LCUSD officials weigh later high school start times, discipline measures

As a bill to push high school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later moves through the state Legislature, La Cañada Unified officials are giving parents one more chance to weigh in on the matter at a May 22 board workshop.

Members of the La Cañada school board originally planned to vote in their regular meeting Tuesday on whether to pass a resolution supporting Senate Bill 328, which would require all middle and high schools in California to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Introduced by State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) in February, the bill was inspired by research suggesting adolescents — whose brains require more sleep than those of adults and small children — experience less depression, fewer discipline problems and decreased academic challenges when they’re well-rested.

Data collected from a survey conducted among La Cañada High School students in grades 7 through 12 indicated Spartan sleep levels were, on average, lower than the eight to 10 hours recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. First period classes at the high school currently begin at 7:45 a.m.

Further, the Challenge Success program created by Stanford University and being employed at LCHS to redefine success by focusing on student health and wellness recommends later school start times, LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette said Tuesday.

“Challenge Success’ advocating for this has prompted us to consider the merits of Senator Portantino’s Senate Bill 328,” Sinnette told board members. “This is controversial — I think there’s definitely merits to the senate bill. But, we have different groups we subscribe to who’ve come back against this resolution…because they feel it takes away local control.”

Board members discussed the merits of LCUSD potentially pushing back the high school day as soon as the 2017-18 school year, but expressed reluctance supporting SB-328 without hearing more directly from parents and district stakeholders.

“Outreach and messaging is extremely important,” board Vice President Kaitzer Puglia said. “I don’t have an issue with a late start. (But) I want a discussion and more information to be able to make an informed decision.”

The May 22 board workshop will take place from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the district’s Governing Board Room, 4490 Cornishon Ave., in La Cañada . At that time, school board members will have the option of voting on the resolution or waiting until their June meeting to decide.

High school suspensions down from last year

School board members were pleased to learn, in an annual discipline review delivered by LCHS Assistant Principal Mary Hazlett, that the number of suspensions in 2016-17 had decreased significantly from the previous school year.

Meanwhile, alternatives to having a student offender miss school days — including in-school suspensions and family counseling sessions — seem more successful in diminishing bad behavior on campus, Hazlett reported.

“The goals of the consequences are always to provide learning and growth experiences for the students, as well as to provide for the safety and security of all of the students on the campus,” Hazlett said.

So far this school year, there have been 26 total suspensions, including out-of-school and in-school suspensions, amounting to 67 days total. Last year, there were 34 suspensions amounting to 90 days.

“It’s great you’ve been able to reduce things so significantly, with the out-of-school suspensions,” board President Dan Jeffries told Hazlett.

In other business

Also on Tuesday, school board members:

—Recognized the achievement of La Cañada High School students who, under World Languages teacher Marian Price, earned gold-, silver- and bronze-medal scores in the 2017 National Spanish Examinations. This year’s exam, offered by the American Assn. of Teachers of Spanish and Portugese, was taken by 157,000 students in grades 6 through 12.

—Celebrated a $10,000 grant awarded by the Pasadena Showcase House for the Arts. LCUSD Director of Technology Jamie Lewsadder said the district will apply the award to its music programs, and potentially seek out other grant opportunities made available by the Pasadena nonprofit next year.

—Approved a $111,714 wireless network upgrade and expansion that would replace the district’s current wireless access points and add new access points at Palm Crest Elementary and La Cañada High School to meet increased usage demands. Lewsadder said the work, paid for by developer fees and federal funds, would begin this summer and take up to three weeks.

—Received a progress report on the district’s kindergarten and transitional kindergarten (TK) program, delivered by the district’s task force. The presentation reflected on instructional best practices and community input on topics such as homework and the home-to-school connection, as ascertained by a parent/guardian survey.

sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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