GLENDALE, Calif. — Going on week two of learning from home for April Lainez’s 9-year-old daughter Sienna, they’d both prefer that she be in the classroom.
But at the level that COVID-19 cases are surging throughout Los Angeles County, Lainez decided being at home is what’s best for now.
What You Need To Know
- Between Jan. 10-14, Glendale Unified School District estimates 11% of Glendale students were marked absent
- Out of the nearly 27,000 students and staff within GUSD, the district can only verify test results for the approximately 35% that tested on site
- According to GUSD, a student is considered truant after being absent three or more days without a valid excuse
- GUSD allows parents to self attest student's health screening and COVID results daily via app
“I'm not a huge fan of remote learning, also not a fan of my daughter getting sick at school,” Lainez said.
Sienna attends Glendale Unified School District. After winter break, the district required students test for COVID before returning on Jan. 10, even setting up testing sites on school campuses to make it easily accessible for families.
But parents such as Lainez were alarmed when they noticed schools allowed them to self-attest their kids' test results via an app, not requesting any proof of their results.
“We trust the fact that [parents] are trying to do the right thing to only send their children to school when they are not ill," said GUSD Superintendent Vivian Ekchian.
Many parents that spoke to Spectrum News said they don’t necessarily trust Glendale’s honor system. Crystal Peshkepia understands it’s a risk she’s taking sending her son Taleep to kindergarten, where she says not everyone has opted into weekly testing.
“At least in our class, a little more than half are testing on a weekly basis," Peshkepia said. "It’s like anything else. You can only know so much and we test our kid weekly so we feel good about that.”
Lainez, on the other hand, is suffering from long COVID and isn’t willing to take that risk.
“Here we are as parents, we don’t know how many kids are vaccinated, how many families actually take the tests and didn’t fudge the results on the self-reporting app," Lainez said. "We kept our kids home. It didn’t feel right.”
Keeping Lainez's daughter home for the week resulted in a truancy letter. According to GUSD, a student is considered truant after being absent three or more days without a valid excuse.
Truant students and parents could potentially face educational, as well as legal, punishment.
Although teachers are allowing absent students like Sienna to join class remotely via Zoom, Ekchian noted that the district is not counting remote or concurrent learning towards attendance.
“The state guidelines are clear that it’s either in-class or independent study," she said. "There isn’t an option for concurrent learning at this time.”
Between Jan. 10-14, Ekchian estimates 11% of Glendale students were marked absent, with about 8% of those absences due to COVID.
However, the district’s data may be inconclusive considering that out of the nearly 27,000 students and staff within GUSD, the district can only verify test results for the approximately 35% who tested on site.
The other 65% may have tested elsewhere but parents are given the option to self report to the district.
"If I could request something from the district, it would be to be transparent about the number of people who are actually testing," said Lainez.
Several parents have reached out to GUSD demanding accurate data on how many students total have tested positive (from on-campus and off-site testing locations), how many students are vaccinated, as well as asking GUSD to cross-reference daily health screening responses with proof of COVID test results.