Santa Barbara Schools Prepare to Go Digital

District Under Pressure to Develop Long-Term Online Learning Plan

Credit: Eric Isaacs/emiphoto.com

There are 6.2 million California kids out of school today; 62,000 of them are in Santa Barbara County.

“Honestly, this is going to keep going,” said Superintendent Cary Matsuoka. “It is an opportunity to think differently about instruction, but teachers and students not having physical access is really challenging. Even for us to offer electronic tools to our teachers is challenging … . It’s looking like a three-month process.”

Hours before Tuesday’s school board meeting, Governor Gavin Newsom hinted that K-12 schools statewide may not reopen until next school year. The possibility puts pressure on the district to develop long-term strategies for online learning. 

“Governor Newsom told the State of California that we should expect school to be out of session for the remainder of the school year,” said board vice president Jacqueline Reid. “I was also heartened to see that the state is also going to send out links every Friday with lots of information about online learning.”

What is particularly concerning is how the district will develop quality education plans for younger, elementary-aged students and even more so for special-education students. At present, the district is scrambling to develop online-learning curriculums for both the general-ed and special-ed students by the end of spring break, or March 27. In the short-term, the district recommends Learning at Home (sbunified.org/learning-at-home/) for resources.

The school closures have also shined a light on problems not related to virtual learning. “We have 1.8 million square feet of space, 850 classrooms, and we’re just making sure that we shut down heat and turn off the lights,” Matsuoka said. He said that the district plans to take advantage of the shutdown to clean and repair all of the facilities before school reopens. 

The meeting took place at the district board room, but only Reid and Boardmember Rose Muñoz were present. The other three boardmemembers joined via video call, and only 10 individuals were allowed in the meeting room — a stark contrast from the sometimes hundreds who attend the meetings. 

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