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District Makes Plans for Safe Return to School

First published in the July 14 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

Midway through the summer break, the La Cañada Unified School District is already planning for a healthy, safe start to the 2022-23 academic year, announcing that it will require all students and teachers to submit a negative coronavirus test prior to the first day of school.
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette presented a COVID-19 update to the Governing Board in a meeting Tuesday and informed them of the rise of case rates in La Cañada Flintridge as well as hospitalizations throughout Los Angeles County, and that the figures are likely to continue to rise over the next few weeks.
Sinnette and the board agreed that the safety and health of employees and students is a priority, and testing before school resumes Aug. 15 will keep the doors open for in-person learning.
“We will follow the County Department of Public Health’s orders and maintain our priorities regarding open school and in-person instruction throughout the 2022-23 school year,” said Sinnette.
President Dan Jeffries, who has monitored the COVID-19 cases in LCF, said that La Cañada is not immune to the upward trend occurring throughout L.A. County, and that there were 37 new cases reported last weekend. He added that the city has averaged 790 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past two weeks.
“Also it’s really important [to note] … that most of those home test positives are not being reported to the county,” Jeffries said. “So, they anticipate there’s a huge undercount. … I guess the good thing in that, though, is that a lot of them are relatively mild cases because they are not being reported.”
Transmission had been increasing prior to the July 4 holiday and is expected to continue spiking due to a pair of highly contagious Omicron subvariants known as BA.4 and BA.5.
L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer informed the County Board of Supervisors Tuesday that a mask mandate is likely in the near future with hospitalizations rising daily. The seven-day COVID-19 hospitalization rate is 8.8 per 100,000 people, which is 70% higher than the previous month but still below what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers a high community transmission level of 10 or more per 100,000 people.
Ferrer expects the county to surpass the threshold this week and enter the high community transmission level. A mask mandate requiring everyone aged 2 and older would be implemented should L.A. County remain in the high category for two consecutive weeks.
Sinnette said she has been in contact with county health officials weekly and reiterated that the district must align with their requirements and health protocols — which may require students to wear masks by the time school begins.
“We’ll be nimble,” Sinnette said. “As the County Health Department makes its changes, so will we. There won’t be a delay if they lift a mask mandate, we’ll follow, but if they impose a mask mandate we will as well.”
All LCUSD families will receive two COVID-19 home test kits. La Cañada High School students will receive their test kits during registration, and the remaining families will be notified of distribution by their respective site administrators.
District parents and guardians must test their children and send the result to an administrator the afternoon or evening of Aug. 14. Employees and students will likely have to test again following the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 5.
Sinnette encouraged families to vaccinate their children to remain healthy and safe going into the school year.
“We have the testing plan in place, [and] we will continue to strongly recommend that students and staff wear a mask,” she said.

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