As thousands of students return to Santa Barbara Unified schools, they enter classes without the requirement to wear a mask or get tested for COVID-19.
Classes started last Friday, and students returned to in-person learning across Santa Barbara and Goleta.
“I have been energized as I’ve gone to schools,” district Superintendent Hilda Maldonado said. “I’ve seen the excitement, the positive energy that I’m feeling and seeing happy faces, happy parents, happy kids.”
The district is removing independent study options for elementary school students this year, administrators said at the Tuesday board meeting.
“We will recommend that we won’t bring back independent study for elementary because we know that that’s not the best model anymore,” Maldonado said.
“One thing we have recognized is the number of students in our elementary programs has extremely decreased, so we will be offering the opportunity for independent study for grades 7 to 12,” Lynne Sheffield, assistant superintendent of secondary instruction, said at the school board meeting.
Sheffield said that in seventh and eighth grades, there are “about 10” students in independent study classes. She said the upper grades have “maybe about 25” students in that program.
Though masks are encouraged, particularly for anybody who is immunocompromised, Maldonado said they are no longer mandatory for students at district schools.
“We respect people’s choices if they want to wear it or not,” she said.
Though the school district is no longer doing surveillance testing, it has provided parents with COVID-19 test kits so that they can test their students themselves, and if they are positive, keep them at home.
Maldonado said the district will ask parents to allow their children to be tested by the district in the case of a significant increase in community cases and district cases.
“That’s gonna be used if we see a spike,” Maldonado said. “So we’re sort of preparing families. While we’re not doing surveillance testing, we still want you to sign up for the platform. We want you to be ready in case we need to do surveillance testing.”
The district is continuing the ventilation protocols it had in place last year, she said. Santa Barbara Unified purchased air purifiers for every classroom and encouraged teachers to keep their classroom doors and windows open.
Maldonado said they came up with the ventilation policy with help from two UC Santa Barbara professors whose children go to school in the district.
“I had two professors from UCSB, you know, who are parents of our kids in high schools, say to me, ‘Look, we’ve been looking at the science and the research behind how you check for proper ventilation. We would like to help,’” she said.
— Noozhawk staff writer Grace Kitayama can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.