All Santa Barbara County K-12 public schools will close by next Wednesday due to the health threat presented by the coronavirus, the Santa Barbara County Education Office announced Friday afternoon.
The closure will continue through the end of March, and “districts can implement their plans in light of their individual community needs,” Santa Barbara County Education Office spokeswoman Valerie Cantella said.
“The closure of any school has real consequences beyond the loss of instruction, social connection and cognitive engagement,” County Superintendent of Schools Susan Salcido said in a statement. “This was a very difficult decision, which was not made lightly.
“Our school leaders recognize that this closure has widespread ramifications, and are working to address impacts such as nutrition for students who typically receive meals during the school day,” Salcido continued.
As of Friday afternoon, there were no confirmed cases of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, in Santa Barbara County.
“We support the decision to close public schools,” county Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso said in a statement. “While there are no confirmed cases at this time, this demonstration of social distancing will help to slow the spread of the virus and minimize the public health impacts in our community.”
Some of the school districts have about 20,000 students in suburban areas, and others operate in rural locations with fewer than 100 students, according to the county Education Office.
“This plan allows for some flexibility for each district to implement their closure plan with their communities in mind,” the County Education Office said. “Given the dynamic situation, decisions related to reconvening will be made in conjunction with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.”
UC Santa Barbara and many other colleges have decided to move to “remote instruction,” ending in-person classes for several weeks at least.
Several public schools have spring breaks scheduled in late March, and students will have extended breaks.
Santa Barbara schools are closing beginning Monday through at least April 3, according to SBUSD spokeswoman Camie Barnwell. School staff will work on Monday and Tuesday, Barnwell said.
“District officials are working on a plan to continue providing meals to our students during the school closure,” Barnwell said in a statement. “We will send more details as soon as they become available.”
The Goleta Union Elementary School District is holding spring break March 20-27.
The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District decided to close all schools from Wednesday through April 3, spokesman Kenny Klein said.
“In the Santa Maria Valley, Guadalupe Union, Orcutt, Santa Maria Bonita and the SMJUHSD districts have agreed to close together by Wednesday, but will remain open on Monday and Tuesday, in order to allow more time for families to plan and make arrangements,” Klein said Friday.
Some private schools in the county also are making schedule changes.
Bishop Garcia Diego High School in Santa Barbara decided to suspend instruction and all campus activities — including athletics, extracurricular activities and more — beginning Monday through April 17, head of school Karen Regan said. The school will have planned Easter vacation from April 10 to 19.
“Beginning next week, we will implement remote learning with our students,” Regan said Friday.
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles made the decision to move instruction to remote learning at all Catholic schools effective Tuesday, according to the St. Mary of the Assumption School in Santa Maria. The school will hold classes Monday, and all school activities are cancelled or postponed as of Friday.
Check back with Noozhawk for updates to this story.