The Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) is facing resistance from parents about available options for students as the 2020-2021 school year approaches. A group of parents held a protest to voice their concerns on July 9 at Beverly Gardens Park. Holding signs that read “My Child’s Education is Essential” and “#OpenOurSchools,” the parents are demanding an in-school option for this fall. It came on the same day that President Trump was voicing a similar opinion, stating, “Open our schools. Stop this nonsense.”
The local protest comes two days after the BHUSD Board of Education held a Study Session to continue the dialogue regarding learning options for the fall. Administrators had initially planned to discuss the rollout of the two different programs announced on June 23. Namely, a virtual learning option called the Independent Learning Center (ILC) and a hybrid learning option that combines in-school and online learning. However, a third option in the form of a student-less classroom, took shape over the course of the Study Session.
In this model, teachers will deliver instruction each day from their physical classroom on campus. Students would “come to class” by logging on virtually from their computers at home. The July 7 Study Session adjourned with the Board’s full support behind BHUSD Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy to pursue this option to potentially replace the hybrid model.
The Courier has learned that more than 300 angry parents took part in a WhatsApp chat with Board member Tristen Walker-Shuman, expressing their frustration at the idea that students will not physically return to school.
Many of those parents were also at the July 9 protest.
“The reason we’re here today is that we are asking for the District to take the majority of the parents seriously,” a parent of two children in the BHUSD told the Courier. “Over 54 percent of parents want the schools to open with clear CDC guidelines. Of course, safety first which was all decided, planned and discussed.” The working mother said she is struggling to homeschool her kids, and they are suffering emotionally and academically as a result. “I don’t want to hear it’s too hard,” she added. “If it’s too hard, you have no business being in the board. You don’t get to represent us and tell us it’s too hard. It’s too hard for all of us.”
Other parents at the protest said the District has not prepared sufficiently since physical campuses shut down in March.
“The independent learning program is abysmal. Its kids watching videos without any teacher involvement,” another parent at the protest told the Courier. “Kids are failing. There are no electives and no honors. This is a complete disservice to our children. This is not fair. Every other public-school district is offering hybrid model. Why is it that when it comes to our City, we don’t have a hybrid model? I want an explanation.”
Parent Natalie Ashouri told the Courier, “Parents are unhappy with the status quo and we want to have a choice. Little kids are not able to teach themselves. There has to be a different solution.” When asked if she was nervous to send her child back to school in the midst of a pandemic, Ashouri replied, “No as long as precautions like social distancing, proper sanitation and masks are in place they could make it happen if they wanted to.”
BHUSD spokesperson Rebecca Starkins told the Courier that the Board has “not made any decisions about which options will be changed at this time with the exception of the ILC. The ILC option will remain.”
The ILC has not received the number of signups anticipated when the plans were announced, however. Because of that, the original hybrid model will need to be amended to include three cohorts for grades 4-12, rather than the originally planned two.
“We understand some parents are disheartened by the discussions around keeping our children safe at home,” Dr. Bregy told the Courier. “The BHUSD leadership has been inundated with emails of thanks and support for the exploration of sound and consistent academic possibilities for our students.”
Added Starkins, “No plans will be announced until thorough vetting of all possibilities has occurred, the orders from the local and state officials have been announced and the Board of Education meets in a public meeting.”
The next BHUSD Board meeting is on July 14.