The Santa Barbara Unified School District has lost about 140 students because of its remote learning plan to start the upcoming school year.

Elementary school students make up 22 percent of total enrollment, but 65 percent of the drop.

“Whole families are leaving,” said Meg Jette, assistant superintendent of Fiscal Services. “It’s a countywide decline.”

Frann Wageneck, assistant superintendent for the district, said she didn’t anticipate any large fiscal impact from the loss of students, but she didn’t specify in Tuesday’s meeting the number that would have a big impact.

“The big message here, as we see this decline in students’ families, is that parents are all having to make decisions about what’s best for their children,” Wageneck said. “People are trying to do what’s best to make sense of things in a time that doesn’t make sense.”

The school year for the Santa Barbara district will begin Aug. 18. Remote education is the plan, but when cases drop to a number that lifts Santa Barbara County off the state’s watchlist, the school district will have the option to reopen schools completely or move to a hybrid plan.

Despite the enrollment drop, Wageneck said the students who have remained in the district can expect a high-quality education.

“For those families who are enrolled with us, the 13,000-plus students who will be with us in the coming year, the preparation for distance learning has been, in my opinion, excellent, and that’s what we want our families to know. They are going to be pleased with the learning that the children engage in.”

The district met Tuesday night to discuss final plans for the reopening. Administrators listed their five priorities for returning to school — instruction, health and wellness, governance and leadership, community and family engagement, and facilities and operations.

District officials promise a far more rigorous instruction plan than when schools shut down in March. Elementary school students, for example, with have take-home instructional materials, take-home art kits, digital and print resources, reading, writing, phonics videos and virtual word study, kindergarten-through-sixth-grade book club sets, and reading workbooks. Attendance will be mandatory.

Online, on-demand, around-the-clock tutoring will be available in English and Spanish. Trained and vetted online educators will provide essay review with annotations turned around within 24 hours. The tutoring session logs provide teachers with critical information regarding students’ strengths and areas for growth, according to the district. 

Teachers will have the option to teach in their classrooms with distance learning tools.

Board member Kate Ford said she is excited about the upcoming school year because of all the preparation.

This plan really is responsive to the dozens and dozens of concerns and worries that have been raised by the community and the board,” Ford said. 

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

Joshua Molina

Joshua Molina, Noozhawk Staff Writer

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at