First published in the April 21 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.
Ahead of the Joint Use Committee meeting, the La Cañada Unified School District presented a resolution that it hopes will be agreed on by the city and user groups, which include youth club sports teams. The meeting was scheduled for Thursday morning, after the Outlook Valley Sun’s press deadline.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette read Resolution 17-21-22 to the Governing Board at a meeting on April 12 that states the district’s need to modify the previous agreement between the parties and extend the school hours, giving La Cañada High School an additional hour to use the facilities.
The Joint Use Committee, which includes representatives from the district, City Council and La Cañada Flintridge staff, are continuing its discussion about the field use demand for precious space increases in a small city that has a limited number of facilities to accommodate all of the youth sports programs and adult recreational leagues.
The current agreement has school hours ending at 5 p.m., but Sinnette said it needs to be amended to 6 p.m. because Senate Bill 328 — a bill authored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino of LCF that requires middle schools and high school to start no earlier than 8 a.m. and no later than 8:30 a.m. — goes into effect next school year.
Though LCHS changed its start time five years ago to 8:30 a.m., other schools are not forced to make a similar move, which pushes back the time for after-school activities to begin.
“Our minimal need is to have that pushed to 6 p.m.,” said Sinnette, who said the district is doing its best to be a good neighbor. “We recognize that a change like that impacts our younger community users with less daily field use time, and so it’s incumbent upon working together to figure out how we can mitigate that impact to our younger users.”
With the resolution, the district is proposing to have $40,000 transferred to a special fund to be used to purchase safety lighting for Foothill Intermediate School and elementary school sites and permit user groups to those facilities at 4:30 p.m., which is an additional 30 minutes compared to the previous agreement.
“The offset is we’re asking for an hour of time at the high school and we’re trying to give back an hour of time at the elementary school with the 4:30 start or access to the fields and the safety lighting hopefully in allowing at least a half of an hour of more play with safe pack-up and exit,” Sinnette said.
Board member Joe Radabaugh, who is also on the Joint Use Committee, said that the fields get very dark, and the implementation of some lighting would address a safety concern.
LCUSD went further with its commitment in finding a solution to the issue of field use and space in proposing an additional $10,000 to the special fund that would be used to redesign the play area at Palm Crest Elementary, which is currently under construction, to maximize field space.
Should the Joint Use Committee agree to the district’s resolution, the city and district would then have to vote to approve the amendments to the joint use agreement.
Governing Board President Dan Jeffries is hopeful that the resolution will move the conversation forward.
“A while back, we tried to do a resolution to change the hours and it did not succeed,” he said. “It was a 2-2 vote [among Joint Use Committee members], and what our hope is that we can, by having our first read of [the resolution], telegraph to the City Council that this is what we are committed to doing and have some very concrete steps in addressing the need for more field space.”