The La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board has directed representatives from Pasadena’s Gonzalez Goodale Architects to prepare construction drawings for a 40-meter-long pool, despite criticism of the pool’s dimensions.
At a Tuesday night meeting, the board learned new design details during phase two of its plans for the pool that would be built at La Cañada High School. Board members saw an animated video depicting models of the pool, outdoor basketball courts planned for the site of an existing pool, and an expanded student parking lot at the south part of the campus.
Resident David Haxton, who has consistently faulted the design of the pool — primarily because it’s not 50 meters — said in an email to reporters before the meeting that he felt the additional space would better accommodate long-course swimming. He said the pool was “unnecessarily deep” at 2.5 meters — rather than what he said was a deep-water standard of 2 meters — and contended that would increase construction and heating costs. He also believes that the pool’s bulkhead, or dividing barrier, reduces the number of usable lanes from 15 to 12 and adds cost, and that the site’s many entrances would be a security and vandalism hazard.
During the meeting, Haxton cited what he feels are other potential issues and said that keeping La Cañada Baseball Softball Association-owned batting cages near the pool parking lot potentially would cost eight parking spaces. He said the matter represented a conflict of interest because board leader Joe Radabaugh is president of the organization.
“For the record, I have no problem discussing the move of those cages if that makes sense,” Radabaugh said.
Speaking on behalf of the architect group, Greg Cannon, project manager at Aquatic Design Group in Carlsbad, said the bulkhead is intended to give athletic programs the opportunity for a smaller pool and would create a physical barrier to help younger non-swimmers. Cannon contended that the proposed pool is not “unnecessarily deep” and said designers followed California guidelines and found that coaches and athletes also liked the depth.
School board members including Radabaugh and Kaitzer Puglia later said, however, they were concerned with possible safety issues resulting from public access to the planned restroom near the pool because parents could lose sight of their children.
Board members Ellen Multari and Dan Jeffries said that overall they were impressed by the plans. As for the concerns about the restroom, Mark Evans, the district’s chief business and operations officer, said he would “see what options exist there.”
The total project budget is $13.9 million, to be paid through Measure LCF, a $149 million general obligation bond passed by La Cañada Flintridge taxpayers in November 2017 to fund capital projects.
Evans said he expected bids on construction of the project to go out in 2021.
PALM CREST REMODEL
The governing board also gave direction to district staff and architects from another firm, Irvine-based LPA, to further develop and remodel Palm Crest Elementary School.
The budget for modernization of Palm Crest is approximately $31,700,000, also to be paid from the Measure LCF budget.
The intent of the remodel’s design is to reduce the number of portable buildings on the campus, modernize existing classrooms, increase playground areas, update infrastructure systems, create a designated drop-off area, and upgrade safety and accessibility on the campus.
The campus will have a two-story modular building arranged in a V-shape to take advantage of the nearby Angeles National Forest landscape and “activate the courtyard,” according to documents presented by LPA.
The remodel will increase the number of parking stalls from 85 to 93, the documents said. There will also be a new parking lot and drop-off area off Palm Drive next to a fire lane.
The proposed 61-stall parking lot at Palm and Jessen drives prompted questions. To create the parking spaces in the middle of the location requires eliminating oak trees, according to the documents.
“Initially, in the first iteration of the parking spaces we were looking to preserve the oak trees, but because the parking demand is so much higher we’re looking to maximize the parking and by doing that will be required to remove some of the oak trees, primarily the ones in the middle,” said Harold Pierre, a program manager for the district.
Evans said the area would need a lot of grading, which could damage the oak trees.
“We do have a lot of tree lovers in our community,” said Multari, who asked that the planned removal be investigated thoroughly.
Pierre said there are five oak trees where the spaces would be located and builders could probably save two. The district is not subject to the city’s oak tree ordinance and does not have to ask permission to remove trees, but the city ultimately would get a chance to weigh in on the removal, he said.
Jeffries asked if oak trees could be planted elsewhere; the LPA architects said it was a possibility.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION
The board also gave feedback and direction for modifying the wording of a draft LCUSD statement on a diversity, equity and inclusion commitment statement.
LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said the statement, which will be the district’s stance on a culture of inclusivity, would return for discussion at a meeting in February or March.
The statement currently says that “LCUSD defines diversity as the array of differences which exist between people, on a personal as well as an organizational level. Those differences include, but are not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, ability, religion, age and political beliefs.”
“What is diversity, which is what you’re trying to accomplish here?” Radabaugh said. “It could be race; it’s not limited to race, gender, identity, sexual orientation … a whole bunch of which we can’t guarantee the level of diversity across these different components. We can make sure we’re equitable and inclusive with the culture.”
Sinnette said the board can celebrate the benefits of diversity and look to diversity in “higher practices” and curriculum.
The board agreed to continue the discussion later and Sinnette noted that administrators weren’t seeking immediate adoption of a statement.
TEXTBOOKS PROMPT DISCUSSION
A first reading of a proposal to adopt two elementary science textbooks generated discussion between school board members and the audience members over the accuracy of the books.
The textbooks are “National Geographic Learning: National Geographic Exploring Science” for kindergarten and 1st grade and “Accelerate Learning: STEMscopes CA NGSS 3D” for grades 2-6.
Local resident Shanti Rao, an engineer at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said he felt the books contained some inaccuracies in their descriptions. In particular, he mentioned the “Accelerate Learning’s” definition of a wave after board member Jeffries asked for an example.
“A wave is a shape that moves,” he said, but asserted that in the examples used in the book “there’s room for many misconceptions. We should not be teaching it that way.”
In regard to the “National Geographic” book, he said the portion on waves was “not much better. All it has on waves is pictures of surfers.”
Radabaugh said he would have staff members further investigate the books, taking into consideration all of the concerns, before a second reading takes place.
Sugi Sorensen, an LCHS parent who belongs to the group La Cañada Math Parents, asked that others be able to give feedback as well, and board members said that was fair.
ACCOUNTABILITY | REPORT CARD
A 2018-19 school accountability report card was also accepted as presented. By Feb. 1 of each year, every school in California is required by state law to publish such a report card, according to a district statement.
Multari asked why there was a slight decline in the district’s graduation rate, and Assistant Superintendent of Education Services Anais Wenn said it usually indicated students who did not obtain a diploma but were on a certificate-of-completion track.
Multari also noted the report card showed increases in the number of LCHS math classes with more than 33 students. In the 2016-17 school year, there were 12 such classes. In 2017-18, the number was 27. In 2018-19, it had risen to 34.
“It was just a big number, and I was wondering if we had dived into to see … if there was any way to mitigate some of these impacts,” Multari said.
Wenn said she would look into the issue Multari raised, and Sinnette said the upcoming 7th- and 8th-grade classes were “larger and we’re looking at ways to lower those [class-size] numbers.”