The Santa Barbara Unified School District, as well as all other public and private schools in the county, will begin the school year with 100% distance learning.
Though the SBUSD Board of Education was expected to vote at its July 21 meeting between three possible scenarios for reopening, in-person, remote, hybrid learning, the vote was preempted when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced new reopening guidelines on Friday.
The governor stated that California schools’ ability to reopen will be determined by COVID-19 rates and data. Under Gov. Newsom’s guidelines, California school districts can only reopen for in-person lessons if the county they operate in has been off of the state’s monitoring list for at least 14 consecutive days. Santa Barbara County is on the watch list and has been for the past 33 days.
In order for a county to get off the monitoring list, it must keep its number of new cases below 100 per 100,000 residents and have a test positivity rate of under 8%. According to a press release, Santa Barbara County’s number of new cases in the past two weeks is 310 per 100,000 people, and the test positivity rate is 9.7%.
In a statement to the News-Press, SBUSD board president Laura Capps implored the Santa Barbara community to “get this pandemic under control” so in-person schooling can resume.
“As a mom, I can’t wait for the golden day when our students are safely getting the in-person education we all agree is best,” she said.
She continued, “To get there, given the governor’s mandate, we all need to do our part by social distancing and making short term sacrifices and our leaders need to — at a minimum — enforce mask wearing and other basic safety measures.”
The Santa Barbara County Education Office posted on Twitter that it had been working on a “variety of models” but can now shift its focus to provide “the best distance learning for our County’s 70,000 public school students.”
Now that SBUSD proceeding with remote learning has been made definite, the school board will use the July 21 meeting to discuss its plans for carrying it out in the coming semester.
According to district Superintendent Hilda Maldonado, the board will also discuss racial inequalities in education that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, as well as state funding the county is seeking out to address the issue.
The superintendent admitted that there were flaws in the rollout of remote education when COVID-19 lockdowns were first enacted in March, but said that those kinks have been ironed out.
“We have taken stock and are learning from those challenges. Teachers will be receiving training on effective distance learning, using only one platform to communicate with students and parents and aligning their lessons, for example,” she said.
The July 21 school board meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and can be viewed on the SBUSD YouTube channel.