Opinion: Common Sense

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We’ve Got This Laguna

By Jennifer Welsh Zeiter

June in Laguna means graduations. That in-person rite of passage year does not have to be another casualty of COVID-19. Thousands of high schools and colleges have used imagination and ingenuity for graduation ceremonies, and many examples from all over the country have demonstrated the limitless possibilities for our well-deserving grads and their families. 

Laguna has an incredibly talented and resilient artist community, creative residents who have worked in the technology industry, and an exceptionally-involved parent community willing to go the extra mile for their children.

We can do this Laguna. Let’s do it for our kids, an intimate group of 250 young adults. We should be able to find a way to give them the recognition they deserve, their day in the sun.

The stumbling block seems to be the school board and Superintendent Jason Viloria, unwilling to roll up their sleeves for our kids, unwilling to creatively craft a graduation ceremony that honors our graduates in-person and still complies with health guidelines. The school board has lost its way and surrendered its authority to a single overpaid bureaucrat who doesn’t live in Laguna, nor has a graduating senior.

Many local parents have strongly advocated for our graduating seniors. Petitions with over 1,200 signatures of Laguna Beach High School family members, students, alumni, and community members supporting an in person graduation service were forwarded to Viloria. This is in addition to the “Thought Exchange” Viloria sent to the students soliciting their input on a graduation which overwhelmingly supported an in-person graduation service upon completion of school. Even with social distancing guidelines, it can be done.

Viloria appears to be paralyzed by out-of-the-box thinking. I guess there was no bureaucratic manual for how to think, analyze, create? Where is the vision we were promised, the new ideas?  Even after repeated requests, Viloria refuses to specify why or how an outdoor in-person graduation ceremony, properly crafted, would violate any official guidelines. “The governor says so” is false and does not cut it. Viloria cites guidelines from March, but we are in late May with the beaches now open and in Phase 3 of re-opening. Is he concerned about a backlash? From whom? Would holding an in-person ceremony somehow impact LBHS’s accreditation, funding, ranking, attendance and awards? No. Does the school have the funding to be creative? Yes.

This should be a time of celebration and our community coming together in any and every way possible to collaborate in unique and creative ways to celebrate during a time of challenge and adversity. The students have asked for and deserve a celebration, not a semi-sterile Zoom ceremony.

Two years ago this School Board adopted the guiding principle that our students be taught to possess the skills to be “lifelong learners, collaborative and creative problem solvers, and effective, contributing members of a global and technologically advanced society.”  Let’s put those words work into action.

No one is asking to put anyone at risk. We can function within the boundaries of the health mandate. It can be done. It should be done. We have the facilities to accommodate large groups, with social distancing. The number of attendees can be limited to immediate family, with the ceremony itself live broadcasted. Come on Laguna, we’ve got this.

Zeiter is a Laguna Beach resident and attorney.

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