By Wendy Sinnette
Special to The Outlook
I hope this letter finds you managing as well as possible the requirements of the “Safer at Home” order as we work together to stop the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the health and safety of our families and community. I am so proud of everyone’s efforts and the spirit of civic responsibility and unity that has emerged during these unprecedented times. On behalf of the La Cañada Unified School District, I want to thank you for stepping up and staying strong in your response to flattening the coronavirus infection curve.
Our district schools have had to face more rapid-fire transformative change in response to the school facility closures than perhaps in the history of our district – definitively more than anytime within my 9 years as superintendent. On the heels of the Governing Board’s decision to close our school campuses effective March 13, 2020, our teachers immediately pivoted and began to engage students in distance learning. For the first three-week period, lessons were delivered digitally to students and these lessons were encouraged but optional, focusing on enrichment, remediation, and reinforcement of the curriculum.
Beginning on Tuesday, April 14, when students returned from their Spring Break, we transitioned again and began the phase of distance learning whereby lessons and assignments were required and graded. This phase of our distance learning plan allows for students to progress through the curriculum and complete their courses of study in preparation to matriculate to the next grade level or course in sequence. This was an important advancement in our distance learning program as it provides the framework to ensure that students master the learning standards and are fully prepared for the opening of the 2020-21 school year.
The idea of being fully prepared is one that continually echoes for LCUSD as we lean into our responses to the COVID-19 crisis. Typically, the school year calendar has a regular cadence with milestones and traditions that are rehearsed and anticipated. This year, for our Senior Class of 2020, as well as our 6th- and 8th-grade promotional classes, we are preparing for alternative ways to celebrate them and pay tribute to their significant achievements.
Congratulatory yard signs have been ordered for the members of the Class of 2020. When, at a recent meeting of the La Cañada Flintridge Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber was told about the yard signs, both the YMCA of the Foothills and the La Cañada Kiwanis offered to donate the funds to double the yard sign order so that community members might have the opportunity to display the signs in their yards in honor of the LCHS Senior Class of 2020. The unique spirit of community and support within La Cañada Flintridge – as evidenced even by this one spontaneous gesture – shines such a warming ray of hope during these tumultuous times and allows us all a sense of confidence in the future.
At the LCUSD Governing Board meeting on April 21, LCHS Principal Jim Cartnal shared with the board plans for other ways in which we will recognize the Senior Class of 2020 and we look forward to sharing those with the larger community in the weeks ahead.
Finally, it is important for all of us during the “Safer at Home” order to stay connected and engaged with our community. One great resource that LCUSD has featured comes from Common Sense Media and is called WideOpenSchool.org. They are posting activities and resources for people of all ages. These include screen-free activities and family-based activities, along with ideas for creating the daily routines which are so essential as we shelter in place.
Another opportunity for engagement that LCUSD is providing to families is the upcoming Webinar, “Navigating Remote Learning,” which will be presented by Stanford University’s Challenge Success co-founder Dr. Denise Pope. The webinar will be held on Wednesday, April 29, from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and will focus on parents’ concerns about the impacts remote learning will have on their child’s academic journey and what role they should play along the way.
Information on how to participate in the webinar may be found on the LCUSD website.
Thank you for all you do to support LCUSD schools. During these unprecedented times I am more grateful than ever for the powerful climate of care shared by our students, families, staff, and community at-large.
Wendy Sinnette is superintendent of the La Cañada Unified School District.