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Calabasas Courier Online

-22855 Mulholland Hwy. Calabasas, CA 91302-

Calabasas Courier Online

-22855 Mulholland Hwy. Calabasas, CA 91302-

Calabasas Courier Online

Opinion: District fails to follow mission statement

Opinion%3A+District+fails+to+follow+mission+statement
Caitlin Brockenbrow

The Mission of the Las Virgenes Unified School District is to ensure that all programs are dedicated toward enhancing student success and that each school is a humanistic organization, valuing students emotionally and academically, providing the highest quality education possible in a personalized environment.

This is an incredible thing for LVUSD to strive for. The real question is, are they really trying? If this question is narrowed down to LVUSD high schools, specifically CHS, the answer is troubling.

To start with, the problem that is on most students’ and nearly every staff member’s mind: the H Building. The H Building’s HVAC system, simply put, does not work. This is all the more problematic when taking into account that it houses nearly every CHS foreign language, English and history class, two of which are taken by every student during all four years of high school. To make matters worse, the roof is additionally prone to leaks on the off chance that it rains. And while Measure S funds will be used to fix this problem come next summer, for now, be it heat, cold or rain, the H Building is unbearable.

An issue like this, given the uncomfortable conditions, naturally can have an impact on student learning. It may not be something that detrimentally impacts all students, but honestly, who would want to learn in a broiling classroom?

Another noticeable issue for CHS students is class sizes. The 2023-2024 school year saw most class sizes in the high 30s to low 40s due to a variety of intertwined factors, including incorrect section predictions and a desire to be fiscally conservative. No matter the cause, class sizes are larger this year, even with the added sections over Labor Day weekend. This can decrease student learning as teachers have more to juggle and less time for individual students’ needs, a goal that is specifically articulated in LVUSD’s mission statement.

There are other, less noticeable issues scattered throughout CHS and AHS. For example: the class credit system. LVUSD’s Course Catalog is all but useless since it has every class that has ever been offered under the credit it was originally offered for, not what is currently being offered and for what credit. Since there are fine lines drawn between what classes are weighted or go towards which credit, the average student could find themselves lost on what they still have to do before graduation. 

LVUSD’s lack of a standardized grading system can similarly cause confusion and frustration as two teachers with the same class can have completely different grading scales, putting some students at a disadvantage. A similar drawback is LVUSD’s lack of an assignment extension policy: teachers decide what deserves an extension. This means students have the potential to have a serious advantage over another of their peers, should the latter have a stricter teacher.

With these credits and grading confusion also come issues with other parts of LVUSD’s course system. This includes schedule change requests. Such requests are ignored until the second week of school and this, coupled with the insanely late release of class schedules, causes an even more chaotic first few weeks of school for both students and staff. For students, this can lead to falling behind in the class they switch into as such is systematically postponed.

CHS’ Attendance Policy also comes with its fair share of problems. For example, as it stands, teachers determine if a tardy is excused or not, meaning there is no uniform definition of a tardy. This arbitrary assignment, though, like the Course Catalog, is fairly inconsequential, can lead to a variety of issues, especially when it comes to eligibility for the Off-Campus Pass.

Even something as straightforward as LVUSD’s bell schedule for CHS and AHS is problematic. Despite the new bell schedule for the 2024-2025 school year, the problem of traditional day schedules, with their 48-minute classes, still will make Mondays all but irrelevant since nothing can truly be accomplished in such a short amount of time.

There is also a multitude of problematic short-term LVUSD policies. For example: AP tests and excused absences.  For the 2021-2022 school year, students were excused from the remainder of their classes on the days of their AP exams. However, last year, students were required to attend class either before or after their AP testing period to stress the importance of attendance. This strain on LVUSD’s students, attendance being important or not, is simply inconsiderate. Some students left anyway, especially if their test was before lunch and they could simply go off campus and not return.

Sometimes, policies like these are recognized as poorly designed and changed. The decision on Feb. 15 2023 to lock the H-Building during lunch included. Such a policy had too many consequences to list, including increasing stress, more bathroom trips during class and keeping students from making up work during lunch. This also includes the 2023-2024 Off-Campus Passes. CHS initially eliminated leaving at support for the first five weeks of school. This was changed on Aug. 29 to move up the early-leave dates of juniors and seniors. However, this is not to say that the Off-Campus Pass policy is without issue. While no updates have been given, as announced at the end of last school year, students will be limited to one appeal per semester. This system effectively encourages students to come to school sick as otherwise, without the option to appeal, they lose their Off-Campus Pass for the following five weeks.

Problems like these, while small in nature, add up to a district that gives the impression that its students do not matter. As the mission statement at the head of this article states, LVUSD’s primary goal is to enhance student learning. A broken HVAC and poorly designed policies do everything but enhance student learning. LVUSD needs to change.

Plans for the H Building to be fixed are already in place, but for this school year, everyone continues to suffer. In the meantime, LVUSD should provide classrooms with working portable fans and heaters. It is not perfect, but it is better than the largely useless stand-in that H Building classrooms currently have. This would at least somewhat improve classroom conditions, which in turn would increase student learning. As for the roof, there is little that can truly be done until next summer. For now, LVUSD should publicly acknowledge such a long-standing inconvenience, making the problem known to parents.

Class sizes should be reduced by hiring more teachers. Giving already employed teachers other sections would be a “solution” that would cause more problems as many teachers are already overworked with their five classes.

As for the smaller issues, LVUSD should review its policies to ensure that students are being provided the highest quality education possible in a personalized environment.

To address the aforementioned problems, LVUSD needs to:

  1. Update and make its course catalog clear
  2. Provide a universal tardy, grading scale and extension policies
  3. Release student schedules before the school year ends so there is more time to request changes
  4. Eliminate Traditional days
  5. Excuse absences on the day of AP tests
  6. Allow more Off-Campus Pass appeals

These are only a handful of the myriad of problems that plague LVUSD’s schools. Without addressing these and other issues, LVUSD will perpetuate a hazardous learning environment in which students are led to believe that their district does not care about them.

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Caitlin Brockenbrow, Perspectives Editor
Hi! My name is Caitlin Brockenbrow, and I'm the Perspectives editor this year. Last year I was a staff writer and before that, I was head editor of my middle school newspaper and magazine for two years. Apart from articles, in my free time, I write creatively—mainly murder mysteries. English has always been my favorite subject, but besides reading and writing, I love theater, typewriters and drinking root beer floats.
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