A custodial services supervisor with the Santa Barbara Unified School District has been accused of sexual crimes against minors, officials said.
On Sept. 12, police arrested Jose “Joe” Reyes Arroyo, 48, of Santa Barbara. Mr. Arroyo has been placed on unpaid leave. According to jail staff, Mr. Arroyo was arrested on suspicious of continuous sexual abuse of a child, two counts of child pornograpy and invasion of privacy.
Camie Barnwell, public information officer for the district, released an announcement to district parents Tuesday night. It read:
“The district continues to collaborate with the Santa Barbara Police Department who advised us that the investigation is ongoing and that the crimes were an isolated domestic matter. The only nexus to the Santa Barbara Unified School District is that the subject of the investigation was a school district employee. Investigators stated that at this time, their investigation is able to eliminate the possibility of a threat to the general public.”
He has five prior arrests with multiple charges, according to the Santa Barbara County Superior Court’s website. Four of them involve driving under the influence of alcohol, the records show.
This wasn’t addressed during the board meeting Tuesday night. Instead, board and community members discussed COVID-19 at length.
Dr. John Becchio, assistant superintendent of human resources, said the district tested approximately 400 employees Monday and Tuesday. More teachers will be tested, and new tests will be administered every two months.
When students return to school, school nurses will be responsible for contact tracing, said Dr. Frann Wageneck, assistant superintendent for the district.
Superintendent Hilda Maldonado showed that the soonest the district could open would be Nov. 2, but she recommended the district aim for Jan. 19.
“The virus disproportionately affects communities of color, particularly the latinx and black communities, as well as low-income communities,” she said. “That’s something I’m taking into consideration when looking at the demographics of our district.”
She also is looking at the staff and facilities. The district is looking at the heating and cooling systems because of their potential to spread germs. It has even ordered tents so students could learn outside with proper ventilation.
Susan Klein-Rothschild, deputy director of the Santa Barbara County Department of Public Health, echoed her concerns. She recommended parents look at her department’s lengthy guidance for reopening businesses.
Community members chimed in with their concerns.
Sunita Beall, a parent of two high-school students, wondered what would happen if the county regressed back a tier in the reopening process.
Deputy Director Klein-Rothschild said when a student gets sick, the cohort would isolate for 14 days. If many students get sick, it could warrant closing the school.
“But we don’t want to swing back and forth between in-person and distance learning,” she said.
Harriet Chilton, a student at San Marcos High School involved in theater, said, “Why does theater not fall into that category of sports? I wonder if you’ve considered the theater and performing arts side; we should go back as well.”
A show-choir parent expressed her frustration that her student’s activity was also not permitted.
Ms. Klein-Rothschild said the state was clear about not allowing instruments and singing.
“Some of the highest rates of transmission come from activities that involve singing,” she said.
Superintendent Maldonado said she understood the public’s confusion, but there’s a reason for the district’s plan.
“We’re being very methodical in the way we go about reopening,” she said.
Board Vice President Dr. Jacqueline Reid asked what it would be like if they allowed parents to choose if their children participated in school. About 50% of parents responded in favor of returning to in-person instruction in a poll earlier during the pandemic.
Superintendent Maldonado said it would require more staffing, but she would consider polling parents again for an updated view.
“The less COVID we have in the community, the sooner our kids can return to school,” Ms. Klein-Rothschild said. “No one has permission to open up K-12 apart from small cohorts and elementary school waivers.”