SB Unified hopes to start hybrid model Jan. 19
Representatives from the Santa Barbara Unified School District and the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department reviewed the methods of creating a safe school environment for in-person learning and answered questions in a virtual town hall Thursday.
There were two town halls, one at noon in English with Spanish interpretation and one at 6 p.m. in Spanish with English interpretation.
This week, parents of students in the district must designate whether they’d like to enroll their students in the hybrid model or stay online starting Jan. 19. They have the option to change their minds next week if they would like.
“If we’re in the red tier, we will open Jan. 19,” Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said.
She said that the district will hold a meeting on Jan. 5 to revisit and continue to monitor, where “we will know more and make different decisions if we need to.”
The district’s hybrid model groups students into A, B and C. Group A attends campus Monday and Thursday; group B attends on Tuesday and Friday; and group C is always at home.
All groups will meet together remotely on Wednesdays.
Three high school students in the district spoke at the town hall, saying that as long as students remain safe and follow guidelines, returning to in-person learning will be good for students’ mental health.
The Public Health Department requires the following for in-person learning: a reopening plan for every school, face coverings worn at all times by students and staff, physical distance inside and outside the classroom, hygiene measures being taught and reinforced, frequent cleaning procedures, daily monitoring of signs and symptoms, and a plan in place if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19.
While there will be more specific youth sports guidance in the next few weeks, students currently will not be able to participate in close contact sports such as basketball, football, volleyball and etc., according to Public Health officials.
Only physical conditioning and fitness is allowed, where students can maintain the six-foot distance.
Dr. Van Do-Reynoso, the director of the Public Health Department, said the county is working to increase available days at the Goleta testing site, obtain a traveling team to visit different schools and expand the existing three Public Health testing sites.
Children in third grade and above are required to wear face coverings all day except when eating or exerting themselves in physical activity, and younger children are strongly encouraged to wear them.
If students do not comply, they are not permitted to remain at school, but school district officials said they want to make sure students understand why they need to wear them before consequences are enforced.
Dr. Frann Wageneck, the assistant superintendent for student services for Santa Barbara Unified, said mask exemptions will be “very, very rare events” requiring medical approval.
“We have to work with our students to have them understand the importance and really look at why this is happening,” she said. “While we won’t be Draconian, we are going to provide safety.”
For students with severe medical needs who may not be able to wear a mask or learn properly with one, Dr. Wageneck said that they will work in smaller cohorts and that the district will address those issues on a case-by-case basis.
Superintendent Maldonado said that for the most part, kids feel natural wearing a mask and understand it’s a part of life now.
A question was asked regarding specific data released per school. Paige Batson, the deputy director of Public Health, said while the department will provide specific data on outbreaks, it won’t specifically name people, and there will be an internal discussion on how to provide data while respecting privacy.
In addition, daily temperature checks are not recorded, and if a student or staff member does have a temperature, they will be taken to secondary screening as discreetly and privately as possible.
Steve Vizzolini, the director of facilities and operations for the district, shared the measures the custodial staff has taken to disinfect as much as possible.
Staff will be consistently disinfecting high-touch areas, restrooms, classrooms and common spaces, utilizing logs in all rooms to date and initial cleaning times and signs indicating a disinfection is in progress or has been completed.
Junior high and high school students will also be required to wipe down their own desks before they leave a room.
He added that fans will run continuously throughout the day to dilute the air, along with keeping doors and windows open to bring ventilation.
Superintendent Maldonado said the district is looking into providing outdoor options for students when possible.
Daily health screenings will include asking if anyone in the household is waiting for COVID results, and parents will have to complete an online attestation each day that their child is not exhibiting symptoms, does not have a fever and has not been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.
Finally, Dr. Wageneck said the district is looking at creating a dashboard for parents to monitor metrics on cases in schools.
To learn more about the return to in-person school, visit sites.google.com/sbunified.org/returntoschool/home-english.