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New SB Unified superintendent facing tough decision on reopening schools

Hilda Maldonado
Oliver Forester/KEYT
Santa Barbara Unified School District superintendent Hilda Maldonado must decide how to reopen schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The Santa Barbara Unified School District has a new superintendent, Hilda Maldonado.

She’s only five days into her job and is already a facing a monumental challenge. 

This involves deciding how to safely begin school when the fall semester starts on August 18. 

"These are unpredictable times, but just because they're unpredictable doesn't mean they're going to be unmanageable,” Santa Barbara Unified School District superintendent Maldonado said.

The district school board has three potential options for reopening: they include holding classes 100% remotely, full face-to-face classes or a hybrid scenario. 

The hybrid model would involve separating students into two groups. 

Group A would attend school two days of the week in person with physical distancing. 

On the other hand, Group B would attend school during the other two days of the week in person. 

During the days students weren’t in class, they’d receive remote instruction. 

"During those other three days, the good kids will probably stay on Zoom and do their classes,” incoming San Marcos senior Abby Grant said. “I think there will be a lot more free times for kids on those days, they're not going to school."

Shannon Saleh is the theater director at San Marcos High School and the mother of two daughters attending school within the district.

Based on how the spring semester concluded, she has concerns with remote learning.  

"I'm not a fan of unsupervised time for junior high and high school students,” Saleh said. “I don't think that breeds wise decision-making."

"Childcare is a major challenge,” Maldonado said. “That is something we need to address as a school system.”

The district school board is even considering the possibility of holding some classes outdoors to create safe distancing between students. 

"We're in a time that is helping us redefine what education is,” Maldonado said. “What learning and what knowing are all about."

“A lot of kids want to go back full-time but it's good to keep our community and school safe for right now,” Grant  concluded.

School is set to resume in 40 days and the district school board will make a final decision for its fall model on July 21st.

Article Topic Follows: Education

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Blake DeVine

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