By Amy Orr | LB Indy
Months of debate ended Tuesday night when the Laguna Beach School Board voted to change the school calendar. In a unanimous 5-0 decision, the board members approved an academic schedule with August start dates for 2019 and 2020.
Next fall, the LBUSD school year will begin on Aug. 26 and end on June 11. Laguna students’ first semester will be 80 days long, concluding on Dec. 20. The 100-day second semester will be broken up by week-long breaks in February and April. The district’s 2020-21 schedule will follow a similar pattern, opening on Aug. 24 and closing on June 10.
Prior to the vote, residents took turns expressing their views at the podium. Many speakers’ comments were tinged with anger. Parent Anne Morreale was the first to air her frustration.
“I feel like this has been the biggest sham,” Morreale said. “In trying to alleviate stress, you’ve caused a rift in the whole community.”
Student stress played a key role in the decision-making process, according to board member Dee Perry. Perry described stress as one of the big problems the board has been trying to address. Board member Carol Normandin voiced a similar view.
“There is this undue stress that our calendar causes our students,” Normandin said.
Board members said that a “clean break” over the winter holidays and an earlier release date in June were driving forces in the consideration. Student opinion was also a major factor; 54 percent of students expressed support for calendar changes in the online survey conducted by Hanover Research in May.
“I love this town for all of its uniqueness, but I also want to listen to our kids,” board member Ketta Brown said. “Ultimately, they are who we are here to serve.”
Normandin concurred, “I think it’s selfish to ask that we don’t do what’s best for them.”
Sensing that board members were leaning toward approval of the new calendar, some residents implored the board to wait before voting. Parent Lisa Williams asked for more time and more research, saying she would like to see quantitative data about the benefits. Wendy Offield, who graduated from Laguna High School and now has grandchildren attending school in the district, questioned whether the board had really thought through all of the details.
Sheri Morgan, who sat on the calendar committee, boldly spoke out against the revisions. She suggested sending the issue back to committee for further review.
“I feel the need to urge you to suspend the vote tonight,” Morgan said. “I think this calendar is a big mistake.”
After residents challenged the board’s transparency, board president Jan Vickers vigorously defended the board’s actions.
“This has been one of the most transparent processes,” Vickers said. “We have listened carefully, taken pages of notes, and made changes to make it better.”
Board members lamented the animosity that has arisen in the community as a result of the calendar.
“I’m not your enemy,” board member Peggy Wolff told the audience. “I just have a different opinion than you do.”
“It’s an educational decision,” Vickers said. “That’s what drives it. We did our best.
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