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La Cañada Unified considers $9M high school pool, says consultant will study health risks of ‘Big Dig’

Gonzalez Goodale Architect’s Dennis Smith, left, shows where a proposed 40-meter pool might be placed on the La Cañada High School campus during a Jan. 15 meeting of the La Cañada Unified School District Governing Board.
(Photo by Sara Cardine)

La Cañada school board members examined two massive building projects on the horizon Tuesday, discussing the feasibility of a $9-million, 40-meter pool at La Cañada High School and further considering a $27.5-million renovation proposal for Palm Crest Elementary.

The new construction projects, which could begin in the next two or three years, are part of the district’s facilities master plan, paid for in part by a $149-million school bond passed by voters in 2017. LCUSD has identified projects on all campuses and is now contemplating concept designs and seeking concrete cost estimates in an effort to prioritize work plans.

Several parents and district employees turned out for Tuesday’s meeting to share their thoughts on the optimal size, placement and orientation of the pool.

While some have rallied for a 50-meter pool, the costs of which could be offset by charging rental fees to outside user groups, architects from Pasadena-based Gonzalez Goodale Architects recommended a 40-meter pool just south of the campus’ South Gym, a space currently occupied by basketball courts.


The plan would place the basketball courts between the North and South gyms, where the pool is now, and allow for several junior varsity baseball field improvements and the addition of 50 parking spaces on the school’s south lot, according to Gonzalez Goodale’s Dennis Smith. The pool would have an east-west orientation and its own restrooms and showers, along with an equipment building.

The cost for all the work, which would take from 18 months to two years to complete, is roughly $9 million, plus about $370,000 in electrical service upgrades. By comparison, a 50-meter pool would cost at least another $1 million, and seriously impact the JV field, Smith said.

Greg Cannon, project manager for Carlsbad-based Aquatic Design Group, said a 40-meter pool could accommodate water polo from 16 to 18 swimming lanes and have a capacity of nearly 500 — more than many area high schools, whose pool stats Cannon shared with the audience.

“The proposed 40-meter pool would not be the laughing stock of the league, it would be the envy of the league,” Cannon said.


Former athletic director Kristina Kalb, now an assistant principal at LCHS, said the 40-meter pool could accommodate playoff competitions and meet the school’s needs. But parent Russ Nicholls, whose two sons play water polo, advised the district to do due diligence now before breaking ground.

“We’ll lose good athletes if we don’t build the right facility,” he said.

Board members said they’d consider the total cost of the renovation against other projects identified in the facilities master plan and revisit the matter, possibly in February.

“We’ll take a pause, but we’ll bring this back next month, and hopefully we’ll make a decision,” Board President Brent Kuszyk said.

Palm Crest Renovation

The school board also took a look at updated concept designs for the Palm Crest renovation project. A two-story instructional building for grades 4 through 6 is being planned for the center of the campus’ west end, after school employees selected that as their preferred placement.

Representatives from Orange County architectural firm LPA described the layout of the building, which would accommodate 15 classrooms and feature multiple ingress and egress options, including a second floor exit leading to a hillside hard court area on the campus’ upper end.

“This wasn’t necessarily an area that was described in the master plan, but you can see the importance of actually having this space developed throughout,” said LPA’s Lance Hunter.

LCUSD resident David Haxton advised the district to involve a security consultant in the design of future construction projects to ensure safety. Resident John Caire advised putting the two-story building in the center of campus, also for security reasons.


Board members decided to stick with the configuration presented, out of expediency and according to the positive feedback it garnered from school staff and administrators, but asked planners to return with concrete costs for future consideration.

Devil’s Gate plan

LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette confirmed Tuesday the district’s legal counsel has hired an independent environmental consultant to analyze competing health risk assessments associated with the county’s plan to remove nearly 2 million tons of sediment from behind Devil’s Gate Dam.

A group of district parents recently brought forth recent scientific studies that indicate the county’s environmental impact calculations were much lower than diesel truck emissions as measured in real-world conditions.

Sinnette said L.A.-based Ninyo & Moore Geotechnical and Environmental Sciences Consultants was hired by district legal counsel F3 and will assess the situation and assist the district on community outreach moving forward.

“[They] will help us to identify immediate action strategies that clarify what our concerns are and what needs to be mitigated,” the superintendent said.

Also Tuesday, board members:

Recognized the impending retirement of Dr. Tamara Jackson, director of special education, who plans to retire from the district on June 30 after 16 years of service

Gave final approval for a new physical education independent study course at La Cañada High School 7/8 for elite athletes and those who medically cannot participate in regular classes.


Twitter: @SaraCardine