District to bus students to vaccination sites
During its regular board meeting, the Santa Barbara Unified School District discussed an increase in on-campus COVID-19 cases. There have been 36 new COVID-19 cases in the district this month and one on-campus transmission.
Students began their return to campus in March, separated into groups that learn in person two days per week. Elementary schools opened for five-days-per-week learning April 12, and secondary campuses opened for four-day weeks April 19.
Susan Klein-Rothschild, Santa Barbara County Public Health Department school liaison, has noticed an increase in student COVID-19 cases countywide in both public and private schools.
Since more students are attending campus, there will likely be more cases although case rates are decreasing.
Ms. Klein-Rothschild noted factors that might have contributed to the increase, like spring break, sports and restlessness.
“More students who participate in athletics and extracurricular activities tend to be more likely to test positive for COVID, so that’s another factor,” she said. “We also know people are getting tired of following the protocols and wanting to loosen up when we’re doing better.”
Of the 172 total cases, just 69 cases were detected in students. The case rate in teachers has been decreasing in recent weeks.
“The number of COVID cases among school staff has drastically decreased, and I attribute that largely to the vaccination rates,” Ms. Klein-Rothschild said.
Currently, 82% of the district’s employees have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
To help students get vaccinated, the district will begin transporting students who would like a vaccination to Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital on Tuesdays.
The bus will take groups of 20 at a time, and administrators plan to take 60 students next week.
The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer has an emergency-use authorization for those 16 and older.
The district will obtain parent approval for students under the age of 18, though Ms. Klein-Rothschild anticipates vaccines will get emergency-use authorization for youth ages 12-15 “in the next couple of months.”
Administrators crafted the vaccine bus plan in order to assist students who may struggle to find transportation or time to get their doses.
The district has applied with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department to have mobile vaccine sites at three high schools, Franklin Elementary and La Cumbre Junior High School.
The clinics at the high schools would serve students whereas the other two sites would be open to the community, said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Frann Wageneck
The district currently offers COVID-19 tests to students and staff and occasionally holds community testing clinics.
“It’s a very real possibility that we will move to a comprehensive use of antigen testing for students as a way of identifying the presence of the virus on our campuses,” Dr. Wageneck said. “Of course this includes continued surveillance testing of our employees. What it will look like, we do not know and we’re not 100% certain that it will, but we will keep you posted.”
A total of 8,873 tests have been administered through the district with just 41 COVID-positive test results, a test-positivity rate of .47%.
Despite an increase in cases, the feeling was overall positive about the safety of schools.
“We want the schools to be safe places and they are. They largely are and continue to be, and the California Department of Public Health is reinforcing the importance of students being in school for their social, emotional, and academic well being. So we want to keep that to be a safe place,” Ms. Klein-Rothschild said.
She confirmed that although there have been multiple student cases, students returning to the classroom have not created an outbreak.