The Santa Barbara Unified School District is tracking 20 COVID-19 cases reported within the first five days of school. In April, when the district witnessed the most cases, it recorded 26 cases in a month.
Administrators discussed this data during the regularly scheduled school board meeting Tuesday evening.
“When we have this much COVID In our community, it’s inevitable that people will be bringing it to school unknowingly,” Santa Barbara County Public Health Department school liaison Susan Klein-Rothschild said. “So even though school just started, I know schools are already seeing positive COVID cases.”
The district has a detailed protocol for each case that mandates quarantine length for students who test positive for the virus as well as close contacts. Factors such as vaccination alter the response.
Santa Barbara County Public Health is considering drafting guidelines for school athletics and activities, such as music. The California Department of Public Health has plans to issue guidance, but local health departments have become impatient now that the school year has begun.
“The California Department of Public Health has really emphasized our focus this year is to keep students in person learning as much as possible, and they’ve looked at the science, how can we keep students at school, and how can we do it safely,” Ms. Klein-Rothschild said.
The district is considering purchasing portable air purifiers to add to the mitigation strategies as a district. The Goleta Union School District has invested in the devices.
Before reopening campuses, the district performed tests on the ventilation in each classroom. Opening the windows and doors provided enough airflow to beat recommendations.
Steve Vizzolini, SB Unfiied’s director of facilities and modernization, presented that a bulk order of the air purifiers would cost $200,000 to equip all classrooms and offices.
A second option is to only purchase purifiers for offices and classrooms with small windows.
Student board member Dawson Kelly asked whether the district might use the purifiers post-pandemic.
Dr. Frann Wageneck, assistant superintendent of student services, said they are useful during wildfires and could be used during flu season.
“They tend to remove allergens, so they may help with kids with asthma and things like that, so I think they’re a worthwhile investment. If we’re going to get them, then we’ll keep them and use them,” Mr. Vizzolini said.
The board will most likely vote on the air purifiers in the consent agenda of the next meeting, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 14.