LCUSD Back to School; Turns to Safety, Security

La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board members praised local schools for successful back-to-school events at their Tuesday meeting, the first the board has held since breaking for part of the summer after its Aug. 7 session.
“We’ve had a great start to the school year,” said LCUSD President Kaitzer Puglia, noting the successful PTA meeting kick-offs district wide and plentiful participation. “I cannot thank the families of this district enough for all that you do to make this place a wonderful learning environment.”
The board kicked off the meeting by honoring the La Cañada High School sports medicine team and its coach, who crowded the room in their red team shirts to receive certificates of achievement. The team recently placed fourth in the National Sports Medicine Competition, and students claimed individual places as well, with Allison Mueller taking first place. More than 3,500 sports medicine students from 300 high schools participated.
Puglia said she could attest to the students’ expertise in the field after meeting one who detailed the muscles and joints in the foot and ankle and explained why women’s shoes are damaging.
“And I was told that is why I should not wear high heels,” Puglia said dryly, eliciting laughter.
Separately, the board tackled the issues of security and safety on school grounds, gave a school enrollment update, and discussed a new elective that begins this year.

SECURITY AND SAFETY

Board members reiterated that the issue of safety and security will be an ongoing topic at board meetings. Earlier this year, the board established a Safety and Security Task Force that is dedicated to the assessment and exploration of student, staff and school safety needs. Five working subcommittees on the task force will address campus safety, training, wellness and communication, traffic and parking, and the issue of an open versus closed campus at LCHS. Three of the subcommittees met over the summer and engaged in various levels of planning and implementation. Plans are in place for staff training on the teacher buyback day, site assessments have taken place and the envisioning of traffic flow has occurred.
“This will be a topic that we will discuss at every meeting, since it is something that needs to be continually addressed to make sure our students and staff, parents, families — everyone — are safe,” Puglia emphasized.
The board said district staff members have attended training sessions on threat assessment and simulations hosted by Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI to improve policies and procedures related to campus safety. Under Measure LC and the school’s master plan, the board has set provisions for safety and security that can support outcomes from the committee work done this year. Currently, the access control system for LCHS is open for bid.
The board listened to a presentation of fencing studies from the LPA Inc. architectural firm at each of the district’s elementary schools, giving input on topics ranging from fence material, placement and height to entry and exit points. Each school presented the distinct challenges it faces due to topography and location, board members noted.
Ultimately, the board recommended reviewing the presentation in more detail, and engaging in discussions with school principals with regard to each school’s particular needs and potential risks. The board foresees the need to refine requests for design by the end of October if the architectural firm is to begin construction by next summer.
“We’re going to have to manage expectations,” Superintendent Wendy Sinnette noted, referring to the ability to get feedback and still make an October deadline.

SCHOOL ENROLLMENT

In her first school report of the year, Sinnette gave a synopsis of enrollment district wide, which came in slightly lower than original projections due in part to students not officially un-enrolling.
“Enrollment is always a projection until you actually have the opening of school,” she said, though she noted, “Every grade enrollment is robust.”
LCUSD’s current district enrollment stands at 4,138 students, an increase of 12% from last year. La Cañada Elementary has 648 students, with one fewer class; Paradise Canyon Elementary has 735 students, with one fewer class; and Palm Crest Elementary has 663 students, with an additional afternoon kindergarten class and 4th-grade class.
With those numbers, the district will be able to maintain its ratio commitments for transitional kindergarten through 3rd grade, with no class size larger than 22 students per teacher, and in some cases as small as 14, Sinnette said.
In grades 4-6, the class-teacher ratio is at 30-to-1 in each class, though one class at PCY is at 31-to-1.
At LCHS 7/8, there are 690 students registered, up from 667. For grades 9-12, 1,359 students are enrolled, up just one from last year.
While there were some concerns about lower enrollment for the 9th and 7th grade, those numbers have settled at 370 and 347, respectively, “so those are robust classes,” Sinnette noted.

NEW ELECTIVE:  SEWING AND DESIGN

The board discussed a new elective course being offered at LCHS 7/8, Introduction to Sewing and Design. It’s an eight- to 10-week course that is part of the “exploratory arts” elective wheel and one of the five topics that 7th grade students will rotate through this year. In the future, the LCHS faculty expects the wheel to include only four topics, thus making the sewing course 10 weeks long. The class reportedly has already purchased about 18 sewing machines.
Board members expressed support for the new subject, although a member of the audience suggested the course change its name in the future to be more inclusive of the larger design aspects.
“I think if our kids could come away with some life skills, it’s great,” said board member Ellen Multari.