The La Cañada Unified School District officially completed its elementary reopening on Monday with the return of 6th-graders and is scheduled to have the remainder of its students back on campus after spring break on Tuesday, April 13.
The governing board unanimously voted, 4-0, to approve one of three hybrid schedules presented and gave Superintendent Wendy Sinnette flexibility to set a date for teachers and staff to return to La Cañada High School. President Kaitzer Puglia was not able to attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Sinnette said negotiations are ongoing with the teachers association and she said that the plan is to have them return one week before the break for “logistical planning.”
“We do need staff to fully return to the workplace,” she said. “There’s a lot that needs to be set up.”
Teachers, however, expressed to administrators and the reopening committee a desire to return to campus the same day as students. Most LCUSD employees will have had their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Saturday, March 27, and they’d feel more comfortable returning two weeks after.
The district had proposed a phased approach to returning the remainder of students by having 7th- and 8th-graders return on March 29 and students in grades 9-12 back on April 13, avoiding such a large group to show up at once.
LCHS 7-8 Principal Jarrett Gold said that the school can “accommodate the amount of people who will be coming to campus” with protocols in place.
“I do feel that doing it on the week of the 22nd and the 29th, I don’t think it’s worth the amount of stress it would cause on our teachers,” he said.
Sinnette prefers returning at the end of the month because it will give teachers enough time to get settled into their classrooms and prepare for in-person instruction. She assured that the sites will be safe and that the district will help teachers acquire whatever personal protective equipment they need.
Of the just over 2,000 students in grades 7-12, about 30% of them will remain in distance learning, and Sinnette estimates a total of 1,400 students will be integrated into the hybrid schedule that includes virtual learning and in-person instruction.
The approved schedule will have one group of students on campus for instruction on Tuesday and Wednesday and another group on Thursday and Friday. Both groups will remain home to be taught remotely on Mondays.
Teachers will provide a full day of in-person instruction beginning at 8:30 a.m. that ends with prep and meetings at 3:20 p.m. During the 80-minute class periods, teachers will be providing asynchronous and synchronous instruction, meaning they will be instructing a small group of students on campus as well as a group of students at home. Teachers will determine how that instruction is provided.
“They can present live,
in-person instruction simultaneously and teach to both the students in front of them and at home,” Sinnette said. “The other option is to divvy up the period and teach the students in front of them for 40 minutes, and then give them an assignment so they can then turn to the kids who are learning virtually.”
Sinnette felt it was the best schedule because it provides a full day of instruction and “paves the way for us returning in August hopefully to a full schedule.”
The decision from the board came with applause from staff and community members present at the meeting, but a few students submitted public comments opposing the move.
“As a student, I don’t believe sending us back to school before the final months of school is productive,” wrote 10th-grader Victor Rivas. “Many of us won’t be able to adjust fast enough.”
Elyse Hwang expressed a similar concern, saying that she doesn’t see “a point in returning to school” for only less than two months.
“We’ve become accustomed to online learning the past year and it’ll be difficult to reorganize our schedules and habits around learning in person,” she said.
Nonetheless, board member Joe Radabaugh was confident in the plan and was glad to see the reopening plans move forward.
“First off, I’m excited we’re in a position to even do this,” he said. “So it’s not if, it’s when, and we’re building on our success on TK-6 [reopening] and all those lessons learned.”