Shant Sahakian will lead the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education through what everyone hopes will be the end of the coronavirus pandemic, after he rotated in as school board president this week. After spending the past year as vice president, Sahakian now takes the reins from Armina Gharpetian, who led the district through the majority of the pandemic. Board member Nayiri Nahabedian was selected as vice president, positioning her for board leadership next year. “I take this responsibility very seriously, but I’m very mindful that we’re a team of five and, ultimately, we work together with our superintendent to achieve all the goals of the district,” Sahakian said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Our community has experienced a major stress test over the past year that I think nobody wanted to experience. We have witnessed the strengths and the vulnerabilities in our society. To anyone in our community who has lost a loved one, we wish our heartfelt condolences to you and your family.”
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.
The Glendale Unified School District will begin applying for waivers for the remainder of its elementary schools to resume limited in-person instruction, weeks after the district piloted a reopening at s. Meanwhile, district officials plan to keep a close eye on the ever-changing situation with regard to the pandemic and the plethora of restrictions it brings from county, state and federal leaders. For now, distance learning continues to be the primary teaching mechanism, and the board of education expects its next decision to be by March 12, the end of the third quarter and on the cusp of spring break. “The end of the third quarter and the day before spring break seemed to be a good decision at the time,” Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said, “but I do want to repeat that if we maintain a purple tier as a school district and county, it will be difficult to make decisions any differently than what we’ve made so far.”
The Glendale Unified School District has committed to continuing distance teaching through at least March 12, with the current surge in coronavirus cases essentially pulling the plug on any potential plans to add more in-person programming at the start of 2021. Superintendent Vivian Ekchian and the district’s board of education emphatically made that pledge at last week’s meeting, the last of 2020. As for wider in-person instruction, officials also acknowledged the very real possibility that they could move the goalposts further away as they approach March, depending on how Los Angeles County fares through the pandemic. “We will continue to engage in distance learning,” Ekchian said. “We are not interested in bringing more personnel back to our campuses — teachers, counselors, nurses, itinerant personnel, teacher specialists — during a surge. We will have to hope for the best. March 12 is the end of the third quarter; it seems to be the best next step in terms of our making safe decisions for all employees, students and the community. We are not making decisions beyond that, because much can change between now and then.”
Following what can probably be categorized as the most volatile six months in its history, the Glendale Unified School District Board of Education discussed its list of priorities for the 2020-21 school year at its meeting Tuesday evening. And, not surprisingly, making sure that distance learning works for all GUSD students amid the COVID-19 pandemic dominated the discourse. Following tradition, the board first analyzed the set of guidelines that were adopted a year ago and include maximizing student achievement, creating a culture of learning, increasing engagement and maintaining district solvency and financial responsibility. Then Superintendent Vivian Ekchian pushed the discussion — which will continue in future meetings — toward major focus areas for the current academic year. “This is the time to speak up,” Ekchian quipped, introducing the free-form conversation that followed.
Glendale Unified School District board members this week showed confidence in the back-to-school plans prepared by district administrators that are slated to kick off Wednesday, Aug. 19, as computers and tablets power up and video conference sessions are launched. Those images are relevant because the district is soldiering on with distance learning, with most students remaining home and elementary-age students in need of day care receiving instruction virtually at “learning pods” on school sites. “We’ve always spoken about the fact that no matter what type of model is embraced, we will continue distance learning because that is a commitment we made to the parents and community members who felt that they would not be ready to return whenever public health allowed us to return,” Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “Distance learning will be the constant and we will certainly consider hybrid learning as an option once public health allows us to move in that direction.”\In the meantime, the school board is expected to ratify, in a coming meeting, an agreement with the Glendale Teachers Association regarding distance teaching for fall 2020. The two parties announced in a joint statement late Wednesday that they had hammered out an accord and that the start of school remains Aug. 19.