The Laguna Beach Unified School District Superintendent wrote in an email to parents and staff Tuesday that his team will take cues for reopening schools from state and county health officials—not the Orange County Board of Education.
Supt. Jason Viloria wrote that the Board’s recommendation to reopen schools without recommended safety protections, such as face coverings or physical distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, “do not align” with guidance from state health and education agencies.
“Health mandates and guidance for safe school reopening are issued by the California Department of Public Health and Orange County Health Care Agency, and the Laguna Beach Unified School District will follow this guidance in planning for reopening of schools,” Viloria wrote.
The statement confirms what many Orange County parents and teachers anticipated—local school districts will assert local control over when and how to reopen their campuses.
The Orange County Board of Education earned flak from community members on Monday by approving a slate of recommendations for reopening school this fall. These recommendations were based on a white paper published by a panel selected by an 11-member panel appointed by the Board last month.
“Requiring children to wear masks during school is not only difficult – if not impossible to implement – but not based on science. It may even be harmful and is therefore not recommended,” the panel wrote.
The Centers for Disease Control have repeatedly stated that wearing face masks helps reduce the community spread of COVID-19.
Laguna Beach Unified’s Board of Education will review district administrators’ plan for safely reopening schools at its July 23 meeting. The details of this plan were still being worked out Tuesday.
Sara Hopper, president of the Laguna Beach Unified Faculty Association, said in a phone interview Tuesday that she was very pleased with how district leaders have been planning for schools to reopen in a way that protects students and staffers.
“There’s no perfect plan that is going to take care of everything, obviously, but we have [received] input from a lot of different perspectives,” Hopper said. “I would say we are doing everything we can with the resources we have.”
It’s still hard for her to process that classes might resume without teachers meeting their students in-person. Teachers had the opportunity to bond with the students for months before schools were closed over coronavirus concerns in March.
“To not get a feel for our class and how these individuals are, it’s just so difficult to imagine that world,” Hopper said.
But she recognizes the reality that schools are only able to stay as safe as the communities they serve.
“We couldn’t open right now and expect that nobody will be affected,” Hopper said.
This story is developing and will be updated as necessary.