Weekly roundup: Undersea art in Irvine, school wellness centers, and more

Students from University High School in Irvine recently completed an art project with an undersea theme and an anti-pollution message.

Large jellies, a crab, a puffer fish and a tusked narwhal were created from used recyclables, including trash bags, plastic bottles, straws and shipping envelopes. The materials were collected from homes, beaches and even a trip abroad, according to the Orange County Register.

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Led by Marine Science teacher David Knight, the class tackled the art project while studying ocean pollution.

“Every small step that we take is going to eventually lead to a better world,” one student said. “It doesn’t matter how small your change is. The more you try, the more you help, the more beneficial it is.”

And here are some of the other stories we’re tracking this week:

  • A growing number of schools across the country are creating on-campus wellness centers — also known as calming rooms — that give students a quiet place to take a break when they’re feeling overwhelmed, the Los Angeles Times reports. The story notes that OCDE has partnered with Children’s Health of Orange County to open WellSpace centers at campuses in Orange County.
  • California will allow its mask mandate for indoor public spaces to expire on Feb. 15. But face coverings will remain a state requirement for students and staff while they’re indoors at school — for now anyway.
  • State officials have yet to announce when masking requirements will be lifted for schools, leaving parents and school officials to speculate about what comes next.
  • The Laguna Beach Unified School District closed all of its campuses on Thursday as firefighters battled a brush fire that broke out in the city’s Emerald Bay community. Schools and facilities reopened on Friday.
  • Plans for a new theater at Estancia High School in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District continue to move forward despite a lawsuit and rising cost estimates. The project is expected to be completed in 2024.
  • The State Seal of Civic Engagement, an honor that students can earn for their diplomas and transcripts, can boost civic learning and ensure students understand the democratic process, a new study says.
  • The Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified school board voted 4-1 in favor of a resolution calling on the governor and state health officials to reconsider the pending COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students. The resolution said the requirement could drive students away from traditional K-12 schools, the Voice of OC reported.
  • Proposed legislation that would tie school district funding to enrollment figures rather than average daily attendance numbers received an endorsement this week from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.
  • A state lawmaker from Orange County held a news conference this week to talk about a bill that would establish a “Parents Bill of Rights,” saying the legislation would give parents a greater voice in health care and educational decisions.
  • Four top school counselors and an educational leader were honored this week through OCDE’s annual Counselor Recognition and Counselor Advocate Awards program.
  • Across the country, large numbers of teachers are leaving the profession, with most citing pandemic-related challenges. The trend is even more prominent among minority teachers, the Los Angles Times reports.
  • Reflecting sizable investment gains, the CalPERS pension fund for school employees has lowered its projected contribution rates for districts for the five-year period starting in 2022-23, EdSource reports.
  • And finally, an early childhood education researcher says it’s time to rethink the approach to preschool, including the notion that students from lower-income families need different kinds of preparation than their higher-income peers.

This is the part where we encourage you to keep up with local education news stories by bookmarking the OCDE Newsroomsubscribing for emailed updates and following us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.