Updates from Superintendent Matsuoka

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Dear Santa Barbara Unified School District families and staff.

I wanted to bring you a few updates regarding plans in the works on various fronts as we begin to wrap up the current school year and turn our thoughts to planning for the Fall.

Today is day 37 of school closure. The disruption to life as we know it is unfolding in waves across our society. We have only 15 more days in the school year which will end on June 3, 2020.

Please take a moment to review a few important highlights and updates:

High school senior celebrations:

Our high school teams – with input from our graduating seniors – are working hard on creating alternative graduation experiences while complying with the Santa Barbara County Health Department guidance for graduation ceremonies.  In summary, traditional public gatherings are not allowed but we are now close to finalizing plans on alternative ways to celebrate this remarkable class, and will be sharing that information with all of our families soon.
Summer School 2020

We are planning on a very minimal summer school program to support our special education students with their Extended School Year needs and for credit recovery for high school students who need to catch up on their units towards graduation. