So far, so good for the learning pods that serve many of the Glendale Unified School District’s elementary students.
District officials reported to the GUSD Board of Education this week that no evidence indicates any transmission of COVID-19 among students or staff members involved in the learning pods. Four weeks into the school year, the news came as a relief to officials of the district, which is among the local pioneers of the system.
“We have had instances where we’ve tested pods — where we’ve closed it, tested everyone, cleaned everything, reopened it,” explained Assistant Superintendent Kelly King this week. “In all of the pods — 1,000 kids, 97 pods — as of today, we have not had any spread of COVID within our pods.”
The pods are set up to address child-care concerns for a plethora of GUSD families — chiefly, the children of essential workers, teachers and low-income families, among others. Groups of around 10 students — depending on the size of the classroom — arrive at their schools each day, and the same group is seated at the exact same desks in the same rooms for the day for virtual learning via their computers. A substitute teacher or other classified employee monitors them, but does not teach them.
King explained that the definition of “exposure” was when any person was, for at least 10 minutes, within 6 feet of another person who later tested positive for COVID-19.
“Even though an individual might have COVID, because of our safety precautions — the strict distancing, wearing the masks, hand washing, sanitizing — there has been no evidence of any individual-to-individual spread of COVID in any of the pods,” she added. “That’s really a testament to the hard work and dedication of our staff.”
At any rate, if an individual declines to be tested, he or she is made to sit out from the pod for 14 days, King said, and district policy is carefully tailored to mitigate how much information about which students may have been exposed to the disease is made public.
“We are very strict about keeping their information confidential,” she said.
This information was part of a broader update on the district’s functioning for the school year, particularly in light of the distance learning mandated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Los Angeles County Office of Education has at this point not allowed any school districts to resume
GUSD Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said she planned on sending surveys to families before the end of the first quarter to gauge their thoughts on how distance learning is going.
“Truly, the COVID experience has been not just emergency planning, but also an opportunity for innovation,” the superintendent added. “We are considering innovation coming organically from the field from our educators, from parents and from our students. Knowing that we will not return to pre-COVID conditions [in the foreseeable future], we have learned so much more and we have acquired new skills that will allow us to close the digital divide and deliver instruction differently at all levels.”