Let’s Talk September 2020

DISTANCE LEARNING QUESTIONS

Q.  It doesn’t seem to be a good idea to have combination classes when there are so few synchronous minutes with the teachers. Would it be possible to eliminate them this year?

A. We try to avoid combination classes but based on enrollment numbers, we sometimes need to still have them.

Q.  When are the elementary teachers teaching music?  Which grades are receiving music instruction and how much are they receiving?  Since the music teachers don’t have to travel from school to school, are you able to offer more instruction to the students?

A. Three of the five BUSD Elementary Music Teacher positions were eliminated in June 2020.  The remaining two Elementary Music teachers are conducting music classes online daily Monday-Thursday between 12:15 pm and 3:00 pm.  Two thousand students in grades 4 and 5 can receive music instruction virtually every other week.  Each 4th grade student has access to music instruction 1 hour a month, and each 5th grade student has access to music instruction for 1.5 hours a month.

Focusing on grade levels 4 and 5 maintains the sequential learning as students move into middle school and select their electives. Middle school enrollment in vocal and instrumental classes since 2007 has reflected this effort.

Q.  Based on this email, do we want to see that our child has an E every day?

A. Yes

Q.  What is the deadline to pay for AP tests this year?

A.The deadline to purchase an AP exam is November 13, 2020.

Q.  If you are an ILA [Independent Learning Academy] student, you can petition to take 1 or 2 classes at your home high school.  So if you are a JBHS student, can you petition to take 1 or 2 classes at ILA?  (What if they are classes that ILA offers but JBHS does not?) 

A. No. The comprehensive school sites are not approved by the state as Independent Study. The ILA is an Independent Study Program.

Q.  How long do students have to wait for the teacher to show up for the virtual class? If the teacher isn’t there after 15 minutes, should the students continue to wait?

A. Yes, they should continue to wait. Sometimes there are technical issues that the teacher is addressing. The teacher will try to notify students as soon as possible if there are issues.

Q.  When do teachers have to start posting grades in Aeries? It’s been four weeks, and in some classes there are no grades posted.

A. Teachers will update Aeries at least every two weeks. If you have any questions, please contact your teacher.

Q.  Can you share the reasoning behind the decision to use recorders at the middle schools for 6th grade music? Why did the teachers choose that instrument?

A. Middle School music instructors decided to use recorders (an instrument that is easily distributed, maintained) because it provides access to an instrument that supports the development of note-reading skills for beginning band students during the Covid-19 quarantine. In addition, recorders:

  • support instructional standards for beginning band
  • require/develop note reading
  • easily distributed
  • are affordable for students to purchase their own if they wish to do so
  • ensure students continue to develop foundational skills without developing bad habits that are difficult for a teacher to monitor and help correct virtually (posture, hold, etc.)

Now more than ever, excellent care and maintenance of instruments is essential. Instructors felt that the risks of distributing instruments without any in-person training for students may result in health and safety risks. Recorders were an option that allowed us to continue beginning instrumental classes without having to shift to a “music appreciation” model for the pandemic.

Q. I’m concerned about how much time the kids are spending on computers. 95% of my 7th grade son’s homework is on the computer.  We’ve been told that we need to limit the time they are on the computer due to screen fatigue, etc.  But the workload is too much.  My son is on the computer from 8 am until after 4 pm into the evenings because EVERYTHING he has to do is on the computer.  I was told it is this way because some kids don’t have a means to drop off workbooks or take pictures.  I understand that.  But the district cannot tell principals to tell us to kick our kids off of a screen when all the teachers are demanding homework be on the computer.  Do we kick off our kids and have them miss assignments or receive incompletes and have their GPAs drop?  Or do we suck it up and have 12 year-olds on a computer for over 8 hours a day.  Not to mention the ONLY way they can socialize with their friends is on a device like Messenger Kids or Steam etc.

A. The schedule is a compromise and in response to many parents requesting additional instructional time with the teacher. There is downtime built into the schedule for the reasons you have stated. The support period is a chance for the students to get off the computer unless they need support from the teacher. After every 45 minutes of instruction, there is a 30 minute support period. Parents are encouraged to reach out to the teachers directly if they have questions about the workload assigned to students.

Q.  How is BUSD going to address the learning slide that students may be facing because of the spring distance learning session?

A. Each teacher at the elementary school is assessing their students to determine gaps. The students will be supported by the classroom teacher, instructional assistants, or Response to Intervention (RTI) teacher. This can be in the virtual classroom for most students, but some students may be pulled out of the class to address their needs. At the secondary level, the primary focus is in English and mathematics. The teachers will assess their students and provide in-class instruction to support their students. In addition, some students may be pulled out for an intervention class to get additional assistance.

