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.

Sinnette emphasized that the safety of students and employees is the district’s top priority, and that parents will have to do their part to help mitigate a possible outbreak by using information provided by the LCUSD to determine whether their child should stay home. School sites will no longer have stations to perform temperature checks.

Students are no longer required to be placed in cohorts to separate them from other groups, and the county has eased on classroom setup and requires only three feet of distance between student chairs. A teacher’s workstation must be at least six feet away from students, according to requirements from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health.

Each school will continue to use practices from the past year, such as having an exposure management plan and isolation rooms for symptomatic students.

The LCUSD is looking into its virtual learning option for the coming academic year after 26 families expressed interest in a survey in May.

Sinnette said there is currently no county guidance on in-person events, and the district anticipates functions such as back-to-school nights will be held indoors.

Extracurricular activities such as band, choir, cooking and theater are allowed only outdoors at the moment.

Sinnette reminded stakeholders that the COVID-19 situation is fluid and guidelines can change at any time, for better or worse.

“We ask for patience and flexibility,” she said. “I would love to be presenting a slide show tonight that was cast in stone and could give you all the exact details for reopening, but we have to be flexible because information comes when it comes and we adjust accordingly.”

Another update on reopening will be provided at the next Governing Board meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, July 13, at 7 p.m.

DISTRICT CAN SCOUT DEI CONSULTANTS

The board unanimously approved a request for proposal from Sinnette to vet a network of experts on diversity, equity and inclusion subject matter and issue independent services contracts as needed.

The district is in the process of implementing its three-year DEI plan, and the staff felt it would benefit from expert consultants if needed. The total budget for hiring consultants is not to exceed $60,000.

“Our kids are coming back from 16-18 months of not having been on campus,” Sinnette told the board. “We want to create an inclusive sense of belonging. We can do that. We’re educators, we’re practitioners, but there are some pieces of the plan that require more expertise than we have.”

One example of a resource the superintendent gave was the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, an organization that aims to integrate evidence-based social emotional learning into the classroom. She told the board of an informative CASEL publication that asks, “How can social emotional learning meet the growing political, economic and health challenges we face around the world?”

Board members approved Sinnette’s request, 5-0, and reiterated that the consultants would be used only as needed and that LCUSD will dictate its DEI plan.

“Let’s be clear: We are leading implementation of our plan,” said board member Joe Radabaugh. “We’re not turning over the leadership to an outside consultant group to drive for us. We do recognize, though, from time to time we may need some external horsepower to get something done.”