Parents, students protest Newport-Mesa Unified's learning model for upcoming school year

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District says its approved instructional model will provide students with a more flexible learning schedule, but not everyone agrees.
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- Dozens of students, parents and teachers demonstrated outside Corona Del Mar High School Monday, in protest of the 4x4 instructional model for secondary schools approved by the Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD).

The district's Board of Education approved the plan on July 21.

Kristen James organized Monday's demonstration. She said her children's needs and those of other students weren't reflected in the decision.

"We're frustrated because we weren't listened to at the meeting," James said.

Supporters argue this model is flexible, able to go all-distance, hybrid and in-person as needed. Students will meet daily, take three to four courses per semester and complete year-long courses in one semester - that's where those against it see the greatest problem.

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As states grapple with how to safely start the upcoming school year, the American Academy of Pediatrics is pushing for students to be physically present in classrooms rather than continue in remote learning for the sake of their well-being.

CDMHS Student Body President Troy Tsubota spoke during the July 21 meeting.

"No matter how much instructional time, there's a point where it gets oversaturated because you're learning so much all at once and condensing all of that into one semester is going to have a huge impact on retention," Tsubota said.

With an 80-day fall semester and 100 days in spring, parents said the playing field would be far from even.

"If you're the child that gets math in the fall, you're only receiving 80 days of instruction and the child receiving math in the spring is getting 100. That's an extra four weeks of instruction," James said.

In a statement, NMUSD Board of Education President Martha Fluor wrote:

We approved this model because we believe it has multiple benefits to both students and teachers.

We must always, and especially now, prioritize social and emotional needs of our students and staff. This model provides greater connections among teachers and students, if in-person instruction is not possible. I feel that this model relieves stress due to students and teachers only having to focus on 3-4 classes at a time (as opposed to 6-8 classes). Teachers also will have half the amount of students to focus on each semester, therefore allowing for greater connections and supports, crucially important during this time that we find ourselves in.

Some at CDM High for the Arts, like sophomore, Meriam Chebil and CDMHS Director of Vocal Music, Andy Ball said this model would interrupt the emotional support students seek through these year-long electives.

"So many of us stay here at our schools just for the arts departments because it's more than just a class. It's a community," Chebil said.

"My students have cried together. They've laughed together. They've made music and art together and the 4x4 is essentially suggesting that you can take an entire year of that community, of that emotional and mental support for our students, and condense it into one semester," Ball said.

The organizers of this protest said they would not stop their efforts until the 4x4 plan was completely repealed.

Classes for the NMUSD are scheduled to start Aug. 24.
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