As public schools throughout Santa Barbara County prepare to close next week, several local private schools have also taken steps to provide academics while ensuring the safety of students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bishop Garcia Diego High School has decided to suspend instruction and all campus activities, including athletics and extracurricular activities, starting Monday through at least the end of the school’s Easter vacation April 17 as it transitions to remote learning. Laguna Blanca will be moving to a remote learning model on both of its campuses next week, and Cate School has extended its spring break by an extra week as it prepares to begin its third trimester courses online March 23.
Karen Regan, head of school at Bishop Diego, wrote a letter to Bishop families Friday announcing the school’s next steps. Faculty and staff met with students to prepare them for remote learning on Friday, which was the final day that students will be present on campus until April 20.
On March 16 and March 17, Bishop will not conduct school and teachers will use the two days to finalize their remote learning plans. Students are permitted to be on campus only to access lockers to retrieve books and other needed materials.
From March 18 to April 9, the school will use its BD Classroom learning management system to conduct school remotely. For the time being, school staff and faculty will operate from campus as normal to serve students who will be learning from home, Ms. Regan said, adding that the school will proceed with its Easter vacation from April 10 to April 19.
“During this period of school suspension, we encourage you to practice social distancing and to continue to uphold good hygiene practices in order to protect your family and help prevent the spread of this virus,” Ms. Regan wrote. “We will continue to evaluate unfolding events and seek advice and work with government authorities and health officials to determine when appropriate to re-open student access to campus.”
Both Laguna Blanca campuses will be open next week, though no classes will be held on March 16 or March 17, according to Tara Broucqsault, director of communications for the school.
“Given the information we have received about COVID-19 (coronavirus), we believe it is important for us to encourage social distancing and protect the vulnerable populations in our area,” Head of School Rob Hereford said in a statement.
Laguna faculty will be on campus March 16 and 17 to finalize remote learning plans and resources needed for the coming weeks. Classes will resume for students remotely March 18 and continue through March 20 before a two-week spring break.
“While our intent is to reopen on Monday, April 6, these past few weeks have shown how quickly conditions can change,” Ms. Broucqsault said. “We will provide updates about returning to regular operations as more information becomes available.”
Earlier this week, Ben Williams, headmaster at Cate School, wrote to parents to announce the decision to suspend the start of the third trimester. Following the extended spring break, all course content will be offered to students online on March 23.
“Our intention is to deliver such content for two weeks,” Mr. Williams wrote. “Provided it seems reasonable to do so and the public health implications are appropriately low, we will welcome our students back to the Mesa to resume the trimester in traditional fashion on Sunday, April 5.”
Parents would be advised by March 29 if plans were to change.
“All of us manage risk in our own lives with a relative threshold. We can tolerate certain dangers if we alone are facing the adversity. But at Cate we cannot and must not assess risk the way individuals do. Too many young people and their families are relying on our care and our judgment. That is exactly why we have made this decision at this time,” Mr. Williams wrote.
The Carpinteria boarding school has students from around the country and across the globe. The school implemented a domestic-only travel restriction for spring break, which has since been lifted.
“Now that we’ve made this decision on delaying break and going online, we’ve told all students who can do so to go home,” Mr. Williams told the News-Press by phone, adding that it “wasn’t hard” to extend break and make the transition to remote learning.
“The Thomas Fire really taught us about disaster prep,” said Mr. Williams, referencing the 2017 blaze that ripped through the foothills of Carpinteria and turned the prep school into a staging ground for first responders. “The best way to deal with a crisis is not to get to a crisis and to act first.
“Students were already safe and off campus and we felt the decision to keep them in those places was the safest and most responsible decision.”
Campus visits for accepted students have been cancelled, while board meetings and other school events have been postponed. All athletics have been cancelled for the next three weeks, though the school is still planning Family Weekend on April 24 and 25.
“(We) are hopeful that we will be able to continue it in much the same way we always do,” Mr. Williams wrote. “Time will tell.”