Q.  While the teaching model is the same at the middle schools and high schools (all subjects, two days per week for the semester), that is not the case for the Community Day School (CDS), which is rotating classes every ten weeks — a model that was rejected by BTA and by many parents that spoke out at the school board meeting over the summer.  Further, CDS students have learning and behavior difficulties which is why they attend CDS.  Having them learn a semester’s worth of curriculum in only ten weeks, while their peers are learning the curriculum over a semester would appear to put them at a disadvantage.  Why was this model adopted at CDS?  What about CDS students who are ready to return to their middle schools or high schools?  How can they do so without missing out on a subject or repeating a subject?

A. The model at CDS is three classes at a time, not six. They will complete a semester’s worth of work for three classes after the first ten weeks. They will take the next three classes for ten weeks so that at the end of the semester, the students will have completed all six classes. Students generally move back to their home schools at the semester mark, so they would still be able to transition smoothly. The school believes it is better for their students to focus on three classes at a time.

Q.  How are Student Study Teams (SSTs) and Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) being scheduled and addressed during Distance Learning?

A. Student Study Team meetings and IEPs are being scheduled and held as they normally are during a “regular” school year. Parents or teachers can request an SST or IEP at any time.  The only difference right now is that the meetings are being held through a video conference and signatures are electronic. Student’s individual needs continue to be addressed to the extent possible in light of the current circumstances. 

MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLNESS

Q.  How can schools help meet the social-emotional needs of students?

A. We can let our students know about the resources we have available through the school and district. At the site, we have academic counselors and intervention specialists. We also have a school psychologist and nurse. These people are specifically trained to work with kids and their social-emotional needs. Likewise, the district works with the Family Service Agency of Burbank. FSA provides Tele Mental Health services, and they are also available for drop-in service.

Q.  What do schools have in place to deal with the trauma of isolation, disease, and disruption that children have experienced during the pandemic, as well as the social unrest, protests, and violence related to systemic racism?

A. We have school-based counseling through FSA. A student can work with their academic counselor on a referral to FSA for one on one counseling. Students also have immediate, drop-in counseling services available by contacting FSA by phone.

Q.  What is the ratio of students to counselors, social workers, school psychologists, and nurses in the district schools? Given likely shortages of support staff, what is the district doing to supplement mental health support providers from outside the school system?

A. At the secondary, academic counselors have a caseload of about 500 students. The number varies slightly from site to site. There is one psychologist at each of the secondary schools and one school nurse. In order to supplement the support staff, the district has a contract with the Family Service Agency to support the mental health and wellness of our students.

HYBRID MODEL / REOPENING

Q.  If we go to hybrid, why is it set up to have two different groups of kids in the school on the same day?  Why half days?  Why not Group A comes on Monday/Wednesday, and Group B comes on Tuesday/Thursday?

A. Many of the district schools have large populations of students, even when divided in two. This presents extra challenges for the lunch time period. It presents extra challenges in terms of meal distribution, physical distancing of students, and additional cleaning. It puts more staff and students at risk. In addition, the reopening committee felt that for elementary students, it was important to have more contact with the teacher. They preferred four sessions with the teacher as opposed to two.

Q.  Here are my concerns about half days: Working parents have to stop their mornings to pick up their kids and take them home for the rest of schooling.  It is very disruptive.  It is easier on us working parents to drop our child off for a full day and then working from home without having to stop to go pick a kid up mid-morning or find someone to watch a child all day. The schools are being exposed to two sets of families every day.  Doesn’t that mean more cleaning and safety?

A. The reopening committee considered both models and determined that am/pm was the best model for the district. In addition, there were parents that believed their child care was more manageable with a set daily schedule. We understand either model will not fully meet the needs of all parents.

In the elementary schools, there is a break between sessions for extra cleaning. At the secondary schools, there will be cleaning between class periods, regardless of which model is chosen. However, the two day a week model would add extensive cleaning for lunch.

Q.  For support staff (bus drivers, food service workers, custodians, etc.) whose various roles bring them into contact with students and each other in non-classroom venues, who is teaching and tracking the provision of safety training?

A. All BUSD staff has been asked to take Covid-19 Health and Safety training. Principals are responsible for ensuring their staff has completed training. In addition, we send bi-monthly health and safety updates and information. Nurses are also participating in staff meetings to help train staff on proper health and safety protocols.

Q.  Have all educators, support staff, and contractors been thoroughly trained on safety protocols? Who provides this training and what is its composition?

A. BUSD provided Covid-19 Health and Safety created by our Joint Power Authority (JPA) to all staff. It teaches proper face coverings, hygiene practices, and physical distancing as well as other topics.

Q.  If an educator, another staff person, or student tests positive, is ill or is exposed, how will schools know whether students and staff should self-quarantine for 14 days and when it is safe for them to return to school?

