Credit: Courtesy

Students in the Goleta Union Elementary School District will be returning to the classroom five days a week this January, regardless of whether the county’s COVID-19 status is in the red tier or the orange.

“Given the fact that the new case rates are keeping Santa Barbara County in the red tier with no end in sight, that we presented improved models for instruction, and that other schools in the county have successfully returned to in-person instruction, we feel confident in our ability to return to in-person instruction in a safe manner while in the red tier,” said Superintendent Donna Lewis.

The November 4 vote was a unanimous one and still allows families who are uncomfortable returning in person to continue the Virtual Academy and Flex programs. The instructional model will be a five-day modified schedule with a full cohort of 19 students average in each class. Schools will have adjusted bell schedules to allow for transportation of smaller groups of students on the bus, staggering the times students arrive at school and leave school.

The district provided a sample schedule, as shown below. 

Credit: Courtesy

Goleta Union, which feeds into the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD), picked a strikingly different path. SBUSD chose a hybrid model that only allows students to learn in-person two days per week and remotely the other three days. Part of the motivation for the hybrid model, which goes into effect at SBUSD starting January 19, 2021, was the ease with which the district could shift back to a fully remote model if needed ― something Goleta Union may struggle with more if a rise in cases hits the county again.

But Goleta has significantly fewer students ― 3,500 versus Santa Barbara’s 14,000. The 19-student cohorts paired with the expanded outdoor tent classrooms should help the district go a long way in minimizing the potential transmission of COVID-19.

Goleta Union will begin classes again in person January 11, 2021.

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