The Big Dig’s impact on the La Cañada Unified School District just got bigger.
La Cañada High School summer school students taking physical education will have to decamp for part of their term to the Foothill Intermediate School campus at Cornishon Avenue because of the Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project, officials said recently.
The information was revealed by LCUSD board member Dan Jeffries during a Joint-Use Committee meeting on Thursday at City Hall, which is located near FIS and school district headquarters. The committee includes school and La Cañada Flintridge officials and addresses issues of interest to both the district and city.
P.E. for the regular school year is not scheduled to be moved as of now; however, Jeffries said officials are waiting to see the results of an environmental impact report scheduled to be released toward the end of March. At that point, depending on those results, they may make changes to that current school year class as well.
“The high school P.E. portion is going to be moved over here because of the Big Dig,” said Jeffries, referring to the project by its nickname. The sediment removal project, whose first phase began in late November, is expected to include 425 daily round trips by diesel trucks through the intersection at Berkshire Place and Oak Grove Avenue and onto 210 Freeway entrances in both directions.
The initial process includes removing sediment behind the dam at Hahamongna Watershed Park to restore habitat and increase flood protection within the Arroyo Seco Watershed. In late November, work to clear out vegetation and trees began; the portion of the project that includes truck traffic is scheduled for April. Sediment removal will take place from that month through November and from 2020-22, according to the project’s website at dpw.lacounty.gov/swe/devilsgate.
“The move would likely be for the duration” of the project, said LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette in an email after the meeting. “Once the district is able to confirm the move with LCFEF [the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation runs the summer school for grades 9-12], parents will be made aware through the LCFEF website and registration materials. LCFEF typically runs one P.E. class in summer. The plan is for three weeks of the five-week session to take place at FIS/Cornishon. The other two weeks encompass the swim unit (the pool is required) and the health unit.” The pool is at LCHS.
A school district parents group has repeatedly emphasized what it believes are serious health concerns about the trucks’ trips to and from the site. The trucks would travel through the intersection of Berkshire Place and Oak Grove Drive and onto 210 Freeway entrances in both directions. The L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved in November 2017 a scaled-down project to remove 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment. Work started after a nine-year process that included feedback from local residents, environmental groups, the cities of LCF and Pasadena and the community of Altadena.
Students enrolled in the LCHS summer school P.E. morning class (student demand might require an additional, second class) would start their day at Cornishon Avenue and not be transported there by bus, Jeffries said.
LCFEF Summer School board President Jinny Dalbeck said she has met with Sinnette and summer school physical education teachers and a tentative schedule was decided. Dalbeck added the district has been meeting with other groups leasing space at FIS to determine if it works for them.
Dalbeck said swimming and indoor activities related to fitness, such as weight training, would likely take place in the first 10 days of summer school and then the students would move to FIS for the rest of the time.
“We could do all field activities at FIS and be further away from emissions from the trucks coming along Berkshire Place for the Big Dig,” Dalbeck said. “We thought this was a good compromise in that it does not expose the students to those possible risks from emissions coming from the trucks. We’re trying to minimize their exposure to those emissions, and that’s why we moved it.”
The physical education class is very popular, Dalbeck said, adding that last year, more than 60 students were enrolled.
“A lot of students will take it during the summer so they don’t have to take it during the school year,” Dalbeck said. “It opens up a place in the schedule for an elective. So we have quite a few incoming freshmen who take the class as well as what we call rising sophomores.”
The decision to move the popular physical education class was made a few weeks ago, Jeffries said after the meeting.
“It’s just an abundance of caution,” Jeffries said. “We’re still having [a review] completed on what the environmental impact will be. [Sinnette] worked out the details a couple of weeks ago.”
Jeffries said it was important to make sure there was another place for summer school physical education and the district has hired an environmental consulting group to assess the best way to keep kids safe.
“We’re waiting to get that report back on their recommendations,” Jeffries said. “Depending on their recommendations, we may take further action.”
Elementary school classes aren’t affected and will be held at Paradise Canyon Elementary School as planned, he added.
SAGEBRUSH TERRITORY TRANSFER DISCUSSED
A meeting between the school district and the Los Angeles County Committee on School District Organization to discuss the possible transfer of the Sagebrush territory into the LCUSD could be set soon, Sinnette said.
The transfer refers to switching the territory, approximately 380 acres in LCF’s western-most area, from the Glendale Unified School District to the LCUSD.
A meeting of the county committee that had been scheduled for Feb. 6 was postponed to March 6 after the Joint-Use Committee met.
In the last major development, on Oct. 3, the committee took into account a new environmental study completed under the California Environmental Quality Act. Based on the initial study, it was determined the proposed transfer would not have significant adverse impacts on the environment with the implementation of mitigation measures.
If the Feb. 6 meeting were still scheduled, the district would be able to make a presentation in support of the transfer, along with the petitioners’ presentation. Sinnette added the Glendale district would also have had time for a presentation.
“We would want to work with the city because it would be important in our 20 minutes that there was a city voice about the importance of the transfer,” Sinnette said. She said she would contact Mayor Terry Walker if the transfer was put on the county panel’s agenda.
Jeffries added LCUSD has agreed via a recent school board resolution to release any Glendale district students upon request if the Sagebrush transfer is approved.
“There’s sort of that issue hanging out there of what happens to students if they want to stay with Glendale,” Jeffries said. “And we wanted to make it clear we had no interest in keeping them against their will.”
CORNISHON AVENUE TENNIS COURTS UPDATE
Officials are currently getting contract bids to resurface the Cornishon Avenue tennis courts, said LCF Division Manager Arabo Parseghian.
The school district and the city each have agreed to contribute half of the $140,000 estimated costs for the tennis courts, which are at least 25 years old.
“Both the district and the city have said if it’s around that ballpark, we should share the costs 50-50,” Parseghian said.
LANTERMAN AUDITORIUM AIR CONDITIONING
Meanwhile, officials have been discussing having portable air-conditioning units to make Lanterman Auditorium, located at 4491 Cornishon Ave., much more comfortable during the summer or on other hot days. The auditorium only has fans that bring in outside air.
Parseghian said on average, groups that pay to use the auditorium spend $800 to $900, and having to rent an air-conditioning unit for $800 would not make sense for them.
“My point is we can offer that to the user groups, but I don’t see any user groups picking this as a benefit because it may end up costing them more than the contract,” Parseghian said.
A solution to the air-conditioning problem would be to purchase a permanent unit for $250,000 or more, a price that would include new duct work and electricity, Parseghian said. A stand-alone unit that could be placed on the roof for $25,000-$30,000 would not have the same cooling impact, he added.
Ultimately, he felt the committee should instead look at Americans With Disabilities Act upgrades for the auditorium parking lot because it’s a higher priority. There is no cost estimate, but he said the city’s Public Works Department is working on one that he hopes to present at the March committee meeting.
COMMITTEE LEADERS NAMED
School board Vice President Joe Radabaugh was appointed chair of the Joint-Use Committee and Walker was appointed vice chair.