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SB PLAN pushing public schools to resume in-person instruction

Blake DeVine/KEYT
SB PLAN consists of parents, teachers and public leaders looking to improve academic outcomes for children impacted by COVID-19 while attending school in Santa Barbara County.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — It’s been over eight months for families dealing with distance learning.

"It's been challenging, difficult academically, difficult socially and emotionally,” SBPLAN founder Caroline Harrah said.

Since March, kids in the Santa Barbara Unified School District and Goleta Union School District have felt isolated while taking classes from home.

Jacqueline Inda is a single parent with a daughter in 3rd grade at Adelante Charter School.

"They've learned bad behaviors,” Inda said. “Those bad behaviors will trickle into the school year the following year, once we get past this pandemic."

After witnessing her own children endure through their own struggles with online classes, Harrah started the Santa Barbara Parent Leadership Action Network this summer.

The group’s goal is to improve academic, social, physical and emotional outcomes for all K-12 children attending Santa Barbara County schools.

SB PLAN is a diverse group consisting of over 800 parents, teachers, administrators and public leaders.

"I don't think anyone would dispute that learning is optimal within the classroom,” Harrah said.

Both SB Unified and Goleta Union were planning on resuming in-person instruction in January.

With the county’s recent move back in the restrictive purple tier, this has put those plans in limbo. 

"We were really planning on going back to school in January,” Harrah said.

Despite this setback, these parents believe that it’s time for their kids to return to campus.

"We've had time to learn from other schools about what works, what doesn't work,” Harrah said.

Laura Ronchietto is a single mother who works full-time, as her two sons stare at screens all-day long. 

"When they hopefully open schools, there are a lot of safety protocols already in place,”  Ronchietto said. That can be implemented going forward.”

If Santa Barbara County can move out of the purple tier by January, the Santa Barbara Unified School District has a hybrid plan in place.

On the other hand, the Goleta Union School District would have its’ students return to the classroom five days a week. 

"To me, it's imperative that our children go back to school because they need the structure,” Inda said.

"School has always been about risk management,” Harrah concluded. “We need to manage the risk and find the safest ways we can to get our kids back to school."

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Blake DeVine

Blake DeVine is a multimedia journalist at NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Blake, click here.

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