The Laguna Beach Unified School District has done a wonderful job under extremely tough circumstances educating our students during a global pandemic. Superintendent Viloria has provided calm, steady, and thoughtful leadership. Our elementary schools have been open for in-person instruction since October with glowing reviews. There has been much confusion over the current status of secondary opening for in-person instruction so I would like to share part of the letter LBUSD families received from Superintendent Viloria last week clearing up the confusion:
“Dear LBUSD Community:
I wanted to send an important note regarding the status of the reopening of secondary schools as well as plans for next school year, as there continues to be a significant amount of media coverage that has caused some confusion this past week. Recent press releases from the Centers for Disease Control, American Academy of Pediatricians, and Governor Newsom regarding the reopening of schools have made it appear as though we are eligible to reopen our secondary schools. However, we are not allowed to reopen our secondary schools due to ongoing California Department of Public Health (CDPH) legal mandates that require Orange County to be in the red tier status for five (5) days.
These mixed public messages from national and state-level leaders cause frustration and confusion at the local level, and add to the emotional stress associated with distance learning. Much of the media attention is focused on school districts that are eligible to reopen under the CDPH framework but have chosen not to reopen at this time. Let me be clear, we are ready, willing, and able to reopen secondary schools for in-person instruction as soon as legally possible. We will continue to adhere to CDPH and OCHCA healthcare mandates that keep our students and staff safe.
Secondary Reopening: Case Rates Continue to Drop
As stated in my previous communications, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidelines dictate our ability to reopen to in-person instruction in the secondary schools. If Orange County case rates continue to drop on this trajectory, we expect to be able to reopen secondary sites to in-person instruction as early as March. Case rate data can be found here. As a reminder, to get into red tier status, the Orange County adjusted daily case rate per 100,000 needs to be below 7, test positivity rate below 8%, and a health equity quartile positivity rate below 8%. We continue to be in the purple tier in Orange County. Again, we have to get into the red tier to be able to reopen.
I have contacted CDPH about their tier status requirement as it does not make rational sense. Other neighboring school districts that opened to in-person instruction when Orange County was in the red tier are able to open and close in-person instruction while Orange County is in the purple tier. However, LBUSD secondary schools continue to not be permitted to reopen to in-person instruction until Orange County returns to the red tier. I have continued to request an explanation from CDPH as to why LBUSD secondary schools are required to delay in-person reopening when elementary schools are permitted to reopen while Orange County is in the purple tier. I have persistently advocated that CDPH implement a waiver application process for in-person secondary school reopening. I have not received a response from CDPH on these requests and will continue to pressure state and local health officials for support and approval for our in-person reopening plan at the secondary level.
In closing, I am grateful for your ongoing support as we navigate the pandemic. I am also grateful for the partnership of our teacher and classified employee organizations throughout this process. We will continue to put our collective efforts toward returning all of our students back into the classroom in a safe manner as soon as we are allowed. I am inspired and proud of our students, staff, and families every day and I am confident that we will continue to learn, reflect, and improve as an organization to serve all students.
Jason Viloria, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools”
Christy Koster, parent of an LBHS senior