LCUSD Mulls Closing Campus Activities Amid Virus Spike

Outlook Valley Sun file photo
The LCUSD governing board discussed the suspension of on-campus athletic activities at the high school for the remainder of January due to the surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Los Angeles County.

In its first official meeting of the year, the La Canada Unified School District governing board had much to discuss since it last convened on Dec. 15.
In the past month, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have spiked throughout Los Angeles County at an alarming rate, and the board deliberated over the possible suspension of the few on-campus activities currently underway, most notably those at La Cañada High School, on Tuesday.
Barbara Ferrer, L.A. County Department of Public Health director, strongly recommended to district leaders in a conference call last week that they shut down schools for the remainder of the month due to the holiday surge.
The Los Angeles Unified School District shut down all of its campuses last month, and other districts have followed its lead, especially after last week’s call with public health officials.
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Capitol Riot Becomes Teaching Moment at LCHS

Jim Cartnal had a Zoom meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 6. The La Cañada High School principal looked forward to talking to a group of students supporting the Challenge Success initiative, which promotes a balanced, academically fulfilling life for kids.
His eagerness quickly turned to concern as he was notified by friends and family of what was happening more than 2,600 miles away. A violent mob of supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol to disrupt the counting of electoral votes.
“Should we meet or just go home and focus on our families?” Cartnal thought. He ultimately decided to shorten the meeting and allow the students to be with their families.
He reflected on the alarming riot and sent an email to families the following day, advising parents that they limit their children’s exposure to media and have a conversation with them about the events that transpired.
Cartnal also held a Zoom meeting with teachers and administrators last Thursday and encouraged them to slightly alter their lesson plans and create an open virtual space for students to process and reflect on what happened the previous day.
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LCFEF Donates $2.3M to Schools

Photo courtesy LCFEF
La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette (front row, from left), La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation President Leslie Chang and Mark Evans. Back: LCFEF Executive Director Marilyn Yang, Endowment Trustee Ara Aslanian and 2019-20 LCFEF President Rodney Swan.

Thanks to generous donations during the 2019-20 school year, the La Cañada Flintridge Educational Foundation — with a boost of $380,000 from its Endowment Fund — contributed $2.3 million to the La Cañada Unified School District on Sept. 16.
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Letters to the Editor

LCUSD Leaders ‘Clarify the Record’

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion in our community about the school district’s work on the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. We are grateful for the level of interest and appreciate all those who have offered their perspectives.
In addition to the many strong opinions expressed, however, there have also been many facts asserted or implied that we believe are at odds with reality in a way that might create confusion or even needless anxiety. We write today to help clarify the record, so that thoughtful and productive debate and community input can continue on solid, factual footing.
It is not accurate that the district is acting impulsively or superficially. Our current work on this topic has been underway since before the 2019-20 school year, and has involved public goal setting, workshops, surveys, focus groups and trainings. It is also far from done. The district will next create a committee that is broadly representative of the community to help identify top priorities for next steps. The board voted unanimously to incorporate this work into this school year’s superintendent’s goals to ensure that it continues with the highest degree of accountability and excellence.
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Students in Special Categories May Soon Return to Campus

Nearly 60 schools notified Los Angeles County of their intent to reopen this week at limited capacity, and the La Cañada Unified School District isn’t far from doing the same.
Public Health announced earlier this month that schools could reopen small classes for students with individual education plans, students in special education and English-language learners beginning Sept. 14.
In an email to the Outlook Valley Sun, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said she anticipates “the first few cohorts of [LCUSD] students may return to campuses at the end of September or early October.”
“We are in the process of bargaining the effects of working conditions with [teachers and employees associations] to allow this to happen,” Sinnette said. “The cohort restrictions are strict and once a teacher joins an in-person cohort, they are prohibited from delivering in-person instruction or assessments to any student outside the cohort. So our first priority will be to bring back to campus cohorts of our highest at-risk, highest-level-of-need students.
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Letters to the Editor

Opinion About Advocates
It appears that those advocating the diversity plan in our schools are more interested in teaching kids what to think rather than how to think.

