SANTA BARBARA, Calif.--Barbara Barr lost her father to a COVID-19 related heart attack in July.
The Roosevelt Elementary School sixth grade teacher said her dad died in the Philippines after being exposed to the virus by her step-brother who blames himself for ignoring COVID-19 prevention efforts.
"I took the time to tell my dad how much I appreciated him and that he had made my life amazing, " said Barr.
The self-described Air Force brat said her 74-year-old dad taught her to love reading and adventure. He also taught her situational awareness such as remembering where they parked their car. He understood why she loved Santa Barbara after visiting. She had hoped to visit him over the holidays this years.
During a zoom school board meeting on Tuesday night Barr told board members not to rush to reopen elementary schools.
She said students may not know anyone who has died from COVID-19, but they know her and they now know about her loss.
"How can this be an okay position to put our students or staff in, no one should be put at risk to get COVID from school, and school has not been made safe enough to keep that from happening, none of us could bare to see one of our students crying or begging for forgiveness because the teacher died of the classmate died or into their home."
Board members heard from other teachers who agreed, before they unanimously voted to move the reopening date for elementary schools from Nov 9 to January 19. Secondary schools will also start the same day as long as the county is in the moderate risk or Orange color-coded tier.
A survey showed a majority of teachers wanted to wait to January to prepare for in-person learning.
Barrs said teachers called to thank her for speaking out.
"I wanted my dad's death to mean something after he died because it was so meaningful in my life I wanted some meaning to happen after he was gone as well and so I feel like that was a really important message to get across.
Barr said she knows a majority of parents and students want schools to reopen right away but she wants the campuses to be ready.
"I don't want it to be political I want it to be safe," said Barr.
The district plans to hire 6 more custodians, and some playground supervisors, para-educators and substitute teachers before in person learning begins.
They have also started COVID-19 testing teachers. Barr said she will get tested on Thursday.
For information about those positions and the hybird plan to return to in-person learning visit sbunified.org.