The Santa Barbara Unified School District approved a hybrid scenario on Tuesday to help schools reopen Aug. 18, the start of the fall semester, that would be used should the board decide to open up its classrooms.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise in Santa Barbara over the last few weeks, the school board has considered many different options for the upcoming school year. In this hybrid scenario, there would be changes for students of all grades.
For students in transitional kindergarten through sixth grade, there would be two cohorts. Cohort A would attend school on Mondays and Thursdays all day in person with social distancing while Cohort B would attend Tuesdays and Fridays. On days they are not attending school, students would receive remote instruction.
At the junior high level, they would implement a quarter-block system and would have three classes during the first quarter from Aug. 18 to Oct. 16 and another three in the second quarter from Oct. 20 to Jan. 15.
There would also be a greater flexibility with periods, including an additional period in the afternoon. One cohort would attend classes on Mondays and Thursdays while the others would go on Tuesdays and Fridays. All students would have remote learning on Wednesday.
The high school system would look similar, with four class blocks per day and some students going to class on Mondays and Thursdays while the others go on Tuesdays and Fridays. Zoom classes would be offered for all students on Wednesdays.
The hybrid scenario would also make Dos Pueblos High and Santa Barbara High semester schools and would approve the implementation of a 100% remote model for students grades TK through 12.
Assistant Superintendent Frann Wageneck told the board three guiding principles to coming up with the hybrid scenario. These include: listening to students, faculty and the public to ensure safety; providing accessible learning to all students from various backgrounds; and soliciting stakeholder feedback. Specifically, providing accessible learning is particularly important as the pandemic has put a strain on a lot of families.
“This pandemic has sharpened and multiplied the inequities that exist in our society, so you can be assured that our district is taking the steps necessary to ensure that when we return, whatever returning looks like, that each student has access to all the learning opportunities,” Dr. Wageneck said, adding that staff is planning for all three scenarios.
“We want you to know that as we plan for all three we’re relying on science and ever changing information to guide us in our decision making,” Dr. Wageneck said.
The other scenarios were 100% remote learning or full reopening.
In the presentation, the hybrid scenario included parent surveys asking how they feel about sending their kids to school when the fall semester begins.
“The strong takeaway here is that the majority of parents feel a strong level of comfort and agree that they feel comfortable sending their children to school mid-August,” Shawn Carey, district administrator, said.
The survey also showed that students would like to attend school as much as possible with the assurance of proper safety guidelines. The school board will be asked to make a final decision on a school reopening plan July 21.
The board also voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a resolution in support of black student leaders who presented the district with a series of demands talking about institutional racism. They also approved the action plan presented.
The demands included, in part: adding ethnic classes, having school resource officers complete bias training before working on campus; condemning the school to prison pipeline; and declaring racism a public health emergency.
Two new ethic classes will be offered in the fall, and according to the school districts website, 1,100 students have already signed up for the classes.
More than 60 people spoke during public comment, some criticizing the need for ethic classes when the district has failed to provide adequate support for math and reading classes.
“I read an article in a national publication that was titled, ‘Santa Barbara school district where Marxism and Black Lives Matter, but academics, not so much.’ I see you’re patting yourselves on the back for all the social justice you’ve done but you guys have failed. You guys have an F in reading and math,” one parent said.
Other parents also criticized the district for focusing on teaching students to be activists instead of core classes.
“It is totally inappropriate for a public school to make children agents of change, but that’s what this course (ethnic courses) wants to do,” another person added.
Others spoke in favor of the demands.
Talia Hamilton, an incoming senior at San Marcos High and main leader of Black Student Youth Santa Barbara, said it’s been great how much support they have received from the school board.
“We can’t do much without you guys. We are very thankful for you. I’m excited to see where this goes. We need to teach our youth that there is no room for racism. It’s not one and done. This will be a process,” she said.
Boardmember Wendy Sims-Moten, the board’s only black member, also added her support and said she is grateful for the work being done.
“It took a pandemic to raise the level of awareness around the injustices that have been there day in and day out within the African American community,” she said. “We can no longer have our students feel invisible or unworthy. It’s important to have allies beside us, even if you are not being impacted. We are all human. To see this swell of support really warms my heart.”