The following is from the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education meeting of March 10.
Model U.N. trip canceled
Students with the Laguna Beach High School Model United Nations program won’t be attending the Model U.N. this year, because too many students requested scholarships to pay for the trip, said advisor Jonathan Todd.
“We will have fundraisers and ask for grants for next year," he said.
The Model U.N. allows students to gain public speaking experience while representing various nations in discussions of issues. The national confab meets at the United Nations building in New York City.
Social Studies teacher Jun Shen showed the board a DVD he made of the students’ May trip to the Model U.N.
“The students get an amazing world view by debating as delegates on issues before the agenda, based on the position of the nation," Shen said.
For the first time, ninth-graders will be able to participate in the Model U.N. program next year, because they will be able to take geography, a prerequisite, over the summer, Todd told the board. The Model U.N. program meets in the evening once a week.
El Morro egress road to be built
The board unanimously approved issuing a Request for Proposals for the design and development of a new, one-way egress road at El Morro Elementary School. The new road will connect a shared roadway to the school parking lot.
The shared roadway will be used by visitors to the Crystal Cove State Park RV campground and the school.
The estimated cost to build the road is between $195,000 and $248,000 depending on the location of the road, which is still to be determined.
The park project has been halted due to a lack of state funding but the board is moving forward with a roadway plan so it will be in place when the park construction begins again.
The board also reviewed a six-point plan for future use of the shared roadway.
Chemistry courses revamped
After a heated and passionate debate, the board approved adding an honors chemistry class to the district’s chemistry course sequence, as proposed by Asst. Supt. for Instructional Services Nancy Hubbell.
The honors course gives students the opportunity to earn an increase in their grade point average from certain colleges and universities.
Chemistry teacher Steve Sogo vociferously objected to the revisions, arguing that top students would be drawn away from another advanced chemistry course, advanced chemical research, that is open to all.
“The chemistry course I nurtured for eight years will be dying," Sogo said. “We got rid of honors chemistry because our mission is to allow students to learn."
Supt. Robert Fraisse argued the district should follow other districts in offering honors chemistry.
“In our research, 12 of 12 districts like ours offer honors chemistry, and the idea that to serve all [students] we can’t have an honors class is not clear," Fraisse said.
Board member Bill Landsiedel agreed with Fraisse.
“This is a great step," he said. “I would never make a decision that would knowingly hurt a student. [President] Obama wants more inclusiveness in honors classes, and we should not deny the opportunity. I am sitting here tonight because one teacher believed in me."
Board member Betsy Jenkins, who voted against the proposal, said she agreed with Sogo’s point of view, and also felt that students would not be penalized without the honors offering.
“Offering more courses helps more students," said Board President Jan Vickers.
Hubbell said the issue would be taken up again next year by the curriculum council and further refinements could be made.