To Keep Campuses Open, LCUSD Widens Testing for Virus

First published in the Sept. 2 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

At the suggestion of community members and medical experts, the La Cañada Unified School District will update its campus reopening and safety plan and take extra measures to mitigate the possibility of coronavirus transmission on campuses.
The LCUSD Governing Board unanimously approved stricter health protocols recommended by the district staff in a meeting on Monday. Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said the reopening of schools for in-person instruction was “hugely successful but extremely challenging, given the surge of COVID-19 infections as a result of the Delta variant.” Continue reading “To Keep Campuses Open, LCUSD Widens Testing for Virus”

Edited Video Reignites Debate Over School Diversity Plan

First published in the Sept. 2 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

The La Cañada Unified School District’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiative once again took center stage at a Governing Board meeting on Monday, with stakeholders voicing their concerns — and in some cases launching accusations — regarding whether critical race theory is being taught in the classroom.

The debate was recently resurrected when an anonymous account with the username of “vlancer” posted a series of edited videos which allegedly show a private, virtual book club meeting among La Cañada Elementary School teachers and administrators. The videos seemingly depict the staff discussing “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism” by Robin DeAngelo, a professor who researched whiteness studies and critical discourse analysis. Continue reading “Edited Video Reignites Debate Over School Diversity Plan”

Back to School: Students’ Resocialization and Psychology

Annette Ermshar, CEO of Dr. Ermshar & Associates

While we find ourselves grappling with the new norms of our changing world, a return to a regular school year for our students is imminent. Youth are transitioning back to a traditional classroom-based academic year with regular school-based and extra-curricular activities. This transition is certain to have implications for resocialization and for the ever-shifting identity development that naturally occurs in childhood and adolescence.
School provides important opportunities for critical development, not only for academic advancement, but also for socializing, peer support, experiencing memorable events and moments, and self-expression. Certainly the increased isolation and removal from typical socialization that has resulted from the pandemic may have short- and long-term consequences that we still cannot fully know.

Continue reading “Back to School: Students’ Resocialization and Psychology”

LCUSD Celebrates Full Return to School

Photo by Mary Emily Myers / Outlook Valley Sun La Cañada High seniors enjoyed returning to a normal, five-day bell schedule and were welcomed with an early breakfast hosted by ASB, which includes Katharine Franklin (front row, from left), ASB President Isabella Oh, Leslie Dick, Shreya Anand, Emma Donaghy, Shaina Clorfeine and Nicole Kim. Back: Axel Frame, Jack Kim, Andrew Shaklan, Ty Reynolds, Brandon Cho, Sophia Penuela, Brooke Cooper and Niki Samudrala.

The La Cañada Unified School District officially reopened for business on Monday, giving students and teachers a semblance of normal with a five-day-a-week bell schedule for the first time in 17 months.
“It was great,” La Cañada High School Principal Jim Cartnal told the Outlook Valley Sun on Tuesday. “I checked in with the kids all day Monday and [Tuesday] and the general sense was that it is super great to be back. Students enjoyed meeting their teachers and being back in the rhythm of school.”
For some, it was a whole new experience. From transitional kindergarteners to 7th- and 10th-graders, some students had never set foot on the campus, let alone attend a class in person at their new school site.

Continue reading “LCUSD Celebrates Full Return to School”

LCUSD Has Plan to Keep Campuses Safe From Virus

After 18 months in which it mostly provided virtual instruction — with a stretch of limited on-campus education — the La Cañada Unified School District is ready to return to a traditional, five-day in-person schedule beginning Monday, Aug. 16, with a few notable differences in its health and safety plan.
Meeting in person for only the second time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, the LCUSD Governing Board voted 5-0 on Tuesday in favor of adopting the district School Reopening and Safety Plan for the 2021-22 school year that adheres to the recommendations made by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Continue reading “LCUSD Has Plan to Keep Campuses Safe From Virus”

LCUSD Plan for School Year: More Normal, Still Cautious

The La Cañada Unified School District expects to go back to a full five-day bell schedule for the 2021-22 school year, and Superintendent Wendy Sinnette gave the community a preview of what instruction will look like in the fall, assuming that the coronavirus remains largely at bay.

Sinnette gave a presentation during a virtual LCUSD Governing Board meeting on Tuesday that informed stakeholders and board members of current guidelines from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

LCUSD will reopen with a full schedule on Aug. 16 and current health orders require students and staff to wear masks on campus when indoors, though there are exceptions for special education students. Students and staff will not be required to wear masks outdoors on campus, but Sinnette said employees will encourage students to wash their hands frequently and be socially distanced in the hallways and during lunch.

Continue reading “LCUSD Plan for School Year: More Normal, Still Cautious”

Educators, Students Reflect on Lessons of Pandemic Year

Jane Chang teaches of Palm Crest Elementary School students in person after they returned to campus in March. Like other local educators, she provided only virtual instruction when the academic year began.

Last March, the world was upended by a pandemic that affected people in all walks of life, especially those in education. In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, students, teachers and administrators throughout California were forced to pivot to distance learning, a method of instruction that was not easy for learners.

“Personally, for me it was a pretty negative experience,” said Miye Sugino, a rising senior at La Cañada High School. “I don’t think it’s because of the way the school handled it. It was just not good for me to be at home all the time. I missed the ability to interact in real life.

