First published in the Feb. 3 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
COVID-19 case rates and hospitalizations throughout Los Angeles County continued to decline this week, showing signs of recovery from a winter surge caused by a more transmissible Omicron variant, and La Cañada High School is doing its part to contribute to that trend by hosting a vaccine clinic Saturday.
In partnership with Wealth by Health, a nonprofit organization whose goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of underserved populations, the clinic in the north gym will offer the Pfizer vaccine for anyone aged 5 and older and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for adults. Flu shots will also be administered.
“It’s one example of us all doing our part to flatten this curve and stop the spread, and if we can’t be super successful with stopping the spread, then get people protected with these vaccines,” said LCHS Principal Jim Cartnal.
Despite having had 52 confirmed cases in the past two weeks, the high school has managed to keep all classes open for in-person instruction. Cartnal credits the high vaccination rate — 90% of teachers and 87.6% of students in grades 7-12 are fully inoculated — and leadership from the Governing Board and Superintendent Wendy Sinnette.
The board approved a recommendation from Sinnette to postpone the return to in-person instruction following the winter break by one day due to a surge in coronavirus cases throughout the county and distributed at-home COVID-19 test kits to families so students can be tested prior to the beginning of the week. Parents were required to use the home kits each Sunday and submit results to the district by 9 p.m. through Feb. 6. Board members also approved the requirement of students wearing masks outdoors unless they are eating or drinking.
“It’s allowed us to turn a corner,” Cartnal said of the measures taken by the district. “Athletics are all back and we’re marching forward with student government, clubs and possible assemblies. We’re going to continue chipping away at it to make sure that school remains in-person and keep all the programs that we have going and thriving.”
While schools throughout California struggled with staffing shortages amid a winter surge, Cartnal said LCHS didn’t skip a beat thanks to a “terrific and deep pool of [substitute teachers] that we were able to lean on.”
However, sports have been affected by Omicron with multiple cancellations and postponements. Schools have to adhere to strict protocols implemented by the county, posing logistical headaches for athletic departments, but La Cañada High School has started to catch up with the Rio Hondo League games that it could not play weeks ago.
“As school principal, I’m just grateful for our players’ and families’ flexibility and the resilience of our staff. I think [Athletic Director] Carrie Saks and her team have done a great job, and everyone understands we’re all doing everything we can to have as many contests go as possible,” Cartnal said.
The big draw in high school athletics at the moment is basketball, especially with the race for the Rio Hondo League championship in boys’ basketball. LCHS is limited to 500 spectators in the Hotchkin Family Gymnasium. With a big game against San Marino coming up Saturday, Cartnal said, administrators will be onsite to monitor mask-wearing in the gym.
“Everyone that’s been in the Hotchkin Gymnasium has done a good job of wearing their mask when they’re inside; that’s our first line of defense,” Cartnal said. “We will keep an eye on this coming Saturday and monitor that carefully.”