All 20 school districts in Santa Barbara County will be closed indefinitely starting Monday, March 16, in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic and Santa Barbara County’s local emergency declaration on Thursday in response to it. There are currently no positive cases of COVID-19 in the county.
The closure of the K-12 schools is unprecedented and follows in the footsteps of several colleges and universities in the area that switched to remote, online-only instruction in recent days.
The closure of the schools means that more than 67,000 students in the county will be out of school, leaving many parents with no options but to stay home from work to watch their children. Many socioeconomically disadvantaged families also rely on free and low-cost school meals to feed their children. The Santa Barbara Unified School District’s student population is 58 percent socioeconomically disadvantaged, and the district is actively planning to accommodate their needs.
“A tremendous amount of thought and time has gone into the decision to close the school Monday,” said public information officer Camie Barnwell. “Now, district officials in collaboration with staff are planning how to provide food to those who need it. This is our highest priority along with helping to minimize the potential spreading of COVID-19.”
One of the major recommendations from the California Department of Public Health is to create “social distancing,” meaning to stay at least six feet apart from others and not to gather in groups of 250 or more. The decision to close the K-12 public schools is in line with that recommendation.
“For me as a mom, this proactive decision is less about fear and more about preventing the spread — flattening the curve — and keeping our local health system strong,” school board president Laura Capps said. “And I’m dedicated to making sure that kids who need our healthy school meals will still get them.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the district would provide childcare accommodations for those who need it. The district will not provide childcare, but will arrange to continue feeding students who rely on free or low-cost meals at school.
[Update: March 14] The Santa Barbara Unified School District is offering free bagged meals to children 18 and younger between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. on weekdays, beginning Monday, March 16. Children must be present during pick up to receive meals at the following locations:
- Adams Elementary
- Franklin Elementary
- Harding Elementary
- Monroe Elementary
- Dos Pueblos High School
- San Marcos High School
- Santa Barbara High School
- La Cumbre Junior High
- La Colina Junior High
- Goleta Valley Junior High