The Laguna Beach Unified School District will reopen its middle and high schools with a modified in-person learning format on Nov. 23.
The Board of Education voted 4-1, Board Clerk Carol Normandin dissented, at its Thursday meeting, offering relief to parents concerned about students who are struggling academically because they feel overwhelmed or disengaged from virtual classes.
Board members appear to be following a recommendation from the Laguna Beach Unified Faculty Association to wait until after the close of the first trimester to resume classes. The teacher union’s perspective is this start date would be less disruptive to student learning.
“You can’t pull the rug out from teachers who have started a model, which was new and challenging to them, halfway through and expect them to jump back into the classroom,” Board member Jim Kelly said.
Normandin said she was opposing the reopening start date because the administration cannot mandate students to be tested for COVID-19 before entering classrooms. The district can require employees to be tested.
“We need some kind of regular testing because otherwise, it’s a false security in everything else we do,” Normandin said. “If we don’t know that someone is positive and they are symptomatic, we put the entire district at risk and the community, which the majority of our community is at the age where they are at higher risk.”
Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School will see students return in cohorts designed to limit the spread of COVID-19. Under the hybrid school schedule, students will be in classrooms for two days per week—either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. All secondary students will remain at home for synchronous distance learning with their teacher on Friday.
Student board representative Johanna Legault said she appreciates teachers’ efforts to educate their students amid the pandemic’s unprecedented challenges.
“I know personally that teachers are doing the best they can,” Legault said. “They’re working overtime and it’s a lot of work that we’re not really seeing.”