La Cañada Unified schools to stay closed through April 19, following state order

In a sparsely attended emergency meeting Friday, LCUSD Board members extended school closures through April 19, to coincide with a mandate all Californians stay at home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
(Sara Cardine)

La Cañada Unified School District campuses will remain closed at least through April 19 to coincide with an order from Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday that Californians stay in their homes to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile the district office on Cornishon Avenue will close to the public, while a reduced workforce remains on campus to provide necessary services. Grab-and-go lunches will still be provided at La Cañada High School for students on the free-and-reduced lunch program from 11 a.m. to noon each day.

The governor’s order makes allowances for essential services — including grocery stores, gas stations, banks, farmers markets, convenience stores and food pick-up and delivery — to continue operation. Businesses providing nonessential services were ordered to close as of 11:59 p.m. on Thursday through April 19.

LCUSD officials convened at an emergency meeting Friday morning discussed extending the closure period beyond the previously determined date of March 27.

Board member Ellen Multari said it made sense to have the district’s closure match the state-mandated “Safer at Home” order, but colleague Dan Jeffries wondered whether there might be a benefit to simply extending closure through the district’s spring break, which ends April 10.

“I think it’s important for our students and community to understand we’d like to get back to school as soon as possible,” he said. “It may be that by [April 12] we’re able to do some kind of small classes or limited groups.”

LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette said she learned in a teleconference that morning the Los Angeles County Office of Education would likely soon recommend its 80 school districts remain closed through May 1.

Sinnette said she’d received several emails from La Cañada High School seniors and their family members, concerned about the cancellation of several end-of-the-year senior activities.

Board members ultimately agreed on extending the physical campus closure and continuing distance learning through April 19, at which point future extensions could be considered.

“We have every intention and every desire to have our kids back at school,” Sinnette said. “There is absolutely no plan going on right now of canceling those end-of-the-year activities that are so important to students.”

Also Friday, board members discussed whether and how to conduct scheduled board meetings moving forward, agreeing to offer the public opportunities to attend and provide comments virtually. Sinnette said the March 31 meeting would likely be held in some format.

The board also unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Sinnette to act without prior board approval, if necessary, to protect the welfare and safety of students and district personnel throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

A second resolution was adopted allowing Sinnette and Assistant Supt. Mark Evans to take action to repair or replace any public facilities without board approval and foregoing traditional bidding practices on an as-needed basis through June 30.

Evans said the authority would not apply to Measure LCF bond projects, which would largely remain on hold throughout the closure period.

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