Days before the Santa Barbara Unified School District was set to vote on whether or not to reopen its schools to in-person instruction, Gov. Gavin Newsom stepped in and announced county’s on the state’s monitoring list must instruct schools to open the school year with a 100% distance-learning model.
Luckily, SBUSD was already set with a plan to present to the public and has since adopted new measures.
Students in pre-kindergarten through second grade will have a minimum of 180 minutes live engagement daily with instructors.
Students in grades 3 through 6 will have a minimum of 230 minutes live interaction while students in grades 7 through 12 will meet for a minimum of 240 minutes.
Finally, high school-aged students will also have a minimum of 60 minutes of teacher-designed independent learning daily.
The district also made a slew of commitments to ensure students will get the best possible education.
“To achieve our commitments, we will continue to work with community organizations who are reaching out and offering their support, and we will trust that our service providers continue to support our families and students’ needs,” Hilda Maldonado, the district superintendent, said in a letter to the community.
One of the biggest commitments the district has made is to make sure that every student will have access to Wi-Fi by providing them a device as well.
It has done this by partnering with local internet-service providers to give families who cannot afford Wi-Fi free or greatly reduced internet cost.
Additionally, schools will attempt to provide hotspots to students who need them and will add more hotspots near the schools.
They will be distributing devices to students by appointment every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at the District Office 8:00 am-3:30 pm using the contact-free “drive through” format. Alternate times can be arranged for those who cannot make the allotted times.
Students will be expected to check in every day from their household and also be expected to participate actively in the learning material being taught.
Additionally, support will be given to students in a variety of ways.
For example, there could be opportunities to hold individual or small group meetings with a credentialed teacher in order to receive specialized learning support, which includes outdoor education.
The district will also provide free online tutoring with trained tutors for students in grades 4-12.
Teachers will also be a lot more accessible with clear office hours that they must be available to help students.
For students with disabilities, the district plans to co-create distance-learning plans with families to best help said student.
They will also offer related services to students who need additional help, such as speech therapy or occupational therapy and support student learning through online platforms with paraeducators for eligible students.
Meals will also be provided to students with grab-and-go options available daily from 11:30 to 1 p.m., with drive-thru or walk-up distribution options at the school sites.
Finally, another big emphasis for the school district was providing mental health services for students, but also in general for families during these tough times.
This will include the district launching the Santa Barbara Unified’s Family Engagement Unit (FEU) – funded by federal and state monies that are restricted for Emergent Multilingual, Free and Reduced Lunch, and Homeless/Foster Youth students – to help families with workshops such as how to connect to local resources.
The district’s website will have a slew of information on local resources families could use for help and will be updating it constantly.
Additionally, the district will also continue partnerships with school and community-based organizations to provide early and ongoing support to students to foster a culture of wellness in school communities.
“I have received letters expressing either relief or disappointment about this decision. I can understand both perspectives and appreciate that there are many circumstances that we each are living that lead to these feelings. As your superintendent, I would like nothing more than to assure you that all will be well. However, in many ways, our lives are being guided by how the virus spreads and mutates and there is not enough scientific information on the effects on children both short and long term,” Ms. Maldonado said.
“It will take all of us working together and following safety protocols like social distancing, wearing masks and frequent hand washing to reach the day when we can all go back to classrooms. Our principals, teachers and staff are looking forward to this day and will continue to work towards plans for a safe school reopening.”
The full plans can be seen at https://www.sbunified.org/plans-for-school-reopening/.