New “real world” classes approved for Laguna High

, , January 29, 2021


By the end of West Sonoma County Union High School District’s (WSCUHSD) Jan. 20 board meeting, Laguna High School came away with four newly approved courses of study.

The district’s trustees unanimously approved courses of study in statistics for life, sustainable living, construction and web development to be offered at the continuation high school as early as fall 2021.

Laguna Principal Allie Greene said student surveys indicated Laguna students feel connected to school and staff but that the curriculum does not feel applicable to the real world. Greene said the school site council identified a want for interdisciplinary classes as part of its four-tiered site improvement plan, engaging students in more project-based learning to boost graduation rates and link them to Santa Rosa Junior College (SRJC).

Part of the goal is to open opportunities for students to earn credits in different areas through classes that integrate different subjects in the study.

“The kids who come to us come to us credit-deficient. It’s usually why they come to us and so we want to make sure we create opportunities of engagement and learning for them that meet their credit needs as well,” she said.

Laguna math teacher Sue Taggard presented statistics for life as its prospective teacher, aiming to teach students how to work with data as “an essential life skill,” from analysis and sampling to correlation, causation, probability, modeling with data and more

“Every time any of you are touching a button, you are being recorded and that is data. And there are jobs out there that we don’t even know about that are going to be analyzing all this data and how to work with this data,” she said.

Taggard designated units for career exploration, career preparation, personal finance and one unit called “Where am I going in my life?” for possible internships or “externships,” and according to her presentation, the course would integrate English, math, data science and optionally, social science.

She said students enter Laguna with a median grade level of fourth grade in mathematics, so the course aims to teach students various software and programs to develop their skills for higher education.

Laguna art teacher Hallie Richards presented sustainable living, with units in responsible consumerism, homesteading, gardening and farming and culinary studies. She said the courses were inquiry and solution-based and explore students’ consumer and lifestyle impacts.

“So, when we’re talking about the environment, I don’t want to take a doomsday approach we all already know about,” Richards said. “I want to engage students in finding real solutions and real things they can do day to day to be leaders and to create change.”

Richards said she plans to have students start by tracking down the origins of something they bought down to the ingredients, parts and international transportation, while in homesteading, their projects involve crafting, repairing or upcycling products to explore sustainability.

She said the second semester would delve into agriculture and the importance of practices like composting, and that the culinary unit could get into nutrition, math and studies of local Indigenous diets prior to colonization, all with the lens of international affairs.

“I just have to say, as a student, this is a class that I would absolutely love to take. This sounds like everything I’ve ever wanted from a class and I think it’s a really, really good idea for students and to get students with project-based learning and directed learning,” said Jev Wise, a student representative on the board.

Laguna science and P.E. teacher Joe Maloney presented the construction course, with units covering computer-aided drafting and safety certifications, tile working involving geometric shapes, basic home repair and some residential construction involving construction math and applications like gas shutoffs.

“Construction involves mathematics on almost a minute by minute basis. And measurements are hugely important, as are algebraic and geometric functions,” he said. Maloney said teaching practical uses for numbers, measurements and angles is important for student success.

“There are over 70 professions and trades involved in residential construction and what we’d like to do is we’d like to teach them the language of construction and help them learn about the opportunities available for them and the resources that are around them,” he said.

Last, Greene said the web development course comes to Laguna High through a partnership with SRJC, as a professor agreed to give the school the curriculum Taggard is currently enrolled in so she can then teach the course to Laguna students.

The course covers basic web design and coding “as a common prerequisite for multiple pathways at SRJC,” like web design and game design, according to Greene. “At SRJC, it’s a one semester class. We are going to stretch it out to a one-year class,” she said, adding she hopes this is the first of future articulated classes with SRJC.

All ayes on a ton of other items

The board of trustees unanimously approved numerous items at the Jan. 20 meeting, starting with the consent calendar and the updated WSCUHSD Board Governance Handbook.

The board approved the 2021-22 annually updated three-year parcel tax plan for the 2012 Measure K parcel tax, as well as the 2020-21 and 2021-22 budget/financial calendar and the monthly budget update for 2020-21.

Next, the board approved the monthly personnel report. The trustees passed the openers from CSEA’s initial proposal for contract negotiations with the district for the 2020-21 year and the district’s initial proposal for successor contract negotiations with CSEA for a new term on July 1, 2021.

Last, the trustees approved the COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP) detailing commitments to ensuring COVID-19 safety protocols in the workplace, like employee symptom screenings, providing and enforcing the use of face-coverings, six-feet physical distancing, personal protective equipment, contact tracing and other measures.