First published in the Oct. 14 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
La Cañada Flintridge and school district officials were scheduled to meet on Oct. 14 to resume the discussion surrounding the joint use agreement between the community and sports leagues.
The local joint use committee — which includes La Cañada Unified School District leaders and members of the LCF City Council, municipal commissions and staff — will hold an in-person meeting at City Hall at 2:30 p.m. to discuss possible amendments to the agreement, most notably the time when youth sports teams can begin using local facilities.
The district currently permits user groups — such as the La Cañada Baseball Softball Association, American Youth Soccer Organization and club sports teams — to utilize its fields from 5:30-9:30 p.m. but is requesting that the start time be pushed back to 6 p.m. in anticipation of all schools adopting later start times. Senate Bill 328, authored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino of LCF, was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom two years ago to make California the first state to require middle and high schools to begin classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and the mandate goes into effect during the 2022-23 academic year.
Such a change would particularly affect the soccer teams — especially those with children under 6 that usually practice as early as possible so families can be home sooner rather than later — in a small town that lacks public fields.
La Cañada High School, which shifted to an 8:30 a.m. start time in 2017, boasts the largest campus in the city, and its football, baseball and softball fields are the most utilized by user groups. Between 16 and 18 squads practice simultaneously on the baseball and softball fields, and shifting the time back would displace at least 16 youth soccer teams. That matter is further complicated by construction currently being done at LCHS, limiting coveted space.
The panel is exploring the feasibility of possible solutions, such as expanding fields at elementary schools to allow younger players to begin practicing as early as 4:30 p.m., but must come to an agreement before the end of the year to prevent the elimination of programs.
Developed decades ago, the joint use agreement was struck between the city and school district and calls for the city to pay for maintenance of LCUSD fields in exchange for usage time that allows local community sports leagues to practice.
Todd Reynolds, who is the president of the LCF sports coalition and has coached multiple youth baseball and soccer teams, is confident that an agreement benefiting all parties can be reached.
“Anyone of us feels comfortable to pick up the phone and talk,” he said of the relationship among the city, district and user groups. “We have a very cooperative relationship, and we know we have to be. You go back 20 years ago, and all three of those entities felt at odds with the other two. It really has turned into a good relationship with the school district and city management staff and user groups constantly talking to each other. I’m confident we’ll be able to find solutions here.”