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Task force finalizes plan to address safety, security gaps across La Cañada Unified campuses

Task force finalizes plan to address safety, security gaps across La Cañada Unified campuses
LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette shares findings from the district's Safety, Security and Well-being Task Force, a group convened last May to identify and solve districtwide safety issues. Now it is up to school board members to prioritize and implement the group's recommendations. (Sara Cardine / La Cañada Valley Sun)

After nearly a year of deliberation, a task force convened to examine safety, security and wellness across La Cañada Unified school sites has a list of recommendations to give school board members for possible implementation in the coming school years.

On Tuesday, task force members reviewed a distillation of their findings — which recommend increased counseling and security staff, more high-quality surveillance cameras, better anonymous tip reporting tools and key fobs that would let teachers initiate school lockdowns among a menu of possible options — in what is likely to be their final meeting since the group’s formation in May 2018.

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“There is a focus that we’ll continue to revisit as we bring this plan to life and continue on,” said LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette. “Because this will never go away as a priority.”

Sinnette broke down the task force’s many recommendations into seven key strategy areas, including promoting well-being, campus access control, readiness training and incident response. Some solutions, like elementary school fencing, are already being addressed by LCUSD’s $149-million bond. Others, such as staffing enhancements, will require ongoing funding sources that may be harder to pin down, she said.

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For each recommendation, officials tried to assign estimated costs and funding sources while distinguishing between one-time and ongoing costs.

Going forward, it will be up to La Cañada Unified School Board members (who all participated in the task force) to prioritize the group’s suggestions during their May 14 regular board meeting and develop a path for implementing and funding the solutions.

LCUSD Board Vice President Joe Radabaugh said while the board will have a lot of tough decisions to make in reviewing the preliminary suggestions, participation in the task force helped him understand ensuring safety and security requires a broader look at how schools operate and the experiences students are having.

“My thinking evolved a lot,” he said. “I came onto the campus security committee thinking it was all about having the best reactive capabilities and threat detection possible. But it’s also [about] the preventative side and wellness. If we do a great job on that, it’s catching a lot of things up front.”

The formation of the task force grew from a Feb. 28, 2018 meeting, in which parents rallied in the wake of the Feb. 14 Parkland, Fla., school shooting and subsequent drug incidents at La Cañada High School that resulted in student hospitalizations and arrests.

Since then, parents, students and staff have worked alongside administrators and school board members to focus on physical security, student wellness, communication, professional training and possibly closing the LCHS during lunch period.

“It’s been a long 14-month journey, and I can’t thank you enough for all the hard work, for the many hours and all the commitment,” Sinnette told members. “Thank you for your service.”

The LCUSD Governing Board will meet May 14 at 7 p.m. to prioritize task force recommendations, at 4490 Cornishon Ave., La Cañada. For more, visit lcusd.net.

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