GUSD Prepares a Hybrid Education Program

Photo by Zane Hill / Glendale News-Press
Students at Mark Keppel Elementary School check into their distance learning technology pods in August at the start of the school year. Glendale Unified School District plans to continue running these pods after it launches a hybrid learning format that has students alternating between in-person and at-home instruction.

The Glendale Unified School District plans to transition into its hybrid education program for elementary schools in March, which has long been designated as the next major decision point for the district with regard to pandemic protocol.
The decision comes this week following the announcement from county officials that elementary schools could reopen their doors for limited in-person instruction, with or without the waivers they may have applied for. Those officials had anticipated this week that adjusted daily new coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County would fall below 25 new cases per 100,000 residents each day — the threshold for reopening elementary schools while in the purple tier.

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Distance Learning Taking Toll on Parents

Photo courtesy Leeron Tal Dvir
Teacher Claire Vencill reads to students Charlie Piedlow and Liam Dvir. Liam’s mother said she turned her garage into a classroom for the home-schoolers after her son’s struggles with distance learning.

Leeron Tal Dvir’s older son, Micah, is excelling in his 5th-grade classes at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School. In fact, he’s performing even better than he had during in-person classes.
But when her younger son, Liam, had classes online at Thomas Edison Elementary School last semester, he cried every day. “I hate fake school,” the 1st-grader would tell her.
Dvir hired a tutor to assist him in his distance learning lessons, and this semester she pivoted him fully to home schooling after building a classroom in her garage. Having someone to work closely with her son, the single mother said, helped immensely.
“I think a lot of parents are really struggling mentally,” Dvir said. “I think it is the school’s responsibility to make sure the families are doing all right. We’re all of a sudden responsible for having school in our homes. We didn’t sign up for that.”

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COVID-19 Outbreaks Reported at Local Senior Facilities

Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
A woman hands off bouquets to a worker at Le Bleu Chateau. Senior care facilities there have had a total of more than 70 residents who have tested positive for COVID-19 as of this week, according to the county health department.

As coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket in Burbank, several senior care facilities in the city have reported outbreaks and deaths, according to a county health agency.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health dashboard on Thursday listed 10 Burbank residential congregate and acute care facilities with COVID-19 outbreaks, a term that, in the county’s usage, can vary in meaning depending on the type of facility. Some locations in Burbank, the county reported, had fewer than 10 cases among residents and staff, but a few had many more.
Two Le Bleu Chateau facilities, for example, reported that more than 70 residents had tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 11 staff members at the assisted living facilities also had the disease, and seven deaths were reported to be linked to the outbreaks, though the county reports only a single total for staff and resident deaths. The county reported an outbreak at the first facility on Nov. 30, and at the second facility on Dec. 11. Both have remained on the outbreak list since. Public Health usually removes facilities from the list once the outbreak is over, but has sometimes been slow to do so.

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As Virus Spreads Further, High School Sports Shut Down

Photo courtesy Adam Colman
The Burbank Unified School District suspended all on-campus athletic activities on Monday in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. The Burbank High School football team had been conditioning on the field for about three weeks.

Concerned over the alarming rise of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County, Burbank Unified School District officials announced the suspension of all on-campus conditioning for the district’s high school athletes on Monday.
The county record for daily new coronavirus cases was broken for a second time this week with 7,854 reported cases on Thursday. The previous high (7,593) had been reported on Tuesday.
The student-athletes’ and coaches’ joy upon returning to campus for conditioning lasted only three weeks.

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Local Restaurants Struggle With Dining Ban

Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
Michel LeChasseur, who owns Ma’s Italian Kitchen in Burbank, said he feels restaurants are being unfairly singled out by Los Angeles County officials for a rise in COVID-19 cases.

Michel LeChasseur, owner of Ma’s Italian Kitchen in Burbank, said his business is on its last legs. He also said his restaurant is one of the lucky ones.
LeChasseur said the eatery, which made much of its revenue from its catering services to production studios, is bringing in less than a third of what it did before the COVID-19 pandemic. He had to slash employees’ hours and lay off 14 of his 22 workers. He added that he even chose to forgo his own salary so he could keep paying his workers; his husband’s job is keeping them both afloat.
Still, LeChasseur learned to adjust, though he watched eight friends lose their restaurants during the pandemic. He spread out tables on his restaurant’s patio and bought Plexiglas shields to protect customers. His servers wore gloves and two layers of masks. As the colder months approached, he purchased heaters.

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County Officials Affirm Suspension of Outdoor Dining

Los Angeles County this week delivered yet another blow to the restaurant industry by announcing the suspension of in-person dining outdoors, and officials later rebuffed an effort to reverse the move, while more restrictions were likely on the way as the number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to climb.
Outdoor dining, which had been permitted since July, has been suspended for restaurants, breweries and wineries after an alarming surge of coronavirus cases throughout the county; indoor dining at eateries has long been banned. Meanwhile, Gov. Gavin Newsom imposed a curfew for all nonessential businesses and gatherings between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. late last week.

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October Figures Show an Easing of Unemployment

The unemployment rate in Glendale fell to 12.3% in October, according to preliminary data, as workers continued to return to their businesses — good news that contrasted with restrictions on commercial activities that were ordered in the last few days because of a resurgent COVID-19.
Approximately 12,800 local workers remained unemployed last month, according to the California Employment Development Department, down from 16,400 (16.1%) in September and a height of 21,300 (21.9%) in May. Glendale’s February unemployment rate was 4.2%.
The joblessness rate in Los Angeles County also continued to fall to a similar level, reaching 12.1% in October.

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COVID-19 Cases on the Rise Locally, Nationally

By Zand Hill and Christian Leonard
Glendale News-Press

Glendale reached a dubious milestone this week as health officials sounded the alarm again on the apparently uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus that has left the nation reeling.
The number of city residents who have tested positive for the disease since March rose to 5,068, one of the highest totals among suburban Los Angeles municipalities. As of Friday, at least 186 Glendale residents have succumbed to the disease. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials reported this week that since Oct. 3, the test positivity rate for COVID-19 has risen from 3.6% to 5.9% countywide.
This week there were around 103 intensive care unit beds available countywide, as hospitalizations for the disease again are rising. This week there were 953 hospitalized patients — 28% of whom were in ICUs — after the county reached a low of 682 hospitalized patients on Oct. 3.

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Return to On-Campus Learning Appears in Jeopardy

A recent surge of new COVID-19 cases around the nation has Burbank Unified School District officials coming to grips with the possibility that the majority of its students will not be allowed to return to campus for in-person instruction this academic year.
The district recently committed to distance learning through the remainder of the first semester and staff members have been refining a hybrid model that would bring back students at a limited capacity.
However, a current trend in coronavirus cases had the board of education questioning whether it is best to continue working on a hybrid schedule or shift the focus to enhancing the distance learning experience.
In Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ranking system, Los Angeles County remains in Tier 1, a classification that indicates a widespread risk of COVID-19 infection and keeps schools closed. 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.

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