Trent Sanders
La Cañada Flintridge


DEI Consultant Thanks Community for Its Support
I am writing to express my sincere gratitude for the many members of the greater La Cañada Unified School District community who have extended their support over the past several weeks — support for me, but more importantly, for the critical work of cultivating equitable spaces for learning where every student is seen, supported and feels a sense of belonging. Through the letters to the editor, comments during school board meetings and direct emails, students, parents, staff, alumni and community members have raised their voices in support of a humanizing approach to education, Continue reading “Letters to the Editor”

Virus Stats Improve, but Don’t Permit Return to Campuses

Confirmed coronavirus cases continue to decline in Los Angeles County, a trend that has made local school district officials optimistic about being able to offer in-class instruction at the elementary level, but any hopes for reopening campuses in the near future were dashed Wednesday by county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer.
“At this point, [the Department of] Public Health will not be opening up our waiver process for schools,” Ferrer said in a statement. “We will be closely reviewing the guidance from the state and will be reviewing all options with [county supervisors] to ensure that schools are able to open as safely as possible for all children and staff.
“We do need to continue taking all of the steps that were taking these past few weeks so that our community transmission rates remain low enough for us to continue our recovery journey,” she added in the county’s update, “and a very important piece of that recovery journey is getting our children back to schools.”
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Diversity Report Spurs LCUSD Board to Confront Inequity

File photo
Consultant Christina Hale-Elliott (right), who contracted with the LCUSD in September 2019, is pictured with Superintendent Wendy Sinnette.

When it comes to racial diversity, equity and inclusion, the La Cañada Unified School District has been given a road map to improve its grade.
LCUSD Governing Board members showed enthusiasm Tuesday for embracing the beginnings of a plan to improve inclusion, empathy, tolerance and much more throughout the district, after listening to findings gathered over the course of a year by Pasadena-based Christina Hale-Elliott. Hired in September 2019 as the district’s first diversity, equity and inclusion consultant, she is the founder of Elliott Educational Services.
For more than two hours, board members leaned in as Hale-Elliott summarized her findings, based on data collected via numerous surveys, interviews and focus groups involving teachers, staff, students and parents throughout the district at the elementary, middle and high school levels. The report also drew on quantitative data provided by the LCUSD and the California Department of Education website.

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District Set to Start School on Monday

The La Cañada Unified School District and its teachers reached an agreement on the distance learning model for the upcoming school year, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette reported during the governing board meeting on Tuesday.
Virtual learning will begin for all grade levels on Monday, Aug. 17, in keeping with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s guidelines preventing schools in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list from providing in-person instruction.
“We are committed to providing a world-class educational experience virtually, in small groups,” Sinnette said, “and then hopefully we get to the hybrid model and then ideally to a full resumption of school as we once realized it, hopefully within this year.”
Sinnette’s virtual presentation included scheduling information that had been previously discussed but included one major update.

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LCUSD Commits to ‘Quality’ Distance Learning to Start Year

The La Cañada Unified School District has mulled over scheduling and instruction for the upcoming school year for the past eight weeks, but its governing board’s disclosure this week that the district is going with distance learning simply confirmed an earlier decision by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The governor announced new guidelines last Friday that would prevent California schools, public and private, in counties on the state’s COVID-19 watch list — which monitors trends in infections and test positivity and hospitalization rates — from providing in-person instruction when the academic year begins.
“Learning is non-negotiable,” Newsom said. “The virus will be with us for a year or more, and school districts must provide meaningful instruction in the midst of this pandemic. In California, health data will determine when a school can physically open — and when it must close — but learning should never stop.”
In a special meeting Tuesday, the LCUSD announced it will open the school year with distance learning at all levels, but officials are hopeful of returning students to campus when it is safe to do so. Details of those plans, whether at half or full capacity, have not yet been finalized.
For the district’s schools to reopen, Los Angeles County must be taken off the watch list, which can happen only if coronavirus cases drop for 14 consecutive days. The recent surge in COVID-19 cases made California the state with the most confirmed infections in the nation, surpassing New York.
“The good news about our virtual academy is that it’s much better than it was before,” LCUSD board President Joe Radabaugh said by phone. “It’s going to be quality education.”
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