Laguna Braces for the Coronavirus

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A sculpture by Richard MacDonald stands outside the Laguna College of Art + Design, which will temporarily transition to online classes March 23 to prevent the coronavirus’ spread. (file photo)

While many describe Laguna as a coastal oasis, it became clear Thursday that the city will not go untouched by the spread of the coronavirus.

On Thursday, Laguna Beach felt the ripples of the virus’ spread after California officials called for the cancellation of all gatherings with 250 or more people to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

City staffers clarified the status of programs and public meetings in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

All City of Laguna Beach Department services are currently staffed and functioning to serve the public,” city leaders wrote. “Given this new guidance from the state, and in order to conduct City business with the utmost caution, the City of Laguna Beach will consider limiting upcoming meeting agendas by postponing policy items likely to draw large crowds and instead focus on regular items of business.”

All senior classes and programming at the Community and Susi Q Center are canceled until the end of March. Essential services for individual seniors will continue.

The Weekly Farmer’s Market was also canceled through the rest of this month.

The March 17 city council meeting will be proceeding as scheduled. The planning commission will meet March 18 but the Downtown Action Plan item is postponed. The status of a city council meeting March 24 to discuss the Downtown Specific Plan is still undetermined.

LCAD Moves Courses Online

Laguna College of Art + Design will move classes online for at least two weeks starting March 23 amid the coronavirus scare, college administrators said in a statement.

The college promised to let its approximately 700 students know by March 30 if online delivery will be extended. Faculty will be providing their classes through live streaming services such as Zoom and Moodle.

Universities and colleges across the county took similar action this week to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We have created a task force team that is working closely with other members of the leadership team to ensure we are taking steps to keep our campus healthy and to prepare for future actions, if needed,” LCAD’s chief operating officer Helene Garrison said in the statement. “Your health and safety are our highest priority.”

LCAD President Jonathan Burke said Thursday that the college has offered online courses for years but acknowledged that it is probably going to be difficult to make the temporary transition to an entirely-online program.

“I’m hearing from faculty that they are up to this change,” Burke said. “Everyone understands and everyone feels protected by these decisions. They’ve embraced this and we have an extraordinarily-capable IT staff that are here working and tutoring instructors.”

Students and faculty will continue to have access to the library, senior studios, student lounges and studios during normal business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. They were instructed to contact the college’s front desk to request access.

Additionally, the college counseling office will continue to operate. Students can schedule sessions with the counselors via Skype or Zoom.

All public events and exhibitions at the campus are on hold, Burke said.

Laguna Beach Public Schools Open, Athletic Events Cancelled

As of deadline, schools in the Laguna Beach Beach Unified School District were open to students. District administrators said they were operating under guidance from the Orange County Health Agency and the California Dept. of Public Health.

“At this time there are no known cases of COVID-19 in our school community and we have not been directed to close, but will alert families immediately if we are advised to do so,” the district said in a prepared statement.

However, Laguna Beach Unified followed other coastal Orange County school districts Thursday in canceling all athletic events until further notice to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, district officials said.

“To this extent and through thoughtful communication and consideration with area superintendents, principals and athletic directors within the Sunset Conference, all athletic competitions have been canceled until further notice,” the district said in a prepared statement.

Administrators noted that team practices and post-season sixth-period classes will continue.

“While we understand this is disappointing to our student-athletes and their fans, we will continue to evaluate the situation and keep student-athletes and families updated,” LBUSD officials said.

This story is developing and will be updated as needed. Share your story of how the coronavirus has impacted Laguna Beach by emailing [email protected]

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1 COMMENT

  1. There are 24k residents in this town and 6.6. million visitors per year. When Corona comes to Laguna the numbers suggest it will come from a tourist.

    Know what we should do? Build a bunch of big hotels downtown!

    Conversely: If Toni Iseman and those dirty hippies at Village Laguna hadn’t stood in the way, those hotels would be built and empty by now.

    I’m beginning to think having developers choose two of our city council members wasn’t the best idea and that maybe, just maybe, having a city council more concerned with the citizens of Laguna Beach rather than the wishes of real estate speculators would be a better form of governance.

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