#schoolsafety | SB Unified explores hybrid learning

The Santa Barbara Unified School District will discuss hybrid learning during the 6:30 p.m. board meeting Tuesday. The main item on the agenda will be approving hybrid learning plans.

The proposed plan is to begin the hybrid stage Nov. 9 in elementary schools and wait until Jan. 19 (the first day of second semester) to move to hybrid learning in secondary schools. Extracurricular activities would be authorized on secondary campuses.

A large committee of district employees polled parents, students and staff about their reopening preferences. A total of 43% of parents prefer to begin hybrid learning Nov. 9, and 15% said they would not like to return during this school year.

Secondary students were polled, and 54% said they were ready to return to school. Middle school students were the most eager, with 62% ready for hybrid school.

Just 17% of teachers felt ready for hybrid Nov. 9, and 71% voted Jan. 19. The remaining 12% preferred to return another date.

Santa Barbara Parent Leadership Action Network, led by Caroline Harrah, held a public forum Friday in its Facebook group.

From the district, Superintendent Hilda Maldonado; Board President Laura Capps; Asst. Superintendent of Business Services Margaret Jette and Director of Facilities and Modernization Steve Vizzolini presented. Susan Klein-Rothschild, deputy director of Santa Barbara County Public Health Department also answered questions.

“Our challenges are design of school and staffing,” Superintendent Maldonado said. Parents tell her to open like Montecito Union and Cold Spring, she says, but SB Unified is more difficult.

“The best thing we can offer is hybrid,” she said. “We still have to social distance.”

She said classroom sizes in some schools can’t accommodate social distancing. Furniture has to be rearranged, and they need to hire more teachers.

“A classroom of 24 becomes a classroom of 12,” she said.

The district is hiring more custodians to increase sanitization efforts. They’ll monitor soap and bathroom use and open all the windows to increase circulation. Vents will constantly run, pumping 15 cubic feet of fresh air every minute, said Mr. Vizzolini.

Ms. Jette discussed transportation. The buses are outsourced, so the district is subject to the bus systems’ policies. Drivers are not tested for COVID-19, but their temperature is tested before every shift. Buses are disinfected twice daily.

Principals will be reaching out to parents this week to present the school’s safety measures.

email: ahanshaw@newspress.com

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