As school begins and routines shift from summer to school mode, students, staff, and families adjust in multiple ways to help launch the year successfully. Children and family members learn bus schedules, sort out carpools, reset morning alarms, and excitedly wait to see which friends are in their classes. Teachers and staff reunite at schools ahead of the students to thoughtfully prepare a vibrant, fulfilling, inclusive experience for every student.
Due to evolving COVID-19 conditions, emotions will vary over the next few weeks: individuals may be excited and anxious, they may look forward to school and after-school activities while worrying that some activities may need to close in the future, and many may wonder what change will be next. The Governor’s Office and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued orders and guidance for TK- 12 schools to support their goal for all students to access safe, in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible. Based on these requirements, here is what is in place as we begin the school year:
Physical Distancing Is No Longer Required Indoors
The State of California adopted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance that in-person instruction can occur safely without physical distancing requirements as long as masking indoors for students and staff is in place. Districts have the latitude to organize classrooms and groups of students without physical distancing requirements. Schools may also utilize outside spaces for student activities throughout the day. Lifting the physical distancing requirement allows for full-time in-person instruction.
Face Coverings Required Indoors
All students and staff indoors must wear face coverings indoors and on school buses and other modes of public transportation. However, face coverings are optional in outdoor settings. CDPH has indicated it will decide on updates or revisions to the mask requirements for all TK-12 schools no later than November 1.
Distance Learning Eliminated; Independent Study Options Available
Independent study options are available for students whose health may be at risk by in-person instruction, as determined by the parent or guardian. These options may include district-based programs, inter-district transfers to other independent study programs, or existing online independent charter programs.
Vaccination or Weekly Testing for Staff
California requires all TK-12 schools to verify that workers are fully vaccinated or be tested weekly. Volunteers working with students on a school site must be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing as well.
Updated Close Contact Protocols
CDPH recently updated the close contact protocols for schools, including new information based on the widespread availability of vaccines for individuals 12 years and older. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD) is currently mapping out these new protocols for contact tracing and quarantines for close contact with individuals who test positive with COVID-19. SBCPHD will share these protocols with school leaders and post them on the SBCPHD website.
Healthy Practices Remain Important
Students and staff members should monitor their personal wellness and stay home from school if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Remember to cover coughs and sneezes with the elbow and wash hands regularly.
School Opening Dates
Below is a list of opening dates for all public school districts and charter schools in Santa Barbara County. Please contact the school or district with questions about site-specific programs or visit the district’s website for more information.
August 11: Guadalupe Union School District
August 12: Los Olivos School District, Olive Grove Charter School, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District
August 13: Orcutt Academy Charter School, Orcutt Union School District, Santa Maria-Bonita School District
August 16: Lompoc Unified School District, Manzanita Charter School
August 17: Cold Spring School District, Family Partnership Charter School, Santa Barbara Unified School District, Trivium Charter School
August 18: Adelante Charter School, Ballard School District, Blochman School District, Buellton School District, Goleta Union School District, Santa Ynez Valley Charter School,
August 19: Hope School District, Montecito Union School District, Santa Barbara Charter School, Solvang School District, Vista del Mar Union School District
August 20: College School District
August 23: Carpinteria Unified School District, Cuyama Joint Union School District
August 25: Peabody Charter School
Conditions and guidance related to COVID-19 continue to evolve. What remains constant is our unwavering resolve to protect the health and safety of students, families, school employees, and our communities while providing dynamic learning experiences for every child and student in Santa Barbara County. With gratitude to the myriad partners who contribute to our children and schools every day, we thank you. We welcome all back to school.
Dr. Susan Salcido is Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools.