BHUSD Prepares for Upcoming School Year at Latest Board Meeting

The Beverly Hills Unified School District (BHUSD) board of education held its final regular meeting before the 2023-2024 school year officially kicks off on Aug. 14.

As the district prepares for the new academic year, events are taking place at various campuses to welcome back families. On Aug. 13, activities marking the new school year will be held at Horace Mann Elementary School and Hawthorne Elementary School. At Hawthorne’s “Operation Welcome Back,” attendees can purchase spirit gear, join the PTA and say hello to familiar faces. At Horace Mann, meanwhile, a welcome back pancake breakfast is being held from 10 a.m.-noon.

BHUSD Board Member Rachelle Marcus said she expects to attend the elementary schools’ events. “I’m sure they will be very crowded,” Marcus said during the recent meeting, adding, “As school starts on Monday, I want to wish everybody a successful school year—a wonderful year to the students, parents, teachers and all the administrators.”

BHUSD officials expect this to be the last  school year before the reopening of the El Rodeo Elementary School campus, which has been closed and under construction since 2019 as part of a multiyear, multimillion effort to revitalize the campus. The district expects the school to reopen on June 30, 2024 for the 2024-2025 school year. 

Additional key dates for the upcoming academic school year:

• Labor Day: Sept. 4 (no school)

• Thanksgiving Break: Nov. 22-24

• Winter Break: Dec. 21-Jan 5

• Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Jan. 15 (no school)

• Staff Development Day: Feb. 16 (no school)

• Presidents’ Day: Feb. 19 (no school)

• Spring Break: April 1-8

• Last Day: May 30

• BHHS Graduation: May 31

Preparing for the upcoming start of the school year was just one focus of the BHUSD board meeting. The six-member board, joined by Superintendent Dr. Michael Bregy, approved a new policy over student cell phone usage on school campuses.

“The motion carries—we have a cell phone policy,” Board Chair Noah Margo said after the unanimous vote in support of the policy. “So, put the phone down!”

The board reviewed a second reading of the policy, which outlines policies depending on the grade of the student. For those in grades TK-8, the use of cell phones, smartphones, smartwatches and other mobile devices is prohibited while on campus. Devices must be turned off and out of sight during the school day. 

For those in grades 9-12, students may use cell phones or other mobile devices on campus during non-instructional time. During instructional time, however, their phones must be “turned off and put away,” according to the policy. 

Upon the first and second incidents of breaking the policy, the phone will be confiscated until the end of the day. On the third incident, the phone will be confiscated; a parent or guardian will have to pick up the phone; and the student receives after-school detention.

“The Governing Board recognizes that the use of smartphones and other mobile communication devices on campus may benefit student learning and well-being but can also disrupt the instructional program and/or school day,” the policy says.

Board Member Amanda Stern said the mobile phone policy would go a long way toward helping students stay focused during instruction time. She pointed to a study undertaken by the U.S. Surgeon General linking social media usage to youth mental health challenges.

“I think we’ve done a service to help the kids,” Stern said.

Bregy agreed. “This is an incredible change,” he said. 

Ahead of the new school year, the board approved a property use agreement with First Church of Christ, Scientist in Beverly Hills to provide parking spaces for Beverly Vista Middle School staff at a cost to the district of $400 per week. The agreement began Aug. 7 and continues through May 31, 2024. The fee for this annual expense is not to exceed $17,200.

Additionally, the board approved a deferred maintenance project for the painting of two courtyards at Beverly Hills High School. The school board approved an agreement with Color New Co. for an associated cost of $55,000. The fee will be paid out of the deferred maintenance funds.

The latest school board meeting was held exactly one week after BHUSD officials gathered with city leaders and law enforcement for the annual National Night Out event in the city. BHUSD had a significant presence at the outdoor block party.

“Out of all the organizations in Beverly Hills, we were told we had the highest attendance,” Bregy said. “BHUSD was also successful in bringing large numbers of people out.”

“There’s no agenda except to connect as a community and really shine,” BHUSD Board Member and Clerk Mary Wells said of National Night Out. “I think it’s such a gift to our community.”

While the board prepares for the busy school year ahead, it also took the opportunity to publicize an upcoming concert featuring one of its board members. Margo, in addition to serving on the board, is a drummer whose musical group, The Tokens, is performing at Concerts on Canon on
Aug. 17. 

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