Laguna Beach USD recognized with state award for COVID-19 response

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Dawn Hunnicutt, an English teacher at Laguna Beach High School, welcomed students to her classroom on in March 2021 after a year of distance learning. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

Laguna Beach Unified School District was recently named among 121 school districts by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond for its dedicated response to continue serving students amid COVID-19.

The newly-created California Pivotal Practice Award Program has taken the place of the California Distinguished Schools Program this year. It honors and recognizes schools and districts that implemented innovative practices during virtual learning in the 2020–21 school year, particularly in the areas of student engagement, technology distribution, nutrition services, and social-emotional well-being.

“I honestly couldn’t be more proud of our District,” Supt. Jason Viloria said in a press release. “Our community and staff played integral roles in the success of our students, keeping them engaged and connected and allowing them to thrive during such a challenging time.”

District leaders considered several hybrid learning models after examining various studies and school programs. They ultimately recommended the trimester hybrid model partly because it was able to meet social distancing requirements and minimize cross-interaction between student cohorts.

Michael Keller, director of social emotional support at Laguna Beach Unified, noted that administrators did not see a major increase in D’s and F’s in the 2020-21 school year at the middle and high schools.

“Staff reported that this is in part due to teachers developing stronger and closer relationships with students due to lower student-to-teacher ratios. This enabled teachers and staff to respond to student performance concerns or disengagement immediately,” Keller said in a press release.

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  1. With the highest paid teachers in the Country, the highest per capita spending on students in the State and over a $million dollars of salaries for (4) Superintendents to manage a shrinking School District of 2700 student; LBUSD was one of a few School Districts to NOT get our children back to in-class learning.
    What are these self-congratulatory, career government employee’s patting themselves on the back for?
    Our children were devastated by LBUSD inability to get our students back to in-class learning. LBUSD is always on the cutting edge in proving that the California School System has become a self-serving, governing body to advance their own power and political agenda.
    Students, Parents, Academics, and/or curriculum are rarely discussed.
    Emotional Well-Being, Nutrition, Equity, Diversity, Global Citizenship and numerous other self-congratulatory programs are projected so to avoid the failures they have become educating our students.
    The LBUSD student body has dropped over 10% since the start of Covid yet private schools in our area who kept their schools open have grown and have waiting list.
    The LBUSD and School Board who live in Court and behind closed door secret meetings defending their failed decisions and policies want us to believe that the 300 fewer students attending our schools is because of natural demographic changes.
    Tell that to the many private schools that surround LBUSD that have grown in size and have waiting list.
    We need a School Board that represents Students “EDUCATION” and oversees the School District, not a rubber stamp for pay raises, contract extensions and advancing personal agendas.

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