Santa Barbara Unified Mulls Mandated Vaccines for Staff, Teachers

By Nick Masuda   |   August 5, 2021

With the school year less than two weeks from starting, a pair of Santa Barbara Unified School District board members are calling for all district staff and teachers to be vaccinated or be tested for COVID at least once per week.

The proposal from Board President Kate Ford and Board Member Laura Capps will be discussed and voted upon at a special board meeting on August 5 at 2 pm.

“Our main job is to protect and keep children safe. Sometimes we lose sight of that, because as you know we talk about a million other things and have to make decisions about 10 million other things,” Ford told the Montecito Journal. “But the bottom line is that as an educator in California — and that includes school boards — their No. 1 responsibility is to protect children.

“Also, we are motivated by our desire to help teachers and staff members who come in contact with other adults and, of course, hundreds of children, to feel that they were as safe and protected as possible.”

According to an OpEd penned by both Ford and Capps (see page 10), nearly 65% of SBUSD teachers and staff have either self-reported or have confidentially shown proof of vaccination.

For Capps, that number is cause for concern.

“That set off some alarm bells for me, for sure — especially as a parent and knowing that a lot of children can’t even be vaccinated,” Capps told the Montecito Journal. “And here we are with this Delta variant, and at this stage, it’s different than when you couldn’t get vaccines and there weren’t enough around. But now you know you can just pop down and get it this afternoon if you want it. So, it’s really alarming.”

According to the California Department of Public Health, 61.4% of county residents have received at least one dose of a vaccination, while 54.1% are fully vaccinated. Over the past week, Santa Barbara County is averaging 88 new COVID cases per day. 

According to Capps, the Santa Barbara Teachers Association has been made aware of the proposal. 

The SBTA had not responded to inquiries from the Journal prior to publication.

Meanwhile, at the Montecito Union School District, nearly 98% of its staff is already vaccinated, making any mandates unnecessary at the present time.

“Our staff have put colleagues and students first for a long time now,” said Anthony Ranii, the MUS superintendent. “Vaccines, masking rules, our staff has performed admirably. It’s not always easy to put health first.”

Elsewhere in Montecito, Cold Spring School District is 98% vaccinated among faculty as of August 3, according to Superintendent Amy Alzina.

Board President Michael Marino expects safety protocols to be a topic of discussion at an August 10 board meeting.

“We are trying to do our best to accommodate everyone,” Marino said. “Thankfully, we have the flexibility on campus to present various options.”


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