“It was just a really difficult year in terms of general motivation and very limited screen team because the teacher’s presence isn’t the same, but that’s not their fault. It was the best they could do.”

Continue reading “Educators, Students Reflect on Lessons of Pandemic Year”

After Last Year’s Cancellation, Interfaith Baccalaureate Tradition Returns

Students who gave their testimonies included Leah Laska-Sandleman, Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center; Jaden Milbrodt, La Canada Presbyterian Church; Kayley Bond, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Lonnie Blanchard, St. Bede the Vulnerable Catholic Church; and Seema Kayali, Islamic Congregation of La Canada Flintridge.

The La Canada Flintridge Annual Interfaith Baccalaureate Service – for graduating seniors from local high schools and their families – was held under the oaks at La Canada Presbyterian Church last Thursday, with approximately 250 people in attendance.
The keynote address was given by Chris Erskine, a prominent local author who also has a son graduating this year.
“Let me tell you: I have so much respect for this graduating class,” said Erskine to the grads. “You’ve had a turbulent 18 years, born after 9/11, raised amid political turmoil and now a pandemic. You could be cynical, and without joy.
“But you are funny and inspiring. Thank you for that. Seriously. Thank you for your resilience. Your laughter. Your heart.”
“Did you know that when you place sunflowers in a vase, sunflowers turn toward the sun? Just as you’d expect, right? But when placed in a dark room, in a sunless environment, sunflowers will turn toward each other,” Erskine added. “That’s what you did the last year — you turned toward each other. I hope you will continue to do that.”
Other highlights included five students – Lonnie Blanchard, Kayley Bond, Seema Kayali, Leah Laska-Sandleman and Jaden Milbrodt – giving their testimonies, all from different faith traditions. The audience also enjoyed a recorded version or “Hear My Prayer,” sung by the La Canada High School Choral Artists. The benediction was given by the Monsignor Antonio Cacciapuoti of St. Bede the Venerable Catholic Church.
The LCF Interfaith Planning team members are listed in the program (photo).
“I think Baccalaureate is the most meaningful of all the traditional graduation celebrations,” said Christie Frandsen, chair of the Baccalaureate Committee. “We had to cancel our event last year due to the pandemic, but we found a way to do it safely this year, outdoors, everyone masked and safely distanced, but that special spirit of love and faith was stronger than ever. We have seen, over the past few months, just how suddenly the basic structures of our lives can fall apart: school, jobs, social interaction, even our health. It has been devastating.
“Baccalaureate reminds me that there is one foundation that cannot be shaken and that can carry us through these rough times: our faith in God,” Frandsen added. “That faith is strong and vibrant in the lives of these young graduates. And that’s why I love Baccalaureate.”

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Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy Holds Commencement

Isabella Gerhardt, Berit Oxley, Natasha Mertens, Jordyn Hart and Nicole Bednar

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy’s 88th graduation ceremony was held at Crane Field this past Sunday, June 6.
“After a year of so much separation, this is an amazing moment to be able to celebrate the tremendous achievement of these graduates together,” said Sister Carolyn McCormick, FSHA’s president.
Delaney Miller sang the Dominican blessing and Angelina Reddy the Alma Mater.
Commencement speaker Drew Washington, a member of FSHA’s class of 2012 and graduate from UC Berkeley School of Law, was the Rose Queen as a high school senior.
As the program neared the end, seven FSHA legacy families were recognized for having three or more girls having graduated from FSHA.
The graduating seniors’ traditional rose petal toss concluded the ceremony.

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LCHS 8th Grade Promotion Ceremony

Quest Swan, Beckett Sheffield, Dani Ghiraagosian, Ryan Talbert and River Wokosin

Due to social distancing and COVID-19 safety protocols, La Canada High School 8th graders had their promotion ceremonies divided into two separate events – one for School 3 and the other for School 4, both of which were held on campus on June 2.
After opening with “Pomp and Circumstance” played by the 7/8 Band and Orchestra, the flag salute was led by ASB President Seth Larsen and Claire Lin for School 3; Kelly Sellman led the flag salute for School 4. The National Anthem was sung by the 7/8 Honor Choir. A special solo (Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up”) was sung by Kat Sears for School 3, and the trio of Kate Chun, Vani Gupta and Kelly Sellman sang Pink’s “Cover Me in Sunshine” during the School 4 ceremony.
Promotion addresses were delivered by Seth Larsen in School 3 and Vani Gupta in School 4.
There were also special award presentations during the respective ceremonies. The Scoville-Tupper Award was presented to Talia Sverdlik and Kelly Sellman, the Principal’s Award went to David Gilles and Michael Cho, the Excellence in Scholarship Award was presented to Maddy McClure and Luke Rogez, and the Participation and Engagement Award went to Lorelei Rocca and Sofia Flores-Sirolli.
“The accomplishments so many of you have made up to this point are to be remembered and cherished,” LCHS 7/8 Principal Jarrett Gold told the students. “Always believe in yourself and what you can do. Remember that you can accomplish anything you want with desire, drive and hard work. I am confident that every one of you has the ability to change the world. Don’t settle, don’t quit and never give up on any and all dreams you have.”

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