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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LCUSD Changes Course, Will Appoint New Board Member

A temporary position on the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board is up for grabs after the four-member panel voted in favor of appointing one of 10 applicants who had previously interviewed for the position, reversing its June 17 decision to leave the seat vacant and allow voters to choose a new member in the November election.
“To me, the decision not to fill was the best outcome at that time,” board President Joe Radabaugh said during Tuesday’s virtual meeting in an effort to clarify what transpired during the previous session. “I did have regrets that we surprised applicants and others with the decision.
“But [after the meeting], I listened to feedback from the community. I know people didn’t have the full story. I realize fair points were being made. In closing, we value the trust and support of the community. Because of that, we felt it was important to agendize this item for more discussion and allow folks to weigh in.”
Most people who commented Tuesday expressed a preference for appointing a temporary board member. The position would still be permanently filled in the November election.
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School Officials Introduce Initial Reopening Plans

Photo courtesy LCUSD
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette provided a photo showing how a classroom may look in the coming school year, in accordance with social distancing guidelines.

The La Cañada Unified School District’s plan to reopen schools is becoming clearer despite the uncertainty that lies ahead because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette previewed plans from the reopening committee — consisting of district board members, staff members, educators and parents — and addressed concerns from stakeholders during a virtual LCUSD Governing Board meeting on Tuesday.
More details of the committee’s plans will be presented at a meeting on July 14 so that the board can approve them. Sinnette preferred to show a plan early to allow parents and personnel to better prepare for the 2020-21 school year scheduled to begin on Aug. 17.
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LCUSD Board Leaves Seat Vacant, Discussion Will Resume

OUTLOOK file photo
The La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board voted 3-1 last week to keep the vacant school board seat empty and let voters choose a new member in the November election. The matter has been posted as an agenda item for discussion at a June 30 meeting.

By Camila Castellanos and Oscar Areliz
Outlook Valley Sun

Despite having interviewed 10 applicants to fill a temporary vacancy on the panel, the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board ultimately decided last week not to fill the seat, indicating that doing so might give the appointee an unfair advantage in the November election that will permanently fill it.
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LCUSD Seeks to Celebrate Seniors Despite School Closures

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.
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Longtime Palm Crest Teacher Dies from COVID-19

Palm Crest Elementary School staff, students and family received heartbreaking news this week that beloved 3rd-grade teacher Terese Chiames Caire died of complications from the COVID-19 virus on April 28.
Caire taught 1st, 4th, 5th, 6th and, most recently, 3rd grade in her 27-year tenure at PCR.
“Mrs. Caire has been a valued member of our LCUSD community for 27 years and has developed many deep and lasting relationships with students, families and colleagues,” La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette wrote in a letter to the LCUSD community. “Mrs. Caire will be missed.”
PCR Principal Cory Pak informed the staff last week and they are “actively preparing to provide support services to help their students, families and each other cope” with the loss, according to Sinnette.
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LCUSD Deliberates on 2020-21 School Year

In a regular meeting of the La Cañada School District Governing Board on Tuesday, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette tackled an update on what many students and families have been anxiously — and with trepidation — waiting to hear: What the future of learning holds in La Cañada Flintridge.
In short, Sinnette summed up, nobody is certain on a plan, but the district is working hard to create various scenarios on how it intends to open the 2020-21 school year, with possible options including staggered student schedules though an “a.m. or p.m.” possibility or even alternating days. Whatever approach is considered and decided upon, Sinnette said, she will be informing the LCUSD community as it happens.
“I know everyone is listening to the news and I think we all have more questions than answers right now,” the superintendent said, “but [we] are creating timelines for plan implementation; we are engaged in educational research looking at all kinds of options, we are identifying strengths and limitations of various scenarios, and so I want our community to be rest assured there is in-depth research taking place and we will begin to communicate in a transparent fashion all of our plan development over the next weeks and months.
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LCUSD Extends School Closures Through May 5

Photo by Wes Woods II / OUTLOOK
The La Cañada Unified School District board and staff members met virtually on March 31 at a special meeting that included Anais Wenn (front, from left), Dan Jeffries and Brent Kuszyk. Middle: Mark Evans, Ellen Multari and Kaitzer Puglia. Back: Joe Radabaugh, Jamie Lewsadder and Wendy Sinnette.

The La Cañada Unified School District board voted to extend school closures through Tuesday, May 5, at a Tuesday night special virtual meeting, and acknowledged that the timeline could be further pushed back.
The vote took into account the recommended May 5 date put forth by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. The meeting featured governing board members attending virtually, or via video conferencing site Zoom, and was broadcast live on YouTube.
Before voting, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette spoke of the statement from the California Department of Education, sent earlier on Tuesday, which said it “currently appears” students will not be able to return to school campuses before the end of the school year.
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LCUSD Superintendent’s Message on Status of District

By Wendy Sinnette, Special to The Outlook

Wendy Sinnette

I hope everyone is managing during these unprecedented times as we engage with Gov. Newsom’s “Safer at Home” order and work together to flatten the curve of infection with the COVID-19 virus. I am grateful to The Outlook and Charlie Plowman for giving me the opportunity to update the larger community regarding the status of our schools in the La Cañada Unifed School District.
I have been regularly emailing district families, students in grades 7-12 and staff, but given the support that the community of La Cañada Flintridge continually demonstrates for its schools, it is important to keep everyone informed regarding district updates. Our schools closed on Friday, March 13, in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Teachers were provided two days to prepare for distance learning, which officially commenced on Tuesday, March 17. Our teachers and students have access to Google Classroom, and student textbooks and learning apps are stored in Classlink, an online centralized platform. Other resources available for distance learning opportunities are Screencastify, Google Hangouts, Zoom, YouTube and EdPuzzle. Teachers are designing lessons according to their instructional style and working hard to ensure a continuation of learning throughout the school closure period.
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LCUSD Cancels Student Trips Amid Coronavirus Precaution

The La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board instructed Superintendent Wendy Sinnette this week to cancel student out-of-state field trips involving air travel because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the district is also assessing the importance of large group activities amid social distancing precautions.
At a regular meeting of the board Tuesday night, Sinnette and LCUSD’s Chief Technology Officer Jamie Lewsadder delivered a detailed report about the district’s plans regarding the possibility of school closures. The board also discussed upcoming air-travel field trips outside California as an agenda item and voted to cancel them.
Following the meeting, Sinnette sent out a district-wide letter about the decision.
The coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is a respiratory illness that has spread worldwide. In a statement Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said there were 27 cases in the county, including three reported by the city of Long Beach. Officials also reported the county’s first coronavirus-related fatality; the woman who died was an older woman with underlying health issues and a nonresident who had been visiting friends.
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