District to plan surveillance testing for students
Santa Barbara Unified School District staff will be required to either show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly COVID-19 tests starting in the fall semester (which begins Aug. 17).
Students will be tested for COVID-19, even if they do not show symptoms of the virus. The details of student testing were not presented by the district.
The district’s board passed these requirements in a resolution during a special meeting of the board Thursday afternoon.
Board member Laura Capps, who helped author the resolution, addressed why the district called a special meeting with its regular meeting coming up Tuesday.
“Only 63% of our staff have self-reported. . . that they’ve been vaccinated,” she said. “That number, in my view, is far from where it should be, and I felt a tremendous amount of urgency to give our staff as much time as we can while providing safety to get the vaccine.”
The resolution applies to all district staff, including those who do not actively work with the students.
Those unable to receive the vaccine or weekly tests will be accommodated on a case-by-case basis.
Board members noted that other districts and municipalities are enacting similar orders. Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced state employees and health care workers would be subject to weekly tests or vaccination.
The public comment period contained misinformation, a few notes of appreciation and a couple threats to pull children out of the district.
Some parents and community members were worried about students receiving false-positive test results, shutting them out from school for a mandatory quarantine.
They also wondered how the district anticipates swabbing the noses of children who are uncomfortable.
“I would consider it up to district staff and Dr. Maldonado to come up with a really good plan for our youngest students,” Board President Kate Ford said when asked by another board member about the young students.
Superintendent Dr. Hilda Maldonado didn’t have anything to share at the moment.
Robbie Fischer, an associate professor of biology at Santa Barbara City College and a district parent, was thankful for the resolution, given the urgency he feels in the rise of the Delta variant.
“Your mandate would protect not just your students and employees but it would protect the whole community,” he said.
Thomas Parker, who survived polio, also commented in appreciation of the resolution.
“The risk the unvaccinated pose to the community, to your schools, and to our children and families is exceptionally palpable. In fact, it’s unacceptable,” he said.
The district will meet for its regular meeting in open session at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.