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  • Writer's pictureNewsmakers with JR

All Schools in Santa Barbara County Must Stay Shuttered Under Gavin's New Covid Order

Updated: Jul 18, 2020

Gov. Gavin Newsom issued new pandemic emergency orders on Friday that mean students in schools throughout Santa Barbara County will start the school year with online, distance learning.

"We all prefer in-class instruction,” Newsom said in Sacramento, “but only if it can be done safely. Safety is foundational.”

Santa Barbara is one of 32 counties on the state's coronavirus monitoring list, due to a summer surge of Covid-19 infections, where public, private and charter schools will be prohibited from re-opening campuses for face-to-face classroom instruction -- unless and until the county is off the watchlist for 14 consecutive days, as determined by local public health department data about the virus.

Newsom's announcement capped a week in which school board and district administrators in Santa Barbara and Goleta heard from experts, teachers and parents amid a nationwide debate about whether it is safe to re-open schools.

Under Newsom's latest "guidance," issued through the California Department of Public Health, schools in counties not on the monitoring list are permitted to open according to plans developed by local boards. His detailed statement contains pages of processes, procedures and protocols for managing the many and complex elements involved in re-reopening.

Delaney Smith has more on those details in her Indy story here. Josh Molina has good reporting on the order's sad impact on school and youth sports in his piece here.

SBUSD reacts. The Santa Barbara Unified School District issued a lengthy statement which noted that Newsom's order "pre-empts" a plan that Superintendent Hilda Maldonado had been planning to present to the school board next week.

Maldonado said the district's "number one priority" now is to learn lessons from the abrupt and troubled roll-out of distance learning last spring and to "deliver improved and rigorous Distance Learning that meets the needs of all students, especially our Multilingual learners, Students with Disabilities and African American students."

"Our principals, teachers and staff are educational experts and learners and are getting prepared to implement stronger Distance Learning instruction," she added. "They are bright and resourceful thinkers. We know we can do this in a way that makes our students feel cared for and also fosters their academic growth.”

School board President Laura Capps said that, "As a mom, I can't wait for the golden day when our students are safely getting the in-person education we all agree is best, and socializing and enjoying all the sports and activities they deserve."

“I implore our community to get this pandemic under control so our county's school children can physically return to school," Capps added. "To get there, given the governor's mandate, we all need to do our part by social distancing and making short term sacrifices and our leaders need to  -- at a minimum - enforce mask wearing and other basic safety measures.

The district's entire statement, including comments from all school board members, may be found here.

Montecito Union in the house. Prior to Newsom's order, officials of the Montecito Union School District had been focused on a draft plan to re-open its campus five days a week when the next term begins.

Montecito Union Superintendent Anthony Ranii told Newsmakers that he is concerned that Newsom's new order does not account for local conditions within the county.

"I appreciate the governor's clear criteria and am glad for more stringent rules in terms of facial coverings for in-person learning," Ranii texted us.

"That said, I worry that a county-wide lens is over-broad, and does not reflect the disparate conditions that can exist within the same county," he added. "Moving forward, I hope that a more targeted approach can be adopted so that communities that can safely return to in-person instruction may do so."

What Goleta's saying. Luz Reyes-Martin, trustee of the Goleta Union School District, said the governor's statement is "consistent" with what the school determined at a lengthy meeting this week, and added that the district will work to "strength our remote learning program."

"The Goleta School Board made the decision earlier this week to proceed with our planning for reopening of schools but acknowledged we could not implement that plan based on our current local community conditions with COVID-19," Reyes-Martin said. "This sentiment is consistent with the Governor's announcement today. 

"I recognize the need to strengthen our remote learning program, and we will. We authorized the hiring of additional temporary teachers to support remote learning and also support lowering class sizes once we are able to reopen school sites," she added. 

"I urge our communities to continue to physically distance, wear your face coverings, and make responsible choices that will help our County to get back on track. I have an incoming Kindergartener and we are all sad that he won't be able to meet his new classmates and teacher in person - at least not right away. We are all eager to safely resume in-person instruction in our schools - let's work together to reach that goal."



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