Plans for Back to School Top GUSD Agenda


The bulk of the Glendale Unified School District’s board meetings on Tuesday afternoon and Tuesday night was dedicated to an extensive discussion of plans for school opening on Aug. 19, dominated by a conflict with the teachers union about the exact schedule for distance learning when schools open next week.

Many of the parents who called in to the board meeting spoke in support of the Glendale Teachers Association proposal (the “GTA plan.”) Ingrid Gunnell urged the District to negotiate a safe and sustainable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), (the term generally used to refer to a public sector collective bargaining agreement) agreeable with the teachers.

One dad who called in to support the teachers reminded the board that the one constant throughout the pandemic has been the service and commitment of “our teachers.”

“We need to respect them as professionals, professionals we hired,” he said. “We don’t tell firefighters how to put out fires.”

Glendale teacher Jennifer Waters explained that the GTA plan was based on thousands of hours of research and the input of the 1,250 members of the Glendale Teachers Association.

According to the union, the two sides are close and have reached agreement on the bulk of the plan. However, the greatest outstanding issue is agreeing to an elementary school day schedule.

According to a representative of the union, “Our secondary schedules are close, but GTA’s is more student friendly. The District wants elementary teachers to spend nearly 85% of a student’s instructional day online conducting video conferencing. Our members know video conferencing is a good way to build community, conduct check-ins, conduct targeted small group lessons, and help kids during office hours; however, GTA educators know our students need a balance of synchronous and asynchronous instruction daily. We believe asynchronous lessons (links, pre-recorded lectures and assignments, learning/assessment tools, virtual libraries, exchanges across discussion boards, etc.) are important so that all students can access knowledge with a flexible schedule. Asynchronous lessons allow students to learn material at their own pace, internet problems won’t preclude learning, and teachers can put more thought and planning into making instructional materials accessible to students instead of trying to both teach a lesson and monitor technology and students, all at the same time.”

Glendale Teachers Association President Taline Arsenian emphasized the need for “parents to educate themselves on what the GUSD and GTA proposed schedules look like.” She urged parents to read the article on what a remote learning school day is ( to understand that more screen time and more video conferencing does not equate to a better learning experience for students.

“Parents can email the GUSD school board and Superintendent Vivian Ekchian to advocate for the GTA proposed elementary and secondary schedules for a safe, sustainable and family-friendly distance learning experience,” said Arsenian.

Parent Meline Mailyan addressed the board “on behalf of more than 100 other parents” in support of the GUSD schedule as including “more live instruction and accountability.”

“We’ll do our part as parents” to support the plan, she said.

The District has shared an update on negotiations including a chart comparing the relevant positions of the parties that can be found at

School Superintendent Ekchian detailed plans for opening, commended school staff that has worked throughout the summer to get Glendale’s schools “safe and ready,” and summarized changes that have been made to prepare for the school year to begin.

Consistent with orders from the governor and legislation passed statewide (AB 77 and SB 98), Glendale schools will reopen in-person utilizing a hybrid model combining in-person and distance learning only after the County is off the coronavirus monitoring list for 14 days. The earliest Glendale schools could meet this metric is O

ct. 16.

For the virtual opening on Aug. 19, the district has purchased more than 10,000 Chromebooks, 1,700-plus portable hotspots for those with intermittent connectivity, 3,000 noise-cancelling headphones, and more than 600 webcams for teachers without adequate technology for teleconferencing.

On campuses, water fountains have been reconfigured to also serve as hand-sanitizing stations; Plexiglas and directional arrows have also been installed. Schools have been disinfected and deep-cleaned; protocols have been developed to ensure sanitary processes are followed once school starts that include daily health checks. Each school has designated a COVID coach to support teachers and staff and families at the school, and a COVID response team is prepared to help with whatever is ne


“We’ve never been through a pandemic before,” the superintendent reminded.

The hybrid model caps each classroom at no more than 10-12 students with signs on tables and desks to enforce social distancing. The district has hired 35 new teachers, too.

Ekchian commended the District’s facilities staff for “working all summer to ensure maximum safety.” Regarding the dispute with the union over the proposed schedule, she insisted that “despite miscommunications and misunderstandings, we’re very close to agreement.”

Teachers are participating in voluntary training webinars starting this week and will be paid to participate in virtual trainings in advance of the start of school. The district plans a “welcome week” beginning with a virtual or drive-thru “red carpet” welcome on the first day.

The schedule for each school is posted on the school’s website.

“[I hope] this helps us move from crisis management to thriving,” said board member Jennifer Freemon.

Speaking in support of the schedule and the plan presented by the superintendent, Freemon said, “Structure and routine are necessary and good. Having been a classroom teacher, this is kind of exciting [giving teachers] the flexibility to figure out if full class or small group instruction is best. I’m excited for the start of school.”

“There is no perfect plan,” board member Shant Sahakian noted, “not during and not after the pandemic. There is no guidebook. This is remarkable work on behalf of the community. Ultimately the schedule provides flexibility and a balance between synchronous and asynchronous learning time. But we need to also keep in mind the parents who did not call in. We must speak for them as well.”

Board member Greg Krikorian asked staff to compare Glendale’s plan to that of other districts. San Diego teachers have agreed to 180 daily minutes of live teaching time; Burbank, 125 minutes (with a shortened Friday); South Pasadena has secured agreement for real-time teaching for at least 50% of the day. Glendale’s schedule assumes 100 minutes per day in live or group teaching.

“Our students need the predictability of a schedule,” Krikorian said. “We certainly aren’t on the high end. Fifty-four percent of our students receive free or reduced lunches. There are 55 languages and dialects spoken in the district. I don’t know where … these allegations [came from] that we’re pitting parents against teachers. In my 30 years I’ve never heard that. One thing is unique here is the strong community that loves each other.”

The district is also utilizing school campuses for “technology learning pods” to provide safe childcare for essential workers and others potentially at risk. More than 1,100 families have already signed up for the free program.

GUSD welcomes questions about school reopening at