Laguna Beach USD tables schedule change for 1 Year

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Laguna Beach students and parents protest the so-called “4 by 4” scheduled change at Park Avenue and Legion Street on May 21. School district officials recently tabled the plan. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

By Breeana Greenberg, Special to the Independent

Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School are nixing the controversial “4 by 4” schedule change, for now.

The schools will adopt a modified schedule for the next academic year, district officials said. Similar to the initial 2019-20  academic year schedule, students will have six periods with the option of a zero period. However, students will no longer have rotating periods. Courses will be a year long, as opposed to the proposed semester-long classes under the “4 by 4” schedule.

Laguna Beach Unified School District had been looking to make changes to the schedule but the pandemic prompted the district to examine alternatives, district spokesperson Shelley Spessard said.

When smaller classes, cohorting students, and a lighter course load became essential support for students district administrators looked to learn from the pandemic.

“We’re constantly exploring, are we doing what’s best for kids? Are there better models out there?” Spessard said.

On May 21, parents and students protested the proposed “4 by 4” schedule which would require students to complete classes in a semester.

Laguna Beach Parent Celeste Gilles spoke out in opposition of the “4 by 4” schedule during the May 27 school board meeting. She felt that the site administrators did not have a sufficient amount of time to assess the pros and cons to the proposed schedule change and how it might affect students.

Parent Kim Novick felt that the trimester system that was adopted during the pandemic added extra stress to AP students. She felt that the “4 by 4” system would have similarly caused unnecessary stress. Under the “4 by 4” schedule, a student taking an AP class in the fall would have a gap in learning through the spring semester before taking AP tests.

“If you want to continue to really promote the AP scores of your student body and showcase all the AP classes you offer and the rigor of your students who choose to take them, then you really must show respect for their mental health and offer a schedule that’s conducive to their success in learning the material,” Novick said. “A trimester system just failed them miserably, miserably. I just think that the four by four schedule will fail in the very same way for them, you really must consider a hybrid for these students, allowing AP classes to be taught on a year-long basis as they were intended”

Spessard explained that administrators listened to the community and felt like they needed more time for additional research and focus group input to develop a schedule that best supports students’ needs.

“They came to consensus both at the middle school and the high school level that if this is truly the model or one of the models that we want to support, and for lack of a better word, really institute, then you know it’s still going to be right in a year,” Spessard said. “And so that will give us the leeway to continue meeting with parents on both sides of the fence. So we definitely want to have focus sessions, we want to have time to sit down with students.”

Administrators at Thurston and the High School worked together to ensure continuity in students’ schedules when they advanced from middle to high school.

“Both site leaders worked close together, our high school principal and our middle school principal,” Spessard said. “They determined that they wanted to work together to ensure that continuity, students advanced from middle to high school. And so, just a variety of factors but at the heart of it was, are we providing the best teaching and learning experience possible for our students. We know times are changing, we know students really need those relationships with their teachers. And so that is kind of the basis of the exploration.”

Sophomore Abby Roedersheiner, who created a change.org petition in opposition of the “4 by 4” schedule posted an update on the schools’ decision to abandon the  “4 by 4”  model.

“Both the middle and high school have chosen not to use the 4×4 schedule for next year! Keep an eye out however, because that’s not to say they won’t try to implement it next year,” Roedersheiner wrote.

In an email to incoming and current high school students high school principal Jason Allemann wrote, “School staff and leadership will continue to collect and review stakeholder feedback, establish ongoing touchpoints, and engage in conversations with staff, students, parents, and community members throughout the 2021/22 school year.”

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