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LCUSD acts on safety task force suggestions, hears need for science seminar elective

La Cañada High School could see the addition of three new campus supervisors and high-resolution cameras next school year, after board members considered Tuesday implementing a suite of recommendations made by a districtwide safety, security and well-being task force.

The two proposals for the high school were among 32 suggestions submitted by the task force, which has worked for the past year to address safety shortcomings at La Cañada public schools. Other suggestions include purchasing safety film to prevent glass doors from shattering in an emergency, improvements to school public address systems and better visitor management procedures.

On Tuesday, the La Cañada Unified Governing Board prioritized the projects and programs put forth by the task force, considering costs and how easy the changes would be to make.

“The end goal is about creating an action plan, so we have to set these priorities to be able to formalize that plan,” said Chief Technology Officer Jamie Lewsadder, who with board Vice President Joe Radabaugh helped oversee the process.

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Some recommendations, such as elementary school fencing, better lighting and parking improvements, will be taken care of as the district renovates campuses under a $149-million bond program. Others, like automatic locks at the high school and hiring a security consultant to conduct campus risk assessments, were underway when the task force first convened last May.

Lewsadder explained about half of the suggestions are already in the planning or action stages. Board members assigned each remaining proposal a high, medium or low priority status and plan to share their rankings with the school community by the start of the 2019-20 school year.

LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette said hiring three part-time campus security personnel to work about 18 hours weekly at La Cañada High — at an estimated annual cost of $40,000 to $45,0000 — would allow for four adults to have their eyes and ears on the campus at any given time.

“It’s an initial step that’s affordable,” she said. “And we would be getting a lot of real-time information about the level of support that it provides and what needs there are to be addressed.”

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Students, parents press for science seminar class

Following up on an earlier appearance at an April 16 board meeting, several LCUSD students and parents turned out to Tuesday’s meeting to request the district examine the feasibility of offering a seminar class for science-competition-focused students in the 2020-21 school year.

LCHS freshman Ryan Kuo said a good-sized contingent of students participate in competitions like Science Olympiad and the National Ocean Sciences Bowl but are hard pressed to find coaches, meeting places and time to practice, let alone raise funds to compete.

“It is easy for ideas like ours to be ignored or easily dismissed,” he said. “[But] over 250 students have signed a petition for a Science Olympiad seminar elective in support of the idea.”

Students spoke in favor of a seminar class offered as an elective, rather than an extracurricular club or zero period — time slots already filled with other classes and activities.

Junior Anurima Chattopadhyay, who competed in the Ocean Bowl for several years at the middle and high school levels, described raising money for meets and competing without a coach and being turned away when she sought space to practice or store the team’s practice buzzers.

“There is no reason why the district cannot have classes dedicated to training and preparing for these competitions,” she said. “We simply want to see change. We want to be supported in our endeavors.”

District officials described their own challenges, including cost, packed schedules and finding a credentialed teacher who could advise such a broad range of competition types, but conveyed their support for STEM programs and said they hoped to continue the conversation.

“I don’t want anyone to walk away tonight thinking there isn’t an appetite for making something like this happen,” said board member Ellen Multari. “I think we have a lot of information to take back and see what we can make happen.”

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Also Tuesday, board members:

• Recognized members of the “Software Sisters,” the La Cañada High School chapter of Girls Who Code, a nonprofit that aims to open up the computer science field to more women. Members shared their experience running a camp and “hackathon” for young girls under advisement from teacher Gayle Nichols-Ali and said they hoped to repeat the event next year.

• Thanked student board representative LCHS senior Andrew Kwon for his year of service and announced J.J. Dick will serve as next year’s representative. Kwon, who plans to attend U.C. Berkeley in the fall, thanked the board for a memorable experience.

• Heard a request from two district parents who contend a 50-meter pool would be the best option for an upcoming renovation at La Cañada High School. David Haxton and Carmen Slavov said the district could recoup the $1 million in extra cost by renting lanes to swim clubs throughout the year, but board member Dan Jeffries said without a concrete proposal outlining such a payment plan the district would have to move forward with a 40-meter option.

• Heard an update from Supt. Wendy Sinnette on the Devil’s Gate Dame Sediment Removal project, which could begin Monday, weather permitting. She advised student drivers and walkers to exercise caution while on Oak Grove Drive at Berkshire Avenue, where trucks will be attempting to access the Foothill (210) Freeway until 3:30 p.m. during the school year.

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