Parents and students protest in support of reopening in-person learning for secondary schools

A group of LBUSD parents and students gathered on Friday at Main Beach to show support for the start of socially distanced in-person classes for students at Laguna Beach High School and Thurston Middle School. 

According to the organizers, a growing number of local Laguna Beach parents are disappointed with the fact that the Laguna Beach Unified Board of Education voted at their meeting on September 17 to open elementary schools on October 12 but did not vote to reopen secondary schools at the same time.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Parents and students gathered at Main Beach on Friday in support of reopening in-person learning at LBHS and Thurston Middle School

During the summer, the LBUSD Board of Education approved a plan developed and put forth by LBUSD superintendent Dr. Jason Viloria, and a committee of LBUSD teachers and staff that changed the secondary schools to the trimester system with two classes per trimester. The stated goal of the trimester system was to allow for the grouping of students into cohorts to allow for a faster transition back to in-person education once Orange County was given the green light by the state to proceed which was on September 22.

The district plan proposed only two options for the 2020-2021 school year from which parents could choose, the group states. One option was the trimester system with students in cohorts to expedite in-person learning and the other option was an all-online asynchronous option with no in-person teaching that is monitored but not taught by LBUSD teachers. An overwhelming majority of parents chose the trimester option. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Protesters were wearing masks during the gathering

The group states that several other much larger school districts in Orange County have successfully prepared for resuming in-person learning, with neighboring Capistrano Unified, a district of more than 47,000 students, slated to return to in-person learning on October 13. The Laguna Beach Unified School district comprises fewer than 3,000 students. 

“I am extremely disappointed in the school board’s decision to delay the reopening of our secondary schools. This district has had the time and the resources to develop a plan to return to school, but they have failed at every level to make it happen,” states parent Celeste Gilles. 

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Parents and students who protested would like to see secondary schools reopen for in-person learning before second trimester

“I would like to see my two high school students in class now. The students who want to go back should be able to be on campus five days a week, in their cohorts, for their two classes. The teachers should be able to live stream their class to those students who would like to stay home,” adds parent Janelle Naess. 

“Our kids’ mental health will suffer because of this. We have a unique opportunity in Laguna Beach since we are such a small school district to do something really incredible and we are not,” adds parent Candice Dartez.