A. When cases are reported, the District COVID Compliance team, in conjunction with Health Services and the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, completes necessary steps to ensure that the person follows the directive from their health provider and public health before returning to work.  

Q.  Will schools set up a mechanism with the local or state health department to ensure that educators, staff, students, and their contacts who are exposed are appropriately self-quarantined? Will districts work with health officials to facilitate contact tracing?

A. Yes. BUSD is already working closely with health officials to ensure that health and safety protocols are followed.

  • If an educational institution is notified of a child or employee with laboratory confirmed COVID-19, the child or employee with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 is instructed to isolate at home, away from others. The school will identify exposed contacts to child or employee with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. Contacts, or families of children who are determined to be a contact, are notified that they have been exposed to COVID-19 at the educational institution and instructed to quarantine and test for COVID-19.

  • If the contact has a positive COVID-19 test, the contact stays isolated at home 10 days from beginning of symptoms, or 10 days from test date, if no symptoms.  Prior to returning to the work/school environment, the contact must be fever free for 24 hours and not have symptoms of COVID-19.

  • If the contact has a negative COVID-19 test, the contact stays quarantined at home until 14 days from last exposure to the infected person.

Q. If we do get off the watch list and hybrid classes open with or without waivers, if you previously signed up for hybrid but now would rather continue 100% distance learning, can you do that?

A. Before we reopen, we will survey parents again so that they can pick a model for the rest of the school year.

Q.  If you wanted to continue 100% distance learning, would you still have your teacher? If so, would that be the case at all levels – Elementary, Middle & High School?

A. It will depend on the number of students and teachers who choose each model.

Q.  What specifically is the district providing each classroom for safety in a hybrid model?  Will there be plenty of masks and hand sanitizer?  Will air purifiers be given to each classroom?  Will there be plexiglass?  If so, where?  If the parents have to help with supplies, what will those be?

A.   We are following the State and Public Health guidelines when it comes to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), hygiene, and cleaning practices. We have already provided masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, plexiglass, and other PPE to sites and will be continuing to replenish supplies. We are not providing air purifiers as facilities regularly change HVAC filters. In addition, facilities have purchased additional equipment to assist with cleaning sites. (Larry should review this)

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING (MOU) WITH BURBANK TEACHERS ASSOCIATION

Q.  The MOU that you emailed to the parents and the version that was attached to the August 6th agenda packet is different than what was actually voted on and agreed to. Can we see the version that the Board agreed to? One of the differences was about posting recordings of classes for 72 hours. The new version eliminated this. Can you share all of the other changes that were made?

A. That was the only change.

Q.  Is the MOU like the teachers’ contract, something that was agreed to and can’t be changed, or can it be adjusted throughout the school year if needed?

A. Either the district or Burbank Teachers Association may request to renegotiate the MOU during the school year.

BUSD BUDGET

Q.  At the School Board meeting, there was a report about the budget. It said that BUSD would receive $20 million more than they expected. Does that mean that we did not need to make the $9 million in cuts? It also talked about a structural deficit. Does that mean that we did need to make the $9 million in cuts because we will lose money next year?

A. The district still has a structural deficit, even with the additional funding we will receive from the one-time COVID funds and the increase in the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) moneys the adopted state budget saw with removal of the 7.92% deficit factor the Governor’s Budget had proposed in the May Revise. School districts are required to maintain and meet fund balance reserve requirements for the current year and two years in the future.  While the district did not need to immediately make the $9 million in cuts that were in the proposed 2020-21 budget, we will need to make cuts now and in the future in order to maintain adequate reserves in the two out years. The district’s budget will be updated with the 1st Interim Report that will be presented at the December 17, 2020 board meeting and plans for balancing future budgets will be discussed at that time.

Q.  How has the COVID shutdown and the move to a distance learning format impacted the BUSD Budget?

A. The COVID shutdown has brought pluses and minuses to the district’s budget.  Savings have been recognized in that some contracted services have no longer been needed or the level of service reduced under COVID (e.g. transportation, utilities, professional services).  The distance learning format has brought challenges, the biggest of which has been with respect to technology and internet connectivity (ChromeBooks, hot spots and service) for both students and staff. Additional costs are in the nature of software to deliver and assist with distance learning and assistive teaching aids for our students with disabilities who are currently learning from home. Current needs are being addressed financially with the one-time COVID moneys but that pot of money may not be able to meet all future needs depending on the length of time and extent of the shutdown. We are monitoring those balances closely and will advocate for additional federal and state moneys should current funding levels not be adequate. 

Q.  At the school board meeting during the budget presentation, a shorthand was used that those of us who are not education professionals and are not accountants do not understand. Can you explain some of the terms? What does it mean when she referred to “trans” and “deferrals”?

