Laguna Beach USD talks student satisfaction, sustainability goals

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El Morro Elementary staff members look on as students leave campus on May 25. Photo by Daniel Langhorne

By Megan Miller, Special to the Independent

With the academic year coming to a close, results of a recent survey show 86% of students feel the Laguna Beach Unified School District provides a positive learning environment.

The school district administered the survey earlier this spring to hear community input on the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), a state-mandated three-year program that outlines the district’s goals and related expenditures. Based on student and parent feedback from the survey, the district will put an added focus on school climate, communication, and sustainability as schools continue to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Overall, the 2021-2024 plan has three areas of focus: developing college and career readiness, fostering social-emotional competencies, and ensuring safe and inclusive schools.

According to the results of the survey, 77% of students reported they regularly participate in challenging academic opportunities, while 83% said they regularly participate in engaging learning activities.

Around 68% of students reported feeling that they received effective emotional support.

Following discussion around the recent death of El Morro Principal Chris Duddy and the Uvalde school shooting, board members agreed to look into expanding emotional support access for students.

The district has an average daily attendance of 93.5%, with 16.3% of students reported as “chronically absent.”

Federal criteria identify chronic absenteeism as missing 10% or more school days in a given academic year. Laguna Beach Unified Supt. Jason Viloria said there may be a correlation between the number of absences and the pandemic.

“I think we saw an uptick, not even in length of time, of students who called out for two or three days because they were experiencing symptoms,” Viloria said.

Viloria added that there is no clear way to differentiate between illness-related and Covid-specific absences, but the district will keep its eye on the numbers.

Laguna Beach Unified projects a healthy financial recovery from the pandemic, with around a 7% revenue growth due to expanded property taxes. While costs have increased due to inflation, expenditures have decreased as the district shifts back to in-person instruction, Assistant Supt. of Business Services Jeff Dixon said.

For example, the district is no longer paying for UV light disinfection from a third party and is instead relying on the recent installation of UV light disinfectants in its HVAC system. The need to spend on technology to support distance and hybrid learning has also decreased, Dixon said.

With a return to some normalcy, board members took steps in improving its sustainability efforts, approving a $30,000 contract with Green Schools National Network, Inc. in a 4-1 vote.

Board Member Dee Perry dissented, saying she would rather see the district work with one of Laguna’s conservation and sustainability agencies than pay for a third party.

“If we work with our City and our groups here, I think we’ll make a better plan than bringing in groups from outside,” Perry said.

The intent of bringing in Green Schools National Network, Inc., is to aid the district in “the education component, the nutrition component, [and] the life sciences component” of sustainability, Dixon said.

“We have work we’re already doing right now. We need them to come in and expand that work,” Dixon said.

The district also unanimously voted to renew a $395,000 contract with BrightView Landscape Services for routine landscape management and irrigation services, and a $1.9 million contract with Durham School Services, L.P. for continued school bus operations.

While electric buses aren’t on the table for the 2022-2023 academic year, Laguna Beach Unified is “keenly interested” in pursuing the option in the future, Dixon said.

The Laguna Beach USD Board of Education is scheduled to meet again Tuesday.

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  1. LBUSD is down over 500 students since the 2020 school year yet the School Board along with our Superintendent and his (3) assistance’s for (4) small and shrinking schools keep hiring outside consultants for programs that the parents and children are forced to adopt. Rarely do ANY of these programs deal with curriculum or academics that help our students transition and prepare for college which is the primary reason for school.
    Emotional Well-Being, Diversity, Equity, Equality, Global Citizenship, Climate Change, Race Issues, LGBTQ issues and many other diverting topics are directed at our “K-12th” graders so the Leadership at LBUSD can project their virtue while at the same time not be held accountable for their poor job performance. “WHICH IS EDUCATING OUR STUDENTS”
    Parents don’t take their children out of highly performing schools! Just saying…..
    With a $72 million dollar budget; paid off facilities; and $25+ thousand per capita spending Laguna Beach tax payers should expect a much better product.
    Over-sight, transparency and accountability is needed so that we can refocus our School District back to its purpose which is the EDUCATION of our students.

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