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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Schedule for Vaccinating GUSD Employees Is Uncertain

Photo courtesy USC-VHH
Mary Virgallito, an infection prevention specialist at USC Verdugo Hills Hospital, receives her COVID-19 vaccination in December. Virgallito said the hospital is “on standby” to begin vaccinating Glendale Unified School District employees when county officials permit it.

A sudden emphasis on extending COVID-19 vaccination opportunities to residents 65 and older in Los Angeles County may alter plans for a local hospital to begin inoculating Glendale Unified School District educators.
Nothing is set in stone, and the likelihood of further changes will probably grow as President Joe Biden’s administration settles in during the coming weeks. For now, however, the plan for USC Verdugo Hills Hospital to begin vaccinating GUSD employees against the virus starting on Jan. 30 has been paused. In an era of fast-breaking news, this change of plans came 24 hours after the GUSD Board of Education was briefed on the rollout.
“As with everything with COVID, there have been so many twists and turns,” said Mary Virgallito, associate administrator for quality and patient safety at USC-VHH, in an interview Thursday. “We’re just awaiting further guidance. We’ve done everything we can, including submitting a plan, so until the county activates us, we’re on standby.”

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GUSD Again Halts On-Campus Activities

Photo courtesy GUSD
Some transitional and kindergarten students briefly returned for in-person classes at Horace Mann Elementary School this week, before the Glendale Unified School District suspended on-campus programs for the remainder of January.

In anticipation of a coronavirus surge believed to be exacerbated by the December holidays, the Glendale Unified School District on Monday is pausing all in-person activities on campuses for the remainder of January.
The district tentatively plans to resume these programs on Monday, Feb. 1, but those plans, as with most things in the era of the coronavirus, are fluid. The latest decision comes by “strong recommendation” — not mandate — from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health that “all TK-12 schools in the county suspend in-person student instruction, services and activities during the month of January as much as possible,” according to the district.

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GUSD Provides Post-Thanksgiving COVID-19 Tests for Employees

Photo courtesy GUSD
Drivers lined up at Glendale High School for free COVID-19 tests for GUSD employees this week.

Glendale Unified School District offered free, drive-thru COVID-19 testing for all employees on Monday after the Thanksgiving holiday break.
The district organized a temporary drive-thru testing site at Glendale High School in partnership with Vital Medical Services. The rapid-response nasal swab test was provided to any GUSD employee who wanted it.
“We are happy to offer our employees access to convenient drive-thru COVID-19 testing as a proactive measure to ensure our community stays safe and healthy,” said Armina Gharpetian, president of the GUSD Board of Education, in a statement.
Employees received their results within 10 to 20 minutes. The district reported that 263 employees out of more than 2,600 took tests on Monday.
“Student and employee health and safety is and always will be our top priority,” Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said in a statement. “As we continue to provide essential services for our community, we are taking all responsible measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

GUSD Puts Schools’ COVID-19 Data Online

The Glendale Unified School District unveiled a new dashboard this week to illustrate the level of coronavirus infection among students and staff members involved in the district’s learning pods and athletic conditioning programs.
The dashboard, which is slated for regular updates and can be found online, will include current and cumulative confirmed cases as well as positivity and transmission rates at GUSD school sites. Names and other personal information will not be included, to protect privacy.
“As we continue the careful and deliberate return of our highest-need students for on-campus child care and instruction, we are counting on our students, families, and employees to help us by taking responsible measures to protect our entire Glendale Unified community.” said Superintendent Vivian Ekchian in a prepared statement.
For now, the cumulative and current cases are effectively the same in most situations, given the limited number of students and staff in given areas since the start of the school year.

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GUSD Heads Confidently Into School Year

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.

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School District Panel Will Seek to Fight Bias on Many Fronts

Vivian Ekchian, is superintendent of the Glendale Unified School District.

The Glendale Unified School District has announced that it is convening a working group that will focus on providing a culturally relevant and responsive education for all students.
The group will be made up of students, teachers, school and district administrators, staff members, community members and parents and guardians. Some of the areas of focus will include eliminating bias in curriculums and educational materials; providing professional development to ensure culturally competent leadership; actively recruiting a more diverse workforce; monitoring student discipline data to ensure students of color are not disproportionately penalized; and continuing the use of practices to build community, strengthen school culture, and repair relationships.
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