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Santa Barbara Unified School District chooses not to seek waiver for in-person learning, provides update on fall sports and cohorts

SBUnified Distance Learning
Blake DeVine/KEYT
Santa Barbara Unified School District superintendent Hilda Maldonado (left) oversees an online course at Harding Elementary School.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Hilda Maldonado released an update on COVID-19 and schools within the district, including their decision not to pursue a waiver for in-person learning at elementary schools this fall.

Regular testing for SBUSD staff who are in contact with students will also be implemented in an effort to protect students and families.

At this time, SBUSD has not determined a date to return to in-person learning, especially as Santa Barbara County remains in the purple or fifth tier of the state's four-tier reopening system.

However, football, cross country, volleyball, water polo and sideline cheer will be able to practice in-person starting the week of September 21. The school district said activities will be modified and coaches will be tested in order to keep up with COVID-19 safety.

Maldonado's full statement to families and staff can be read below:

Dear Families and Staff. 

I would like to express my appreciation to our families for entrusting us with your students. To our staff, I would like to acknowledge the work that you are carrying out to deliver distance learning to our students. 

The profound and ever-changing conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic have created many challenges, including a heightened need to maintain clear and consistent communication with our staff and families. I wanted to take this opportunity to communicate with you directly about a few important items. Please look for regular communications from me on Mondays.

Elementary Waiver
Santa Barbara Unified will not be applying for the elementary school waiver at this time. We surveyed our community partners as well as our elementary staff and families and learned that there was not overwhelming support for reopening elementary schools under the waiver. Furthermore, the majority of our elementary staff members did not support the waiver.

Small Cohorts
Recently, SB County Public Health issued guidance on allowing small cohorts of students to be served in-person on school campuses (Small Cohort Guidance). This allowance stems from the recognition that there are groups of students who are struggling to learn within the distance learning model. We have our health & safety protocols in place and will begin serving small groups of students on campus within the next couple of weeks, beginning with those identified as having the greatest need. Teachers and other certificated positions may need to report to the school site to serve these small cohorts. You will hear more information about this in the near future. 

COVID-19 Testing
As we move to serve small student cohorts on campus, we will also be  putting into place regular testing of staff members. Known as surveillance testing, this will be a requirement for all staff who will be working in-person with students, or who will be around other staff members who work with students. 

Return to In-Person School
At last Tuesday’s board meeting we presented the information below to the board trustees. We will be refining our return-to-school plans based on this, and more information will be shared in upcoming communications. Currently there is no return date being discussed as we remain in “purple-Phase 1” of the governor’s 5-phase model.

Transportation 
Staff will be sorting out details on how to implement a transportation plan that ensures health and safety guidelines are followed. This is an area where we will reach out to families for transportation needs. 

High School Athletics
If all health & safety requirements have been met, high school athletics for the following Fall sports will begin the week of September 21, 2020: Football, Cross Country, Volleyball, Water Polo & Sideline Cheer. Athletic activity will be modified in accordance with the guidance provided by SB County Public Health and CIF, with a focus on skills training and conditioning. Coaches will need to be tested prior to starting. Athletic Directors and principals at each site will communicate sports-specific details. 

Food Services Reminders/Updates

Meals are FREE for all Santa Barbara Unified students, ages 18 and under

No student ID is required

Students do not have to be present. A parent/guardian may pick up the meal on the student's behalf

Meals can be picked up from any distribution site, no matter your home campus

NEW! We are now offering an a.m. pick up option: 7 a.m.-10:30 am Tuesday-Friday in the parking lot behind La Cuesta Continuation High School [corner of East Ortega and Garden streets]! Please head to sbunified.org for regular updates and details.

See FLIER for all details on meal distribution. 

Thank you and have a healthy and safe week.

Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Hilda Maldonado
Coronavirus / Health / Santa Barbara- S County
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