LCUSD Cancels Student Trips Amid Coronavirus Precaution

The La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board instructed Superintendent Wendy Sinnette this week to cancel student out-of-state field trips involving air travel because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the district is also assessing the importance of large group activities amid social distancing precautions.
At a regular meeting of the board Tuesday night, Sinnette and LCUSD’s Chief Technology Officer Jamie Lewsadder delivered a detailed report about the district’s plans regarding the possibility of school closures. The board also discussed upcoming air-travel field trips outside California as an agenda item and voted to cancel them.
Following the meeting, Sinnette sent out a district-wide letter about the decision.
The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that has spread worldwide. In a statement Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said there were 27 cases in the county, including three reported by the city of Long Beach. Officials also reported the county’s first coronavirus-related fatality; the woman who died was an older woman with underlying health issues and a nonresident who had been visiting friends.
“One of the core tenets of my messaging has been for people to band together, be thoughtful, be intentional, not overreact. But we’re being given guidelines and we want to minimize risk and we want to maximize public safety and health,” Sinnette said Tuesday night, shortly before the decision to cancel the trips was made. “It is that there are really difficult decisions because what we provide our kids through these experiences is the definition of a world-class education that we provide, and disappointments are hard to bear.
“Our choirs and our bands are some of the most powerful performers that we have, and I know that disappointment will be huge.”
In the letter sent to the LCUSD campus community and posted on the district’s website, Sinnette wrote that the cancellation was necessary, because if the students were quarantined while on the field trip and away from their parents, that “is not a possibility we can responsibly entertain.”
Various student groups were scheduled to go, respectively, to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania; New Orleans; New York City; Dayton, Ohio; and Houston, but the trips will be canceled, Sinnette said in her letter and at the board meeting. The next steps will include working with field trip vendors to try to recoup costs for families or postpone field trips.
As for the Valley Forge experience scheduled for the week of March 23-27 for 5th-graders from Palm Crest and Paradise Canyon elementary schools, Sinnette said the nonprofit organization Freedoms Foundation is willing to reschedule the trips to the fall and there will be discussions about it.
All other student field trips remain currently scheduled, Sinnette said in the letter, but the district will “actively monitor those given public health recommendations and keep you informed of any cancellations or event modifications.”
Sinnette added that she would share weekly email updates and advised LCUSD community members to visit the district’s website to get information.
She said that districts are being asked to “actively assess large group activities and make determinations regarding cancellations on a case-by-case basis in deference to the importance of social distancing.”
On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that the La Cañada High School Choral Spring Festival Concert set for Friday, March 13, at First United Methodist Church in Pasadena, would be postponed to May 20 due to growing concerns over the coronavirus and large gatherings. More information was to follow, according to the La Cañada High School Choral Facebook page.
The state departments of education and public health on March 7 issued statewide guidance to help school and public health officials inform their decision making and listed four scenarios, from least to most serious. Governing Board President Joe Radabaugh said Wednesday that the district remains in the first scenario, described as “measures already underway to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”
Sinnette said during Tuesday’s meeting that district and La Cañada Flintridge officials and others would gather at noon Monday in City Hall to talk about the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, City Manager Mark Alexander said the meeting was not open to the public. He added the city had not decided to cancel any events or meetings.
“This could change if the spread of the virus becomes more widespread and/or we are encouraged to do so by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health,” Alexander said. “In the meantime, however, we are encouraging social distance [six feet is recommended], frequent hand washing, elbumps [elbow bumping] in lieu of handshakes, staying home when sick for at least 24 hours after symptoms resolve, and repeat sanitizing of common/frequently shared areas and devices.”

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