All students and staff in the Santa Barbara Unified School District will be required to get tested for COVID-19 beginning Monday, according to the district, and all extracurricular events and sports will be suspended until further notice due to the increase in novel coronavirus cases in the community. 

The testing will happen on campus, and will take a few days to conclude, according to the district. 

“All extra-curricular activities will be suspended until further notice and assessed on a weekly basis,” according to the district’s ParentSquare message that went out Thursday evening.

“This is inclusive of field trips, performances, and athletic competitions for indoor and outdoor sports. Practices may continue, with mitigating strategies in place. Masks will need to be worn both indoors and outside. Outdoor instruction will be encouraged where available.”

Click here to read Sports Editor Barry Punzal’s story about the suspension of indoor and outdoor sports. 

K-12 classes at the district have been taking place in person, with masks required, since the school year started in August. 

The decision to require universal testing and suspend all extracurricular activities comes as the county reports record-breaking numbers of new cases this week, and the district has reported an alarming number of positive tests and absences. 

Since Monday, the first day of classes after winter break, 151 students and staff members have tested positive on campus for COVID-19. In addition, about 1,900 students and 250 staff have been absent each day so far this week.

“At this juncture, we ask that our families make the assumption that your student has been exposed to the virus, and that daily monitoring is necessary,” the message states. “If your child is showing any symptoms you must keep them at home. Please do not send them to school.”

The mandatory testing next week will involve a nasal swab antigen test that has rapid results, according to the district, which has enough supplies for all students and employees. 

Parents who don’t want their student tested on campus must still provide proof of a negative test before the child can attend school in person.

“If you choose not to have your child tested, short-term independent study will be an option by your school site,” the message states. 

The district has also contracted with Aptitude, which provides COVID-19 testing for school-associated people at Earl Warren Showgrounds. 

The Aptitude testing is free for Santa Barbara Unified students and staff and many people got tested there last weekend. 

The district says people who test positive for COVID-19, regardless of vaccination status, can return to school on Day 11 if they have been fever free for 24 hours without using medication, and their symptoms have improved, or they can return on Day 6 if they have no symptoms and have a negative test result taken on Day 5 or later.  An antigen test is preferred according to the district. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.