School campuses being prepared for students’ return following the disruption of the Thomas Fire
Santa Barbara Unified School District will reopen schools as planned on January 2, 2018. Santa Barbara Unified schools were closed from December 7 through 15 in advance of winter break as a result of the Thomas Fire. Cleanup efforts for approximately 300 acres of facilities and 1.8 million square feet of interior building space have been prioritized over winter break.
“I am incredibly proud of our SBUnified school community for their support of those affected by the Thomas Fire as well as their positive spirit in spite of canceled holiday performances and athletic events,” said Santa Barbara Unified School District Superintendent Cary Matsuoka. “This holiday season has been anything but typical in the wake of the fire. I am particularly appreciative of our maintenance, custodial, and groundskeepers who have remained vigilant in preparing our campuses for the return of students.”
As part of the efforts to reopen schools on January 2, 2018, Superintendent Cary Matsuoka initiated a districtwide Post Wildfire Clean Up Plan based on guidelines from local, state, and federal agencies. Paramount to the cleanup effort is the fact that none of the district’s facilities were damaged or destroyed by the fire. Key elements to the cleanup plan, include:
- Professional commercial sweeping crews were hired to clean parking lots, fire roads, and playgrounds at all school campuses. This is the same professional crew hired by local City officials known for utilizing the latest technology, including high efficiency vacuum filtration systems, to clean areas near homes and workplaces.
- Air Quality is continually being monitored. While there is little or no risk of air pollution, all school campuses will be ventilated for at least 24 hours. The district will be replacing all 1500 heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system filters. The standard practice of the district is to use high efficiency filters of at least a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating of 8 or higher that help remove smaller particles from the air.
- All district maintenance and custodial teams are following safe ash clean up guidelines provided by government agencies. As advised by the Santa Barbara Air Pollution Control District, district employees will adhere to following the three C’s: Control, Contain, and Capture. This means that as part of cleanup efforts, district teams are controlling the amount of ash particles that get re-suspended into the air, containing ash that is on any indoor or outdoor surface, and capturing ash by diverting it from storm drains that can be harmful for people, the environment, and aquatic life.
Santa Barbara Unified School District students will not need to make up instructional time lost from December 7 to December 15 as a result of school closures. The district, in consultation with California Department of Education officials and other regional school districts, completed a waiver request for the seven days schools were closed and submitted it to the California Department of Education. The district is committed to work closely with students following the reopening of schools to continue to ensure a successful 2017-2018 school year.