NewsLocal News


Santa Barbara Co. asking the state to grant earlier elementary school re-openings

Posted at 6:38 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 21:38:38-05

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is asking the state to grant an earlier return to in-person learning.

For Santa Barbara Unified, that could happen soon. Public health officials say they are planning to send a letter to the state requesting approval for schools in that district to reopen.

Public Health Director Dr. Van Do-Reynoso says the county will support school districts that want to bring kids back to the classroom.

"Absolutely. We already have a school district reaching out to us and said, 'hey, will you support us re-opening?' and we said, once you have an approved safety plan we are more than happy to craft the letter for you,” Do-Reynoso said.

Although Santa Barbara County’s current adjusted case rate is above where it needs to be to reopen schools, health officials say the need for younger students to be back in the classroom is critical.

"Younger children require in-person education much more than older children. Older children, teenagers are able to do a lot online,” said Santa Barbara County Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg.

With many private schools re-opening, Do-Reynoso said it makes sense to allow other districts to open.

Lompoc Unified said their safety plans have been approved but district officials are waiting until Santa Barbara Unified receives its response from the state.

"If they are successful, the thought process is if they approve for one school in the county, they will approve for all and so we are crossing our fingers for Santa Barbara because then that would mean that opportunity for all of us,” said Lompoc Unified Superintendent Bree Valla.

Orcutt Union School District says it wants to continue to move forward to in-person learning but make sure it is safe to do so.

"It depends on a lot of factors for us. It depends on what do our community metrics look like,” said Orcutt Union Superintendent Holly Edds.

Public Health officials also add they are pivoting this effort to elementary school children rather than middle and high schoolers because, scientifically speaking, the spread of COVID-19 in teenagers is higher than in younger children.

Santa Barbara County health officials add if the state were to deny the request, the school districts will delay re-opening but the health department will make a personal appeal.