The board of the Santa Barbara Unified School District met Tuesday night with a large agenda.
Board members approved a service agreement with Engie Services, USA, for the purchase and construction of solar shade structures at 14 school sites. The board had previously authorized $297,000 of the project, and the board authorized the district to pay the remaining balance of around $305,000.
It also authorized the district to use $1.2 million of bond funds to finance the project. The district will be reimbursed these funds and expects to have the $1.2 million back in its dedicated accounts in January 2022.
The addition of four high school courses was passed unanimously by the board.
An elective called “Forensics Using Science” will be added in alternative schools. “Composition Through Literature English 111,” a college-level course with the opportunity for students to earn credits from Santa Barbara City College.
Two sequential courses called “Black Studies: History of Africans in America” were questioned by two members of the public unsure about the curriculum. One questioned the $18,136 price tag.
Santa Barbara County Public Health Department school liaison Susan Klein-Rothschild presented an update on the presence of COVID-19 in the community.
“It really saddens me to say that we are not in a good position at all, that we want to be very restrictive about opening anything new,” she said.
Schools are unable to reopen until Santa Barbara County’s case rate decreases to 28 cases per 100,000 residents. Currently, the county has 64 cases per 100,000 people.
Educators and school employees are prioritized in Phase 1b of the public health department’s vaccination schedule. The phase is expected to last from early February to mid-March.
Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said she had offered to have the schools become vaccination sites and have the school nurses administer the doses, but the state does not allow either offer.
Almost 2,100 students are participating in either academic or athletic cohorts on campus, representing 17% of the student population.
Of those on campus, 40 staff members and 15 students have tested positive from COVID-19. The district learned Tuesday that one transmission likely occurred on campus, as two positive cases were in the same cohort.
District maintenance workers are expanding the ventilation test by Rachel Segalman and Todd Squires, Dos Pueblos parents and chemical engineering professors at UCSB, to all of the district’s schools. They have found that opening all doors and windows and running the existing HVAC systems provide adequate ventilation.
A public forum was held for a petition for charter by Thoreau Community School, a nature-based primary school. Seven members of the public lauded TCS’s dedication to nature as well as justice.
But the school has not yet acquired the teacher support and student letters of intent it needs. The board will vote to approve or deny the petition Feb. 23.
At the time of deadline, conversations about the proposed grading policy were ongoing. An update will be reported in Thursday’s News-Press.