Though cautioning that the future remains unknown, the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board said recently it is planning a car parade on Wednesday, June 3, to celebrate graduating seniors from La Cañada High School in the midst of unprecedented pandemic measures.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said the district has been working with Los Angeles County to determine if it can hold the parade, which is looking likely to be approved. After the district initially decided the celebration could not take place under county coronavirus health orders, some of the “Safer at Home” guidelines were relaxed, and the board learned it could submit an event plan to Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who would then relay it to the county Department of Public Health for consideration.
During the school board’s virtual meeting on May 19, Sinnette emphasized that, while she is hopeful, the event will not be held without approval from the county. The celebration is not a replacement for the seniors’ postponed graduation at Spartan Stadium. LCHS Principal Jim Cartnal said he has asked families to hold July 31, Nov. 24 and Dec. 22 as potential, in-person graduation dates.
Meanwhile, if approved, the car parade will be held June 3, the date originally planned for graduation. With strict guidelines and permission slips, LCHS graduating seniors are invited to drive in cars with their family members past cheering faculty at the school parking lot, where they will receive a diploma through the window of their car. A tribute video will be posted online later that day. Seniors, who Cartnal said would receive an email with more information after the board meeting, would be able to submit slides for that video.
Seniors, who were finishing up their distance learning classes the week of the meeting, were also celebrated by banners placed at light posts along Foothill Boulevard with photos of graduating students.
Board President Joe Radabaugh addressed graduating seniors directly in his report during the meeting.
“Please, please, please don’t let our world’s current situation take away in any fashion the importance of these well-earned accomplishments,” he said. “You and your family should be very proud. I’m convinced the adversity you’ve all faced and conquered will bring you closer as a generation in the years ahead and make you more prepared to face the challenges that will certainly become of us.”
SCHOOL REOPENING UPDATES SPARSE AS
BOARD STRESSES CAUTION
Board members said that while the district is searching for avenues to allow in-person classes to resume in the fall, health and economic concerns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic mean that plans are constantly changing.
A survey was sent to families, asking for their input on reopening schools in the fall. The survey, which is open until Tuesday, June 2, is also available on the district’s website.
The data collected through the survey will allow the district to determine what needs to be done to prepare for a potential reopening, including restrictions, health and cleaning protocols, purchasing of personal protective equipment and negotiations with labor groups.
“The first thing we all have to recognize is that part of the reason that we have been successful over the last two-plus months is that we have a commitment to making data-informed decisions, making iterative decisions, and we’ll continue to do so with our reopening planning,” Sinnette said.
She added that the board plans on forming “reopening” committees by June 3 to help with the process.
The discussion about reopening came as Mark Evans, the district’s associate superintendent of business and administrative services, cautioned that schools’ finances would take a hit from the pandemic over the next few years, with the district anticipated to receive, during the next three years, roughly $13.8 million less than originally projected.
Noting that there had been a rumor on social media that schools won’t reopen until January 2021, Radabaugh reminded community members that the board hasn’t made that decision.
In response to a public comment submitted by a parent who expressed concern that — with much of the discussion of reopening including at least some component of distance learning — elementary students weren’t going to receive enough classroom time in the fall, Sinnette said she felt confident that the educational gap between distance learning and in-person classes was relatively minor. She also noted that health guidelines could restrict the district’s ability to hold in-person classes.
Distance learning will become the norm for a summer program as well. The board voted during its meeting to allow the special education extended school year program to conduct distance learning. Though members lamented that the special education students would lose out on regular face-to-face time, they agreed that the move was necessary.
The uncertainty of the situation was echoed by other board members, including Dan Jeffries.
“There are more questions than there are answers, but the problem that leaves us is that no matter what plan we go with, it really does put you in a very difficult situation of trying to predict the future when no one can,” he said. “I think that I would ask our community to be somewhat patient with the process, because it is very challenging to plan for something when you have no idea what you’re planning for.”