The months-long discourse over a hybrid schedule for La Cañada High School and LCHS 7/8 students came to an end as the local school system’s governing board unanimously came to an agreement during a virtual meeting on Tuesday.
Beginning Jan. 5, 2021, the La Cañada Unified School District will implement a schedule that would allow 50% of students in grades 7-12 to receive on-campus instruction two days a week. LCUSD would have to adhere to Los Angeles County’s reopening protocols for schools and reach an accord with labor unions.
Board and staff members said they came to the realization that no schedule is perfect and decided to focus on what was equitable for all students, including those who elected virtual learning for the year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel like what we’ve been trying to do is find the perfect schedule, and we really have to get over that,” said Chief Technology Officer Jamie Lewsadder, who also is a teacher. “That doesn’t exist. Other districts had this done in August because they picked one and I don’t think they went to the level of trying to think of all the ins and outs of it that we did. And we’re just trying to find the one that was the La Cañada schedule.”
Echoing Lewsadder, board President Joe Radabaugh emphasized the importance of approving a schedule so staff and administrators can continue to refine it, along with safety protocols, prior to reopening.
“We need to do a favor for all us as to declare something, start working on it and hang on the specifics of that model,” Radabaugh said. “I do believe that, especially if we get the opportunity to reopen, we don’t want to be caught off guard by not having all that figured out.”
The plan, favored by Superintendent Wendy Sinnette and LCHS Principal James Cartnal, is to have one cohort of students receive live instruction on campus on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and the other group on Thursdays and Fridays. Those on campus will benefit from having interaction with a teacher following live instruction while pupils at home work independently. All students will be taught virtually on Mondays and the days they’re not on campus.
Radabaugh, a member of the secondary school reopening committee, said it was the most equitable schedule for all three cohorts, one of which includes students who elected virtual instruction for the year.
Lewsadder noted that the district’s commitment to a schedule will finally allow her to further help teachers with online instruction.
“I’ve started to really challenge my own conceptions of what’s possible, and I think once we land on something, we can go all in on making this work,” she said.
The board also approved of a plan that would — if permitted by public health officials — accommodate 39 cohorts, each consisting of 12 students, to gather each day for virtual instruction on campus prior to Jan. 5. The district can accommodate only 468 students per day; if more students apply, the number of days on campus could be reduced for each student.
“It depends on how many want to be part of that experience,” Radabaugh said by phone on Wednesday. “We can only have a certain amount. If everyone wants to do it, then that means that maybe only one day [for each student]. If the number is less, then you might get two or three days.”
Each cohort would be supervised by paraprofessionals, substitute teachers and administrators, and groups would not mix. Students will be arranged by grade level and have at least one friend request that will be honored.
During her presentation, Sinnette said that allowing a small number of students back on campus prior to Jan. 5 would enable teachers to work with the tech department and administrators to design and optimize workspaces. The plan would also allow LCUSD administration to pilot student arrival procedures and outbreak exposure protocols.
The superintendent added that the reopening committee and staff developed schedules that would allow students to “continue to grow and achieve academically.”
LCHS TO OPEN STADIUM, FACILITIES FOR ATHLETES
The district took a significant step toward normalcy for student-athletes by unanimously approving the reopening of the stadium and facilities on Tuesday.
Only teams and 6th-period sports classes at the varsity level will be able to engage in training, conditioning and skill-building activities starting Oct. 12. Fall sports athletes — under the California Interscholastic Federation’s revised calendar — will be the first to return to campus. The fall sports teams include cross-country, football, volleyball, water polo and competitive cheer. Students who will participate in spring sports will return to on-campus training at a later date.
LCHS Athletic Director Carrie Saks, Assistant Principal Jason Ito and Cartnal detailed a plan that adhered to the county Department of Public Health’s Reopening Protocol for Youth Sports Leagues and would strive to ensure the safety of all. Players and coaches will have to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing of at least 8 feet. Athletes will be advised to bring their own water. Coaches will be provided with personal protective equipment kits that include gloves, disinfecting wipes, towels and sanitizer for students and themselves.
Five health screening stations will be spread throughout the campus.
Students will have priority access to the facilities but community groups will have access to them on Nov. 2.
SINNETTE TO APPLY FOR ELEMENTARY WAIVERS
County Public Health announced on Monday it will open a school waiver program that could enable in-person instruction for grades TK-2 in early October, and Sinnette said she will apply for it until LCUSD is accepted.
However, that may take time, as the department will prioritize the issuance of waivers to schools with higher percentages of students qualified for free and reduced-priced meals.
“I wanted to share with the community that we will apply as soon as the process is open,” Sinnette said. “And even if rejected because of their prioritization and given that we have a low number of students on free and reduced-priced meals, we will continue to keep applying throughout the process.”
The county remains in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Tier 1, a classification that indicates a widespread risk of COVID-19 infection, which keeps schools and the majority of businesses closed. Los Angeles had made strides recently but reopening plans hit a snag this week as the daily average of new cases rose to 7.3 per 100,000 residents. For L.A. to reach Tier 2, a lower level of risk, that number needs to be seven or fewer and the test positivity rate must stay below 8% for two consecutive weeks. The positivity rate is at 2.9% as of Monday, placing the county in Tier 3 for this metric.