After successfully reopening schools in a hybrid model, the Santa Barbara Unified School District will further reopen its schools full-time. Elementary schools will be open five days a week starting April 12, and secondary schools will open four days a week with one day of remote instruction starting April 19.
The shift was able to happen in large part because the Public Health Department changed its guidelines for schools from requiring students to sit six feet apart to only requiring them to sit three feet apart — allowing more room on campuses for students.
For elementary schools, this change means going back to the pre-COVID schedule after operating at just two days a week in person in the hybrid model. Students will still have the same teachers they have now, and the school day will look largely the way it used to, except students and staff will be following COVID protocol such as masking and distancing.
For secondary schools, classes are larger, and with multiple classes a day, it is more difficult to fully reopen campuses. Secondary schools will be reopening four days a week, with Wednesday as a fully remote day.
Another reason the district is able to reopen schools so quickly is because they’ve proved to be a safe place to be. Frann Wageneck, assistant superintendent of Student Services, said that of the more than 5,117 tests conducted in the district so far, there has been a 0.46 percent positive rate. The district tests all employees biweekly, student athletes within 72 hours of their competitions, and students and staff who are symptomatic and request a test.
Wageneck also shared that 79 percent of employees are vaccinated or have an appointment scheduled, and 10 percent are looking to make an appointment — creating a safer atmosphere to further reopen schools. Eleven percent declined a vaccine.
PANDEMIC LEARNING RECOVERY
District staff also gave a presentation on the district’s working plans for learning recovery over the summer.
Though secondary schools normally offer summer school, elementary hasn’t. This year, there will be specialized summer programs for students at each level to make up for learning loss throughout the pandemic. The programs will prioritize students with the most needs and invite them.
In high schools, the students that will be prioritized are those who need graduation credit recovery; in junior highs, students who need additional support in English language arts or math are prioritized; and in elementary schools, students who are earning 1 and 2s (out of 4) are prioritized. In addition, foster youth, those who are housing insecure, and other vulnerable groups are prioritized for summer-school programs.
The programs aim to keep students in small cohorts and to focus on the social-emotional needs of the student along with academic needs. In elementary, the focus will be on literacy, math, and language development. In junior high, the focus will be on English language and math. In high school, the summer program will focus on credit and learning recovery for graduation and course completion.