Burbank Unified School District officials held another virtual session on Tuesday focusing on special education and assured parents that they are working on a safe return for special-needs students.
Though the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has allowed schools to reopen at a limited capacity for students with disabilities and English-language learners since Sept. 14, BUSD has kept its campuses closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The district is working various scenarios and proposals to try to bring back some of our most vulnerable learners,” said Tamara Schiern, director of special education. “We are working on it, and I think we’re getting closer to implementing something.”
She added that more information will be provided in the “next few weeks” and that the district is looking into a possible “small pilot program” that would bring back a small group of students.
“If we are able to open for small groups of students, we will start small as a pilot and make sure that everything goes smoothly and … potentially look at expanding it in the event that the district isn’t able to open for everybody,” Schiern said.
Several parents asked about a return date for special-needs students and Schiern said she could not provide a specific point in time. However, she did leave open the possibility that it might happen before the winter break.
“It’s possible, but we don’t know yet,” Schiern said.
L.A. County initially permitted schools to bring back small cohorts of special-needs students — no more than 10% of a campus’ capacity — and revised that health order last Friday, increasing the capacity to 25%.
BUSD has made one small step toward reopening by allowing in-person psychological assessments, occupational therapy, physical therapy and counseling sessions.
Schiern said the district has been working with county officials to ensure all health protocols are in place and every site is safe and properly equipped with personal protection equipment.
BUSD is also ready to help its special education students socially and emotionally when they return to campus.
“We know that transitioning back to in-person school may be very challenging for a lot of our students, so we are prepared to help them through that,” Schiern said. “I’ve spoken with every school psychologist that we have about how they are preparing to provide the kind of social emotional support to students and staff as we return.
“For our students that may struggle with the transition, we have all of our wonderful behavioral interventionists. We recognize that it may not be easy. Our No. 1 goal is to help with that transition back.”