In-Person Instruction Updates

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   August 20, 2020

This week, school started for our two public elementary schools, via distance or virtual learning due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, public health officer Dr. Henning Ansorg told the Board of Supervisors that the county’s number of COVID-19 cases is below certain thresholds, and the County is now drafting guidance and forms for schools that wish to pursue a waiver in order to offer in-person instruction.

Guidelines from the State of California permit schools and school districts to reopen for in-person instruction at any time if they are located in a local health jurisdiction that has not been on the county monitoring list within the prior 14 days. If the county has been on the monitoring list within the last 14 days, such as SB County, the school must conduct distance learning only, until their local health jurisdiction has been off the monitoring list for at least 14 days. Schools may apply for a waiver if the local health jurisdiction meets certain thresholds; one of the requirements for schools to submit waivers is for the county to have a 14-day rolling average of fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 of population. Recently, the state updated their data, and Santa Barbara County is now at a 14-day rolling average of 154.5 cases per 100,000. 

Superintendents of both Montecito public schools, Dr. Anthony Ranii at Montecito Union School and Dr. Amy Alzina at Cold Spring School, tell us they already have comprehensive plans in place for the safe return of students to campus, which is a requirement to submit a waiver. Both superintendents, as of press time, were consulting with their school respective school boards, teachers, and staff, parents, and community stakeholders before considering whether to pursue a waiver. It’s expected that further guidance from the County regarding testing of students and staff, contact tracing, and more will be released in the coming days. “I want to be clear that there has not been a decision about whether or not to apply for a waiver. It would be premature to have arrived at this decision before we consult with staff members, parents, and community organizations. I look forward to that process,” Dr. Ranii wrote in a letter to parents.   

“In the coming days and weeks, we will be engaging with labor, parents, and community organizations and seeking additional information about testing and contact tracing. If we decide to apply for a waiver, the county has informed us that we will not be able to return to in-person instruction for at least 14 days after submission,” he went on.

As of press time, Dr. Alzina was in the process of surveying Cold Spring parents to see their thoughts on returning to in-person learning, when a waiver is available. On August 7, 72% of parents wished to send their kids back to campus, with 22% not in favor of in-person learning and 6% unsure. Dr. Alzina will make the decision to pursue a waiver after current survey results are in; she reports that the majority of teachers and staff would like to return to in-person learning. Cold Spring’s plans for in-person learning include outdoor classrooms, outdoor handwashing stations, small class sizes, desks six-feet apart, signage, PPE, and plexiglass partitions, as well as health screenings for students and staff.

We’ll have more on the future of in-person learning at local schools as more decisions are made.  


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