More than 60 Laguna Beach parents and students waived colorful signs and chanted at Park Avenue and Legion Street on Friday to protest a proposed academic schedule for the Laguna Beach Unified School District.
Many of the protestors were frustrated with the so-called “4 by 4” model that would enroll students in four courses per semester for the 2021-22 school year, rather than the usual six courses. Students would also need to complete each course in a semester instead of the usual practice of an entire school year.
The protesting parents contend this could set students up for disaster ahead of state and AP exams. For example, a student who enrolls in a fall math class would go four months without math instruction right before exam season.
Friday’s protest was boosted by a change.org petition created by Laguna Beach High School sophomore Abby Roedersheiner, which had garnered nearly 400 signatures by Saturday.
“I think the school district thinks it’s going to be better but we know what’s best for us as students and parents know what’s best for their kids,” Roedersheiner said.
Laguna Beach Unified Supt. Jason Viloria said in a prepared statement Friday that they continue to research and collect stakeholder input on scheduling for the 2021-22 school year.
“I have the upmost confidence in our teams and believe that our site leadership will make an informed decision that supports our mission of ensuring each LBUSD student gains the knowledge, experience, world perspectives, and skills needed to become a lifelong learner and producer in a competitive and interconnected world,” Viloria said.
In a presentation to high school parents on Monday, district officials said the proposed schedule’s benefits include uniformity among class time and days, more opportunity to access electives, and students can potentially repeat or accelerate in certain classes within a school year, high school parent Colleen Connelly said.
Many parents dispute the reasoning behind the district’s stated motivations. They’re also frustrated that each class would see in-person instruction reduced to 135 hours from 180 hours per year, Connelly said.
After a year punctuated by distance and hybrid learning models adopted due to COVID-19, parents like Kari Menter, a 17-year Laguna Beach resident, say families want a sense of normalcy.
“It’s not a great solution to implement this so quickly after they’ve had huge change over a year,” said Menter, who attended the rally with her Thurston seventh-grader. “Having them only take core classes for half the year would be detrimental to their education.”
Hypothetically, a student could enroll in only elective classes for a semester under the proposed model.
This isn’t the first time Laguna Beach parents have rallied against an academic calendar change. In 2018, school board members approved administrators’ recommendation to resume classes before Labor Day despite widespread opposition among parents and students.
The Laguna Beach Unified School District’s Board of Education will meet via Zoom at 6 p.m. on May 27. A meeting agenda will be available Monday.