It was a long road to get there, but the Burbank Unified School District officially welcomed back students for limited in-person instruction at all grade levels on Monday. The milestone attracted a television news van and media photographers, as well Board of Education President Steve Frintner, who had not visited any of the BUSD school sites since they shut down last March. “We really did miss students and teachers,” said Frintner, who visited Joaquin Miller Elementary School on Monday. “As a board member, and my other board members would agree, one of the things we enjoy most of the position is being at the school and seeing the interaction between the students and teachers.”
After years of delays, construction will soon begin on the new two-story modular building at Walt Disney Elementary School and the Burbank Unified School District celebrated the milestone with a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday. “Today is a monumental day for the Disney community as we are embarking on a new and highly anticipated chapter in our school’s history — the expansion of our school,” said Disney Elementary Principal Molly Hwang. “This beautiful building will provide solid structure for years to come while opening our footprint. This new construction will provide a place for teachers to bring out the best in our students, to inspire them with the love of learning and to create a space that provides a sense of community and belonging.” The new building will have 10 classrooms, two of which will be used for special programs, according to BUSD Director of Facilities Larry Cross. It will also have “state-of-the-art internet and technology features,” a new elevator, and the playground and sports field will nearly double in size.
The Burbank Unified School District reached a tentative agreement with the teachers association to reopen campuses for limited in-person instruction on April 12. Steve Frintner, BUSD Board of Education president, made the announcement during a virtual meeting on Thursday before hearing concerns from teachers and employees during the public comments portion. The district originally planned on returning at the end of March but pushed the date back a few weeks to give teachers more time to be fully inoculated. Negotiations between BUSD and employees are ongoing.
It may be a new year, but the concerns remain the same for the Burbank Unified School District. In the first official Board of Education meeting of 2021, Superintendent Matt Hill on Thursday apprised stakeholders and board members of a challenging road ahead in regard to planning for the current and following school year and the projected budget deficit. Responding to public comments about the possible reopening of schools for in-person instruction, Hill said he does not anticipate it happening during the current academic year because of the COVID-19 case rate in Los Angeles County and the slow rollout of vaccines. “The state requirement, as stated, is cases must be below 25 per 100,000 people [for campuses] to be allowed to reopen, and L.A. County is triple that right now,” Hill informed the board and community members. “As far as potential for reopening schools to the fullest extent this year, that is very unlikely in L.A. County.”
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.
The Burbank Unified School District is taking a stand on current social issues unfolding in the nation, updating its stakeholders and board of education on the work of the district’s equity, diversity and inclusion committee. “We know we have a lot of challenges in this country, in our city and in our district,” Superintendent Matt Hill said Thursday at a board meeting. “So we have to acknowledge those challenges and then we have to be able as [a California Teachers Association consultant] talks about going through a healing process and making sure we do that in a thoughtful manner. And then have clear action items on how we move forward to become more of an anti-racist school district.”