An Open Letter to the Santa Barbara Unified School Board,

Open Alternative School is an elementary school that the superintendent of the Santa Barbara Unified School District, Cary Matsuoka, says is not economically feasible and therefore must be closed. It is true that the enrollment at OAS has declined to a level that does not warrant the use of an entire wing of La Colina Junior High School, where it is now located. It is also true that the district is once again going to change its funding model that will, once again, disrupt the tenure of a significant number of families currently sending their children to this unique and wonderful child-centered place of learning. This funding model will also prevent new out-of-district students from enrolling at OAS, even though the school itself is located outside of the Santa Barbara elementary district boundaries.

As the school’s enrollment is slated to require only three multi-age classrooms, the district says it is no longer viable. I question this premise. Both Carpinteria Unified School District and Goleta School District support popular, vibrant, alternative elementary schools cohabitating at conventional elementary school sites. Both Carpinteria and Goleta Family Schools have three multi-age classrooms each. And yet the only option so far discussed by the Santa Barbara district is removing OAS from our community if it cannot increase its enrollment to 190-250 students, a truly impossible goal.

It is my understanding that the Santa Barbara district has excess capacity, i.e., empty classrooms, at three elementary school sites. I suggest that the district investigate how Carpinteria and Goleta both support their alternative schools of choice with an attitude of preserving OAS. Open Alternative School is an innovative educational model that has served its community for more than 40 years. Many educational and social methods practiced at OAS for decades have now been adopted district wide. OAS is a haven for a diverse community of students and families seeking educational opportunities unavailable at conventional elementary schools.

I implore the district board members to reevaluate and to postpone pulling the plug on the Open Alternative School at the November 14 board meeting as it is currently considering to do. I do not believe that all the options for preserving this wonderful institution have been considered. The decision to preserve this jewel in the elementary district should be a priority.


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