Wednesday, June 20 , 2018, 8:40 pm | Fair 63º


El Puente Teachers, Staff Displaced by School’s Closure

The former students of El Puente Community School have been placed back within their home districts — Santa Barbara Unified and Carpinteria Unified districts — but the teachers and staff are being displaced by the school’s upcoming closure.

Employees are working at the campus, at 430 E. Gutierrez St., until June 28 to close all records, according to Deputy Superintendent Susan Salcido of the Santa Barbara County Education Office.

County officials say the school is getting fewer referrals and cannot afford to stay in the current location with such low enrollment. There are 66 students who are returning to their home districts — 62 to SBUSD and four to Carpinteria.

The school usually serves short-term students who are transitioning back to school from a Probation Department program or were expelled from their district. Students can also attend voluntarily.

Parents and students have been voicing concerns about the closure, which was announced in March.

The two certificated teachers at the school voluntarily transferred to other open positions within the Juvenile Court and Community Schools program, said Albert Zonana, assistant superintendent of human resources.

“We did have to do some layoffs because of the closure and that’s, of course, unfortunate,” he said. “These two teachers were senior, so some less-senior teachers were let go to make room for them.”

The union agreements are written that way, so the employees with the least experience are let go if any layoffs must be made, he said.

Classified staff members get laid off based on their location, not just seniority, so the employees at El Puente were given layoff notices. They do have something called “bumping rights”: They can bump people out and displace those with lower seniority, but there is a “very labored process” to do so, Zonana said.

These employees haven’t yet settled on where they will be transferring. Some people don’t exercise their bumping rights if there aren’t any suitable open positions, he said.

“It’s tough, it’s always tough,” he said.

The Juvenile Court and Community Schools student enrollment is based on how many students are referred from local K-12 districts, so staffing levels have to constantly fluctuate, he added.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District has been meeting with students and parents to find placements for all of its returning students.

Officials sometimes referred students to El Puente after an expulsion process, but they now will have to find an alternative placement within the district, said Emilio Handall, the assistant superintendent of elementary education.

Noozhawk staff writer 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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