By Vera Castaneda
Glendale Unified announced Thursday the school district is implementing social distance measures, following Gov. Gavin Newsom and California public health officials’ latest policy to postpone or cancel gatherings of more than 250 people across the state.
Open House events scheduled for Thursday in Cerritos Elementary, Rosemont and Toll middle schools were postponed. Instead of having a live audience, the Scholastic Bowl will be live streamed from Glendale High Thursday night. Student Voice Panel and Restorative Practices Meeting for parents and community, scheduled in late March, are also postponed.
Glendale Supt. Vivian Ekchian requested principals make changes as they deem appropriate to upcoming events, activities, assemblies and field trips at their respective school sites through mid-April.
Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena Unified superintendents signed a letter suspending all Pacific League California Interscholastic Federation sports practices and competitions from March 13 through April 13.
“We believe the risk to our students, faculty, and staff remains low, but it is our responsibility to be proactive in our efforts to encourage social distancing as a means of preventing the spread of illness, which is why we have chosen to postpone or change the format of large events and public gatherings,” stated Ekchian.
Although local education and city officials said there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Glendale, the district took more than an hour during Tuesday’s board of education meeting to dispel myths and outline their response to the pandemic.
Glendale Fire Department Chief Silvio Lanzas presented background information on the novel virus, best hygiene practices and an emphasis on relying on trusted sources rather than social media.
“Remain calm, respect each other’s space, do not assume that someone of a race or nationality is likely to have COVID-19…This is a worldwide issue and has no boundaries, no lines,” said Lanzas.
USC Verdugo Hills Hospital Chief Medical Officer Armand H. Dorian also presented on best practices and how the hospital is preparing to fight the virus by educating the community, conserving supplies and screening patients and visitors for symptoms.
“Children don’t seem to have the same infection reaction. They may have the sniffles, they may have a cough, they may actually have coronavirus…They are, thankfully, not getting super ill but they could be the ones who will pass on the infection. We have to be vigilant because they are the hardest to convince to wash and cough appropriately,” said Dorian.
What other precautionary measures are in effect at Glendale public schools?
“Our intent is, during spring break, to do intense cleaning of all of our sites. We have ordered a significant amount of soap, hand sanitizers, everything possible,” said Ekchian.
The additional cleaning and disinfectant supplies purchased by the district are also expected to be available for staff and students at school sites, not only during spring break for the custodial staff.
Health offices in schools are fully stocked with face masks and gloves. School nurses and health clerks have been instructed to place face masks on students with high fever, coughing, sneezing or respiratory issues while they call parents to recommend taking the student out of school and to their primary care physician.
According to Michelle Green, district health services coordinator, students of family members who have traveled to countries marked with level three travel warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, “may still come to school because they don’t have any symptoms and they haven’t been exposed to the disease.”
Posters with handwashing instructions were posted on all school site walls.
“[Children are] little petri dishes and they walk up to you and sneeze in your face. When we work in education we have to recognize that’s what they do. They have to be taught not to do that. [We have to] teach them how to hand wash, how to cough into their elbow,” said Green.
How is the district preparing for future scenarios?
The district is preparing for two possible scenarios — dismissal and closure.
During a school dismissal, students would remain at home but the schools would be open for teachers and some students with special needs in order to receive service. During a school closure, no students would be allowed on campus and some staff would be allowed on campus for the sole purpose of cleaning.
Teachers are being encouraged to streamline and organize the use of Google Classroom and Clever for students to continue classes remotely. Additional digital resources could include Khan Academy, Listenwise and Readworks.
“We’re looking at what devices students have at home. We’re looking at a survey to see what’s out in the community already and what the needs might be to serve our students with devices and Wi-Fi,” said Chris Coulter, the district’s director of teaching and learning.
Ekchian also said the district is investigating purchasing additional hot spots as well as paper and pencil options to continue learning from home.
Glendale Unified is in the process of applying for waivers to the federal government that would allow students to pick up meals from schools, which would address a number of students that rely on school nutrition.
How are staff and families responding?
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls and a lot of rumors,” said Green.
She added many parents, families and teachers are concerned because they are immunosuppressed, which means they have a weakened immune system.
Board Vice President Armina Gharpetian mentioned that a parent told her about a coronavirus monitoring app with a map showing the location of confirmed cases.
“Those apps are not legitimate. They’re self-reported. People can report falsely and that creates another fear among our community,” said Gharpetian.
Shant Sahakian, board clerk, added, “There is a great deal of misinformation out there. We should not be panicking and we should not be doing nothing. There needs to be measured steps and measured actions.”
During public comment, a parent of a Glendale kindergartner expressed his concern and drew comparisons to the events of his home country, Italy. He questioned why the schools aren’t closing and said he wants to pull his daughter out of school.
“If you don’t listen to me, I have to react. This is not panic. For me, this is [to protect] my family,” said the parent.
The district will monitor whether dismissal, closures or extending event cancellations past mid-April is necessary with the help of the CDC, L.A. County of Public Health and L.A. County of Education. Glendale Unified expects to communicate with the public through email and social media. The latest announcements, links to reliable websites and the board meeting video of coronavirus presentations are available on the district’s website, gusd.net/fluinfo.
Source: Glendale News-Press