Sunday, January 21 , 2018, 9:27 am | Fair 50º


Local News

Small Cold Spring School Suffers Huge Loss with Deaths of 2 Students in Montecito Flooding

School offering grief counseling and plans to resume classes Tuesday; Montecito Union arranging to hold classes elsewhere while campus is inaccessible

The Cold Spring School campus was not physically damaged by the Montecito floods, but Superintendent/Principal Amy Alzina says the tight-knit school community lost two of its students in the disaster.
The Cold Spring School campus was not physically damaged by the Montecito floods, but Superintendent/Principal Amy Alzina says the tight-knit school community lost two of its students in the disaster.  (Amy Alzina photo)

A kindergarten and sixth-grade student at Cold Spring School were among the Montecito residents killed in Tuesday’s massive mudslides and flooding.

The school, at 2243 Sycamore Canyon Road, was physically spared from the storm damage but its community of 170 students has suffered terrible loss.

Superintendent/Principal Amy Alzina said grief counseling is being offered to students and staff members are briefing parents about how to talk to children about what happened.

“It’s not just the flooding but also the loss of lives that are rocking our world right now,” she told Noozhawk.

Kindergartener Peerawat Sutthithepa, 6, and sixth-grader Sawyer Corey, 12, were among 19 people killed in the storm.

Cold Spring School had just finished cleaning up the Thomas Fire impacts when the winter storm hit, but there was no damage to the campus from the mudslides and floods, Alzina said.

She said classes are scheduled to resume Tuesday since the school is outside the mandatory evacuation zone and has power and Internet, along with portable bathrooms on campus.

Additional names released by authorities this weekend revealed more tragedy for the Corey and Sutthithepa families.

Authorities said they had found the body of Morgan Corey, 25, and Pinit Sutthithepa, 30, Peerawat's father. ​

Sutthithepa's father-in-law, Richard Loring Taylor, 79, were also killed in the floods, and his 2-year-old daughter, Lydia Sutthithepa, remains missing.

The Cold Spring, Montecito Union and Carpinteria Unified school districts, and many other schools in Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria were closed most of last week.

Cold Spring School families hold a candlelight vigil at the Santa Barbara Mission on Tuesday for missing students. Click to view larger
Cold Spring School families hold a candlelight vigil at the Santa Barbara Mission on Tuesday for missing students. (Amy Alzina photo)

Montecito Union School, at 385 San Ysidro Road, will likely be closed for weeks, so its 415 students will be hosted on an alternative campus starting Thursday, Superintendent Anthony Ranii told Noozhawk.

Half of the students are going to the Santa Barbara Zoo on Tuesday and half to MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation, he said, and on Wednesday, they’ll switch.

“They’ll host us for the several weeks it will take for us to get back to Montecito Union,” Ranii said.

“It’s been really fantastic that these local resources have been very giving and reached out to us.”

Families are resilient and will be happy to be back in session, even in a nonconventional setting, he said.

The MUS community has not lost any students in the flooding, he said Friday.

“There was a real sigh of relief when we checked with every family and determined, in terms of our students and immediate families, we had no loss of life,” Ranii said. “With our staff members we had no loss of life.”

Nevertheless, he said noted the community has lost family, friends and neighbors, in addition to hundreds of destroyed and damaged homes.

“There is some guilt in feeling so fortunate,” Ranii said.

School staff and faculty hosted events in local parks last week to give parents “some adult time to take care of a host of different challenges, with kids out of their hands for a couple hours,”​ he added.

Before the storm, families filled sandbags at Montecito Union School. Click to view larger
Before the storm, families filled sandbags at Montecito Union School.  (Antony Ranii photo)

Carpinteria Unified schools will be closed at least through Monday, the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, due to flooding and the freeway closure.

While there is relatively minor damage in Summerland and Carpinteria, the communities are isolated by the closure, which cuts them off from Santa Barbara and limits access to Ventura and the south.

Caltrans had hoped to reopen Highway 101 on Monday, but officials announced Friday that it won’t happen. Currently, there is no new estimate for when the closure will be lifted.

Westmont College, at 955 La Paz Road, was undamaged in the storm but evacuated Wednesday since it had no water service and its students live on campus.

Classes are to resume Tuesday, spokesman Scott Craig said.

The private Christian liberal arts college evacuated Dec. 10, ahead of the mandatory evacuation, and students had take-home finals. Students returned to campus for the first day of spring semester classes on Jan. 8, the day before the storm.

“We are working to make the campus ready for students, understanding that we may have to make our own arrangements for water and sanitation for a short time,” Craig said in an email, noting that updates are being posted on the Westmont website.

Private schools in the Montecito area were closed most of last week, including Crane Country Day School, 1795 San Leandro Lane; Laguna Blanca’s Lower School campus, 260 San Ysidro Road; and Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, 530 Hot Springs Road.

Laguna Blanca noted on its Facebook page Wednesday that its teachers served as substitutes at local public schools (while its own campuses were closed). The Middle and Upper School campus in Hope Ranch reopened Thursday.

Since its own campus is closed during the clean-up and recovery efforts in Montecito, Our Lady of Mount Carmel has been holding classes at Notre Dame School in Santa Barbara and St. Joseph Catholic Church in Carpinteria.

“The school’s situation is unique as its student," school officials said. "With the 101 freeway closed, the school has come up with a unique solution to continue to serve its families on both sides of the closure. In Santa Barbara Notre Dame School has graciously opened extra classroom space to ​OLMCS while St. Joseph’s Church has done the same in Carpinteria. With approximately half of its faculty and staff also located on either side of the closure, Mount Carmel will continue to deliver high-quality instruction to its students at both sites."

Cate School, at 1960 Cate Mesa Road in Carpinteria, had power, water and Internet as of Thursday and boarding students and staff were safe and trying to get back into a normal routine, the school posted on its Facebook page.

“The campus itself took the heavy rain well, although there is extensive mud around Lillingston Canyon,” the post said.

Some Santa Barbara day students took the morning ferry to get to the Ventura Harbor, and school staff picked them up for classes Thursday, the school said.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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