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Laguna Beach school district plans secondary school reopening when Orange County enters red tier

The Laguna Beach Unified School District has plans to reopen its secondary schools when Orange County enters the red tier.
The Laguna Beach Unified School District has plans to reopen its secondary schools when Orange County enters the red tier in respect to its coronavirus transmission rates.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Laguna Beach Unified School District has yet to have its secondary school students return to in-person learning in the ongoing pandemic, but the district is keeping families apprised of news concerning that eventuality.

A Feb. 24 communication to parents said the district intends to reopen its secondary campuses — Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School — as soon as Orange County advances to a less restrictive “red” tier as defined by the state’s color-coded reopening guidelines.

District officials noted at the time it was projected the county would meet the three health metrics required for shifting tiers this week, which would allow for schools to reopen March 17.

“We are optimistic and enthusiastic about our students’ projected return to in-person instruction in the near future,” district Supt. Dr. Jason Viloria said in the communication with parents. “In the event that any of the projected risk level status changes occur, we will communicate timely updates with parents and the community. We thank you for your ongoing support.”

However, Orange County health officials announced Tuesday the adjusted rate of daily new coronavirus cases was still too high, meaning the county would remain in the most restrictive “purple” reopening tier at least for the next two weeks.

The district had previously planned to reopen its secondary schools the week of Thanksgiving, but when the county was assigned to the purple tier, it prevented the return of secondary students to campus.

“We as a District, and both bargaining units, have been ready to reopen our secondary schools since November when we first planned to reopen,” Assistant Supt. Michael Conlon said in an email.

“This has been a frustrating year in many ways for all stakeholders, and we want nothing more than to return our secondary students to some form of in-person instruction. The established phase two instructional plan will be implemented once we can reopen, which will have students on campus for in-person instruction two days per week following the two-class-per-trimester model.”

Conlon added that students who want to return to in-person learning will be able to do so once the district’s secondary schools reopen, with the exception being those whose families chose to be in the yearlong virtual academy.

Select at-risk students will be able to attend learning centers at Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School five days a week for in-person learning, Conlon said.

Orange County currently has an adjusted daily case rate of 7.6 cases per 100,000 residents. That number needs to drop to seven cases or less to meet the standard for the red tier.

The county’s testing positivity rate of 3.9% and health equity quartile positivity rate of 5% both fall within the orange tier (moderate transmission), but counties can only progress one tier at a time.

The Orange County Health Care Agency released data that showed that the county reported 31 coronavirus deaths and 186 new infections on Tuesday.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the county has had 3,952 deaths attributed to the virus and a cumulative case count of 246,820.

There were 425 people in the county hospitalized because of the virus, with 116 of those patients being treated in intensive care units.

An additional 6,261 tests for the virus were reported Tuesday, which took the total number of tests administered to 3,055,106. The healthcare agency estimates that 233,106 people in the county have made a recovery after contracting the virus.

Here are the latest cumulative coronavirus case counts and COVID-19 deaths for select cities in Orange County:

  • Santa Ana: 44,029 cases; 702 deaths
  • Anaheim: 40,951 cases; 705 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 10,275 cases; 182 deaths
  • Costa Mesa: 8,686 cases; 107 deaths
  • Irvine: 10,158 cases; 69 deaths
  • Newport Beach: 3,609 cases; 67 deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 3,385 cases; 67 deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 793 cases; five deaths

Here are the case counts by age group, followed by deaths:

  • 0 to 17: 25,577 cases; one death
  • 18 to 24: 34,055 cases; nine deaths
  • 25 to 34: 49,211 cases; 40 deaths
  • 35 to 44: 38,458 cases; 86 deaths
  • 45 to 54: 39,613 cases; 256 deaths
  • 55 to 64: 31,117 cases; 537 deaths
  • 65 to 74: 15,512 cases; 760 deaths
  • 75 to 84: 7,845 cases; 963 deaths
  • 85 and older: 5,279 cases; 1,300 deaths

Updated figures are posted daily at occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/coronavirus-in-oc. Information on COVID-19 vaccines in Orange County can be found at occovid19.ochealthinfo.com/covid-19-vaccine-resources.

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