Tax Revenue Anticipation Notes, or TRANs, are a source of temporary financing used by school districts to assist with cash flow needs. 

A. Deferrals are a technique the state used during the Great Recession and are now using again.  They are late payments to districts, needed because the state can’t meet its funding commitment to education – in essence, they are IOUs from the state to school districts.  By pushing a portion of payments to districts into the following fiscal year, the state will fund less than it budgeted and can claim a one-time savings. There’s a great EdSource article on deferrals at https://edsource.org/2020/guide-to-californias-budget-deferrals-pros-cons-and-costs-of-delayed-payments/634950 .

Q.  How many children left Providencia and other schools in the school district (for homeschooling, for waiting until age 6, etc.) and how much state money did we lose because of that?

A. Enrollment in September, 2019 was 15,152 students and we currently have 15,080 students enrolled in the district. We detailed report in November.

BUSD ENROLLMENT

Q.  This question concerns the decreased enrollment at Luther. Enrollment has been steadily declining for the last few years and is behind Muir and Jordan by a significant amount. Are there any plans to increase enrollment at Luther? Are there any plans to make changes to the way students are directed to the middle schools? Is there a way to change the routing of some of the elementary schools to drive more enrollment to Luther? Is there any concern about Luther losing services or programs due to the lower enrollment?

A. The district will continue to monitor the enrolment at Luther. At the moment there is no concern about losing services or programs to the school because of the decrease in enrollment. We will work with the secondary principals to determine what can be done to grow the number of students who attend Luther.

Q.  An August 31 LA Times article reported that LAUSD’s kindergarten enrollment was down about 14% or about 6,000 students, a bigger drop than expected.  Has BUSD experienced a greater than expected decline in kindergarten enrollment?  If so, what is the percentage and number of students?  How about an overall drop in enrollment?

A. BUSD has also experienced a decline in Kinder enrollment. We are about 11% down from our projected Kinder enrollment. Of those 93 students, 53 enrolled and then left for various reasons (private school, moved out of state or moved out of country, etc). Kinder enrollment does fluctuate so this may be due to the pandemic and parents opting to remain in preschool or it may just be the fluctuation in Kinder numbers that we see from year to year. Enrollment in September, 2019 was 15,152 students and we currently have 15,080 students enrolled in the district.

BUSD FOOD DISTRIBUTION

Q.  If you want the free lunch meals, do you need to sign up with the district?

A. Sign up is not required to receive these meals and meals do not need to be pre-ordered. A parent, guardian, or another adult designee can pick up these 5 days’ worth of meals, on behalf of the student, every Friday between 8:30am-12:30pm. Meals should be picked up from the student’s home school.

Q. I’m trying to understand why BUSD is telling ALL parents to come and pick up food from the school.  Isn’t that food for families who qualify for free or reduced meals?  I don’t want to take food away from a needy family.  Is there a benefit for the school or district if more food is taken weekly?

A. This nationwide food program has been made available by the United State Department of Agriculture. The intention is to provide meals to students, 18 years of age or younger, who have been severely financially impacted because of the current health crisis whether they currently participate in the free and reduced lunch program or not. The district expects funding for these meals to be provided by the USDA through the end of the first semester and will notify families if the funding is continued into the spring semester of 2021. Students and families who participate in this program will not negatively impact families who participate in the free and reduced lunch program. There is no benefit for the school or district if more food is taken weekly.

Q.  Many parents have been told different information about the food program at various schools – that it helps keep BUSD food service workers employed, that more need will help

BUSD get more funds for these meals. Can you clarify?

A. In June, Governor Newsom stated that school district Food Service workers, Custodians and Drivers are not allowed to be laid off or receive a reduction in hours in this school year. Current meal participation has no effect in keeping these employees employed.

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS

Q.  Is there any update on the renaming of Jordan Middle School?

A. An update on the process will be presented at the 10/15 School Board meeting

Q.  I have not received any notifications from the BUSD app for almost a year. Is the district still using it? 

A. Yes, the District App is still available. A reminder will be sent to departments and principals to include posting to the District App when sending parent notifications. An updated training document will also be created, guiding staff with the process of posting messages to the app.

Q.  Regarding spirit wear, is there an approved method for distribution of ordered items?  Is this a district-wide decision or can it be decided by school sites?

A. Distribution of spirit wear is a site based decision. The schools must adhere to safety guidelines in our pandemic situation.

Q.  What is happening with Picture Day at the schools?

A. The elementary and middle schools are waiting until the spring to initiate a Picture Day. The high school is having a picture day which adheres to the safety guidelines. However, there is an option for kids to submit their picture instead of coming to the school event if they feel more comfortable.