announcement we all wanted; however, we must prioritize the health and safety of our students, families and employees and provide a consistent and stable learning environment. We will continue to add to our distance learning plan with in-person opportunities as soon as health conditions improve.”