La Cañada Unified's Master Calendar Goes Hi-Tech

La Cañada Unified School District parents are receiving one less summer mailing for the 2005/2006 school year. The master calendar, a printed booklet in years passed, has been posted on the LCUSD website instead.

The calendar is a joint effort by the school district and the parent teacher associations of all five schools. Conceived of as a method of disseminating comprehensive information about various school events so that families can plan their other activities, it has come to include more and more youth related community events.

Besides organizations like PTA and La Cañada High School's Spartan Booster Club, which have direct affiliation to local schools, various Boy and Girl Scout troops, the YMCA, and community events have, through the years, steadily made their way into the calendar.

In order for its activities to be included in the calendar for the following school year, an association has to submit a timetable to the school district office by July. For school year 2005/06, Robin Cresto of the district superintendent's office compiles all the data, which is then followed by a meeting.

"After all the submissions are in, all interested parties including district staff, principals, PTA presidents and school secretaries gather around a very big table to go through each date to make sure there are no conflicts," said Meredie Heaton, 2005/06 PTA Council president. "We make sure, for example, that a school board meeting and a city council meeting are not held on the same day."

The calendar has become an important tool for many parents, especially volunteers who spearhead special events and programs. Some even refer to it as their bible.

The decision to go online was made jointly by district technology director Enoch Kwok and new superintendent, Jim Stratton.

"The main rationale for going online with the calendar is to make sure that it is always up to date and accurate," Stratton said. "Once a hardcopy calendar goes to print, you can not make any changes. Another reason is to save money and resources."

Heaton agreed. "In previous years, the master calendar was outdated by the time it was printed," she said. "It's a wonderful resource and all the thought that goes into it, but the dates have to be in by July and things change. This year it's going to be electronic, we can update when we need to and people can print out a hard copy if they like."

The district will save the cost of printing and mailing the booklet, estimated to be approximately $10,000 a year, but the benefits extend beyond finances. The Web pages give the option of selecting a specific school's critical dates for a particular date, and clicking on an event opens a separate page with any additional information supplied.

Heaton views the new format as part of a trial to streamline the calendar, emphasize critical school dates, and make it easier for parents to access their children's schools' events.

"Critical dates for community events are listed but publicizing the events gives the impression that we are endorsing the activity," Heaton said. "We are trying to come up with some simple deadlines so that critical dates that need to be on the calendar are there, but some other dates need to find other ways to be distributed." The master calendar can be found at www.lcusd.net/Cal/.

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