Superintendent Hilda Maldonado, assistant superintendent Meg Jetté, assistant deputy director of Public Health Susan Klein-Rothschild, assistant superintendent of human resources John Becchio, assistant superintendent of secondary education Shawn Carey, public information officer Camie Barnwell, executive assistant Sandra Trujilio, board president Laura Capps, boardmember Wendy Sims-Moten, boardmember Jackie Reid, director of partnerships and community engagement Patricia Madrigal, administrative coordinator at LAUSD Ana Escobedo, chief educational technology officer Todd Ryckman, executive director of diversity, equity, and family engagement Maria Larios-Horton, boardmember Rose Muñoz, boardmember Kate Ford, and assistant superintendent Frann Wageneck. | Credit: Courtesy

Families and teachers in the Santa Barbara Unified School District got a look at the hybrid instruction plan that will be available in the beginning of 2021 on Tuesday, and there was still no common ground in sight.

“As a student body, there is not an overall consensus of what we want to do, as shown by student survey results almost split down the middle” said Maya Samarasen, a senior at Dos Pueblos High School speaking on behalf of herself and peers. “We would appreciate schools acknowledging that that’s okay, so we can erase the stigma of the other side.” 

For months, the decision to go back to in-person instruction or not has been a contentious issue in the district community. Generally, parents and students are close to evenly split in their preference, although some are pushing schools to reopen and some students held a protest over it last week. Teachers have overwhelmingly been against returning to in-person learning until pandemic conditions are safer. 

Although the state and county has said schools may reopen with pandemic protocols in the current red tier, Santa Barbara Unified has decided to wait until January 19 to implement its hybrid model, a combination of distance learning and in-person instruction.

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“This [hybrid] schedule isn’t feasible,” said Charles Clow, a high school teacher in the district. “Asking teachers to differentiate over Zoom and do so in the classroom simultaneously is not a realistic expectation.… We are still in a pandemic. Some projections show that by our reopening date, as many as 400,000 Americans could have died from COVID-19.”

The hybrid model would place students into cohorts and allow them to attend classes in person two days a week and online the other three days, with everyone learning online for a half day on Wednesdays. Sports and other extracurriculars are available on campus after school, and families can also choose independent study and remain fully at home with regular contact with their teachers.

The district decided that the hybrid model will go into effect January 19, regardless of whether the county is still in the red tier or has moved into the less-restrictive orange tier. Individual schools will offer webinars this week for a more detailed presentation of the hybrid model.

Although families will have the option to choose the hybrid model or the independent study, teachers do not. 

“I want to respond to comments that teachers are front-line workers like grocery store workers and bank tellers,” said Karen McBride, the president of the Santa Barbara Teacher’s Union. “A bank teller has plexiglass between them and a customer. They are in contact maybe 10 minutes. Being in a classroom for a 60-80 minute period of time is a very different experience.”

Families ultimately have until November 13, when the district will ask them to confirm their decision on whether their child will do hybrid or independent study learning. 

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