School Superintendent Addresses Issue of Big Dig Traffic

Monday, May 20, is now the date on which removal of sediment in connection with the controversial Devil’s Gate Dam project is expected to begin.
La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette made the announcement at the end of a more than three-hour Governing Board meeting on Tuesday night.
“We may experience some trucks rolling at the maximum volume of 20 trucks per hour from May to November of this year,” said Sinnette, adding the sediment removal associated with the project also known as the Big Dig will continue annually through 2022 from April-November. She encouraged residents to give themselves more time to reach La Cañada High School between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. and urged young drivers to exercise caution near the trucks as they change lanes; truck traffic is expected to be heavy near the school. She encouraged people to carpool or use a shuttle.
“For our student walkers, they really need to exercise caution when they’re crossing the streets here at the high school,” Sinnette said, “doing so only via crosswalks and adhering to directions from crossing guards or crossing guard signage.”
She recommended that people who seek information visit the project’s website at dpw.lacounty.gov/swe/devilsgate, email devilsgateproject@pw.lacounty.gov or call the hotline at (626) 458-2507.
She added the district’s advocacy work would echo the city of La Cañada Flintridge’s request for a community safety plan from Los Angeles County officials for the project.
Officials have said the project, which began its first phase in late November, is expected to include 425 daily round trips by approximately 95 diesel trucks through the intersection of Berkshire Place and Oak Grove Drive and onto the 210 Freeway. The haul trucks are expected to meet model year 2010 emission standards, officials said.
Sediment removal is the project’s third phase.
On April 2, the county Board of Supervisors agreed to retain a consultant to place air quality monitoring devices at the site and evaluate the data publicly along with other actions.
On November 2017, supervisors approved a project to remove 1.7 million cubic yards of sediment behind the dam at Hahamonga Watershed Park to increase flood protection and restore habitat within the Arroyo Seco Watershed. Work to clear out trees and vegetation began in late November 2018.
Edel Vizcarra, a spokesman for the county Department of Public Works, confirmed a 7 a.m. Monday start date for sediment removal, though county officials recently said they expected such work to begin May 13. Vizcarra said the trucks would not go near LCHS until after 10 a.m. to avoid conflicts with students being dropped off.

SCIENCE SEMINAR CLASS DISCUSSED

Some students who attended the meeting expressed their eagerness to have a science seminar class, and board members said they aren’t ruling the academic elective out. The class would support all science participants of different competitions including Science Olympiad.
“Over 250 students have signed a petition for science seminar in support of the idea,” said LCHS student Ryan Kuo.
Andrew Arthur, an 8th-grade science teacher at LCHS 7/8 who was a coach/mentor for the high school Olympiad team, was joined at the podium by Kuo and four other students, and each read statements about why the class was important.
“All of the students are involved in science competitions,” Arthur said after the meeting. “They are asking the board to create a science academic elective, science seminar, that would allow them to prepare for these competitions within their academic day rather than in addition to their normal course schedule.”
The board ultimately decided to look more deeply at the proposal.
“I don’t think you’ve heard opposition from us here tonight,” said board member Ellen Multari. “I think we have a lot of information to take back.”
Sinnette said the discussion brought “clarity” to the issue and added that it raised challenges — credentialing, for example — but that those weren’t insurmountable.
Arthur said he was satisfied with the board’s decision, so far.
“The creation of a class takes time and there are logistics that need to be worked out,” Arthur said. “I think the students made a strong argument and I don’t see why the district wouldn’t do everything in their power to make this a reality for them.”

WELLNESS, SAFETY AND SECURITY DEBATED

The governing board assigned high priorities to certain projects during a presentation and discussion of the district’s safety and security task force recommendations for board review.
The Safety, Security and Well-Being Task Force has been holding discussions at the LCUSD offices for about 14 months in preparation for bringing its decisions to the board.
The task force was taking information and recommendations from five subcommittees that include students, parents, administrators and board members to create a district plan regarding well-being, safety and security.
The board discussed some of its high priorities at the meeting. They included an improved public address system; safety film for glass doors; a visitor management system; classroom safety plans; high-quality cameras; security staff for all sites; and a camera monitoring plan.
The priorities will be folded into the local control accountability plan, which identifies specific actions the district’s teachers are using to achieve measures and goals; an invitation for task force members to apply for an LCAP committee for next year; and creation of a school safety action plan, which includes a review with security consultant.
“The immediate next step is [today] I’ll be drafting language for our LCAP executive summary and those high priorities will be outlined in that document,” said LCUSD Chief Technology Officer Jamie Lewsadder. “That will be brought to the board for approval in June. From there we take those priorities and determine what is feasible for implementation next year and what will take more time in terms of planning. Overall all of the high and medium priorities are slated for three-year implementation and the low priorities will be under review for further study.”
She added the entire priority list and protocols and procedures will be formatted into a safety and security wellness action plan that will be developed and workshopped over the summer with school sites giving input during the fall.

POOL DISCUSSION CONTINUES

The debate over the size of the pool LCHS should have continued as two residents discussed why the district should approve a 50-meter-long pool during the public comments section of the meeting.
A 40-meter pool, to be built on the south side of LCHS’ south gym, was unanimously approved at a school board meeting in April. Pasadena’s Gonzalez Goodale Architects, which studied the site, wrote that the 40-meter pool’s estimated construction cost is $9 million. Board members estimated it could cost about $1 million more to build a 50-meter pool.
LCF resident Carmen S. Slavov said she wanted to understand why the 40-meter pool’s cost would be yet a 50-meter pool at Fullerton Sunny Hills High School was built for $5.5 million in 2015, according to a newspaper report. She said LCHS could lease the longer course lanes to swim clubs or rent the pool for swim meets, and she claimed the district could make up to $60,000 for a three-day meet.
Board member Dan Jeffries said the district doesn’t have unlimited funding and there’s not a lot of space for the larger pool.
“We have been talking about a pool for a year, maybe longer,” Jeffries said. “I’d love it if we could get a blank check for a million or $3 million. [Resident David] Haxton made a great presentation to the city. We haven’t received any money from anyone.”
Haxton said the district hadn’t tried to raise the extra $1 million for a larger pool.
Jeffries, who said he would “love” to have a 50-meter pool, disputed Haxton’s assertion and said he had spoken with parents of swimmers but was not sure where the $1 million would come from. “We have to look out for what the best interest is to the district. … If you have a concerted plan, let’s talk.”
Jeffries also noted that the board could not discuss the item because it wasn’t on the agenda to be discussed and could constitute a Brown Act violation. The Ralph M. Brown Act is the state’s open-meeting law.

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