State Of Laguna Beach Schools Amid The Coronavirus Pandemic

Ashley Ludwig
·3 min read

LAGUNA BEACH, CA —As Orange County plummets back to the purple tier of Gov. Gavin Newsom's blueprint for a safer economy this week, the reopening of secondary schools will be delayed, according to multiple school districts.

On Tuesday, Gov. Newsom slammed many counties back into the most restrictive tier due to a rise in coronavirus cases. Unlike in times past, where counties could take a week to prepare for closures, Sacramento levied the "emergency brake" and gave businesses and schools a mere 24 hours to return to strict closures.

The news was a blow to many Laguna Beach secondary students and families planning to start back to school on Monday. Now, they will delay until the beginning of the second trimester, at least. Elementary school students will continue in-person learning, as that structure has been in place since Oct. 5.

As of this report, the Laguna Beach Unified School District is tracking a total of four members of students and staff who have tested positive for coronavirus. Two have tested positive at El Morro Elementary School, out of 390 students and staff on campus. One student or staff member has tested positive at Top of the World Elementary School. One student or staff member at Laguna Beach High School has tested positive, though the high school remains closed to students.

The issue at hand is with secondary schools that have not yet returned to the classroom. They are now unable to do so due to the new tier limitations.

"Unfortunately, this means the reopening of our secondary schools for in-person learning will be delayed," Laguna Beach Unified School District spokeswoman Anakaren Ureno tells Patch. "Students in grades 6 through 12 will remain in phase 1, distance learning only."

As for now, the earliest middle and high school students would be able to return to class in January.

"If Orange County is able to move out of the purple tier criteria in the next few weeks," she said. Meanwhile, Elementary Schools that were already open for in-person learning as of Newsom's news are allowed to stay open, she said.

Laguna Beach Unified has developed a full playbook toward reopening, according to Superintendent Jason Viloria. This "pause" in reopening is built into their plans.

"Previous guidance received by the District indicated that we could reopen middle and high schools even if Orange County moved into the purple tier," Viloria says. "We were also operating under the guidance that since we had reopened classes and a learning center for students with disabilities and English Learners, we would be permitted to continue our planned reopening. However, the guidance has been updated to indicate that even though we have opened selected programs, we cannot commence in-person instruction for all grade levels."

Another change in the governor's plan is the rapid reassessment of tier levels, daily instead of weekly.

To shift from purple back to red, Orange County would need to demonstrate metrics consistent with red tier criteria for three weeks (before secondary schools could reopen.) Parents can expect more information about second-trimester distance learning from school principals.

How do you feel about the state of school this year in Laguna Beach? Let us know in comments, or by emailing your Patch editor.

This article originally appeared on the Laguna Beach Patch