SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - In response to the worldwide outbreak of the coronavirus, the Santa Barbara Unified School District is preparing for the direct impact the disease could have on our local community.
Although there are zero confirmed cases in Santa Barbara County, the district is taking steps towards keeping its 1,350 students safe.
“If we had a student or a staff member who was identified with coronavirus, we would get our directions from County Public Health,” Assistant Superintendent of Student Services Frann Wageneck said.
Students at Santa Barbara Junior High are aware of what’s happening around the world and they know someone displaying COVID-19 symptoms might show up.
“I think they should send the kid that has it home to the hospital or something,” Santa Barbara Junior High student Britney Cuevas said. “Because we would get it.”
Emergency response strategies are already in place and the district recently advised its custodial staff to begin a deep cleaning program.
This means misting all desks, doorknobs, phones and computers with a peroxide-based cleaner.
It also means instructing students to wash their hands frequently and sneeze into their sleeves.
“We’re buying extra hand sanitizers, extra kleenexes and we are reviewing with staff and students the proper steps to take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Wageneck said.
The district has also started conversations to activate distance-learning options in the case that campuses are forced to close.
“We’ve talked about what are our options online,” Wageneck said. “I think we do have Neo which is our learning management system.”
While this seems a likely solution, not all are happy about potentially taking classes from home.
“It would probably be boring because you want to see your friends every day at school,” Santa Barbara Junior High student Nayeli Dominguez said. “I guess you could do it.”
If local schools must temporarily close as a result of COVID-19, the district plans on putting its prior disaster experience to the test.
“We do have experience with closing schools during the Thomas Fire and the Debris Flow,” Wageneck concluded. “We will rely on those situations that we’ve been in before to guide us in our decision making.”
Spring Break begins for all district schools once class concludes on Friday, March 20th.
This usually means that some students and faculty will be traveling internationally, which could put them in direct contact with the virus.