A day after officials indicated that there was no imminent danger to schools throughout Santa Barbara County, the county’s education office announced that all public schools in the county would shut down starting on Monday due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The closure of any school has real consequences beyond the loss of instruction, social connection and cognitive engagement. This was a very difficult decision, which was not made lightly,” said Dr. Susan Salcido, the Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools. “Our school leaders recognize that this closure has widespread ramifications and are working to address impacts such as nutrition for students who typically receive meals during the school day.”
On Friday afternoon, the Santa Barbara Unified School District announced that it would be offering bagged meals for those 18 and younger from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. starting March 16 at the following schools:
- Adams Elementary
- Franklin Elementary
- Harding Elementary
- Monroe Elementary
- Dos Pueblos High School
- San Marcos High School
- Santa Barbara High School
- La Cumbre Junior High
- La Colina Junior High
- Goleta Valley Junior High
“Food is critical to students’ well-being, and our schools are a real life-line for kids and for families. Not just for learning, but for everything,” said Laura Capps, board president for the Santa Barbara Unified School District. “Food is at the front and center of that.”
According to Santa Barbara Unified, parents and caregivers should be prepared to pick up the food curbside or walk up to the meal cart on each respective campus.
Children must be present in order to receive the meal.
Ms. Capps also indicated that the board and the district have plenty of experience in the midst of emergencies, most recently the Thomas Fire and Montecito debris flow.
“The schools really serve as a hub,” Ms. Capps told the News-Press. “Schools are the safe havens in times of tragedies, so in this new disaster and time of fear, that even though our schools are going to be closed — which is a good thing — the essential food that is served to thousands of kids every day will be available.”
While Santa Barbara Unified indicated that school closures would begin Monday, the county did indicate that some may not shut down until March 18 — with some districts featuring 20,000 students, while other rural ones have fewer than 100 students.
According to a news release from Santa Barbara Unified, the earliest that school would be back in session is April 6.
The decision was done in consultation with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, with the health director supporting the decision.
“We support the decision to close public schools,” said Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, director of the county Public Health Department. “While there are no confirmed cases at this time, this demonstration of social distancing will help to slow the spread of the virus and minimize the public health impacts in our community.”
According to an update from the county at 5 p.m. Friday, there have been 15 individuals tested for COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County, with six returning negative results and nine pending results.
Ms. Capps said that pushing for closure of the schools wasn’t done out of fear, instead for prevention.
“From what I’ve read and understand, we need to flatten the curve,” Ms. Capps said. “We need to get ahead of this, we need to protect our local health system. So, thankfully kids are the least vulnerable in contracting this virus, but by closing the schools, we minimize the spread of it.”
The COVID-19 call center can be reached at 833-688-5551 and will be open this weekend from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.