UPDATED: LBUSD Campuses Won’t Reopen This School Year

El Morro School. File Photo

The Laguna Beach Unified School District extended the closure of its campuses until further notice Wednesday, following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s direction that educators and parents shouldn’t plan for students to return this school year due to the coronavirus.

Laguna Beach Unified will continue to offer distance teaching and learning for the duration of the closure, according to a press release.

“The top priority of the Board and district leaders is the health and safety of our students, staff, and families,” Board President Peggy Wolff said in a prepared statement. “The Board supports the Superintendent’s decision to extend the dismissal and continue to provide distance learning for students. We are grateful for the hard work of Dr. Viloria, the leadership team, and our teachers and staff during this time. Their commitment to our students and staff is exemplary.”

The Board of Education will consider a resolution that includes the extension of campus closures at its April 16 meeting, Deputy Supt. Leisa Winston wrote in an email.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education met in an emergency closed session Wednesday for nearly an hour and a half but took no action in light of an anticipated announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom that school campuses will not reopen for the 2019-20 school year.

Outside the school district’s office, Wolff and board member Dee Perry individually said that there was no vote by the school board Wednesday. The headquarters’ front doors were locked to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and Wolff was the only person present in the boardroom.

“With the dynamic nature of models that we’ve been using now for many many weeks, it seems, I think, self-evident that we should not prepare to bring our children back into the school setting,” Newsom said.

As a parent of four young children, Newsom said he particularly appreciates the sacrifice that homeschooling places on mothers, who tend to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the weight of household responsibilities.

“For all the parents out there, millions of you, that maybe now very anxious about the expectation your school is not going to reopen… you were waiting for clarity, which I hope we are providing here today, let me express deep respect and empathy,” Newsom said. “The pressure that we have placed now, additional pressure, on caregivers and parents, particularly women and moms, is extraordinary.”

Superintendent Tony Thurmond suggested Tuesday that schools plan and prepare to have their curriculum carried out through a distance learning model.

“We are doing everything we can to support our schools and their distance learning opportunities for our students,” Thurmond said in a prepared statement. “We have been providing webinars, with one coming up this week to specifically focus on serving our students with disabilities in a distance learning model.”

The California Department of Education will publish guidance this week to address the concerns of our seniors, and even our juniors, in regards to grading and graduation requirements, Thurmond said.

The school board members and district staffers talked via a closed Zoom conference meeting. Community members can watch the school board’s closed session report at lbusd.org/board/board-meetings/live-board-meeting.

Wolff sought quiet at the district office because her children are homeschooling and her husband is running his law practice out of their house, she said. There’s also a heard of boisterous goats grazing near her home.

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