LBUSD pushes graduation to late July, pool and athletic fields to stay closed

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LBHS seniors line up before heading into the Irvine Bowl.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District tentatively pushed its commencement ceremony for Laguna Beach High seniors to the end of July, citing county and state orders to prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

The Board of Education signaled its support Thursday for Superintendent Jason Viloria’s intention to follow directives from the California Department of Health and OC Health Care Agency that still prohibit gathering at school campuses. These orders prevent district officials from holding the ceremony scheduled for June 11, Viloria said.

“I have spoken to a lot of people who are quite flexible about graduation and understand that we as a public school entity are following directives from state, county, and federal for that matter, on what we can do to protect the health of our citizens,” Board president Peggy Wolff said. “We do not operate in a silo and cannot make decisions without those directives, following suit just like the City Council.”

Board secretary Carl Normandin said she understands the school community’s disappointment after talking with many parents of graduating students. However, it’s important the public continue to observe the recommendations from public health professionals, she said.

“As much as we’d like our emotions and our desires … to lead us somewhere else, they can’t,”  Normandin said. “We have a duty to each other to keep each other safe, that’s what public health is.

Like almost all Orange County districts, Laguna Beach Unified is looking for a date to safely honor graduating seniors, Viloria said.

“They deserve to be honored,” Viloria said. “It’s a right of passage and we are hopeful the directives will allow us to do that come later July.”

Viloria added that the school district will “pivot very quickly” if county and state health officials loosen restrictions on public events.

A change.org petition calling on Laguna Beach school leaders to hold an in-person graduation for the class of 2020 collected nearly 700 signatures by Friday morning.

“I want my kids and the rest of the graduating class to experience graduation safely on the football field. They’ve worked so hard for the last four years- they deserve it!” Laguna Beach High parent Alem Solomon wrote on the change.org page.

During his statements about the pandemic’s impact on school operations, Viloria also noted that Guyer Field, Eric Hulst Track, Laguna Beach High School and Community Pool, and district-owned playgrounds and athletic fields will remain closed until the state reaches phase three of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reopening plan.

“While I can totally understand why folks would love to get onto the track and or access our fields and playground equipment right now we’re not allowed to,” Viloria said. “We have a requirement under our own liability to make sure we are following those directives.”

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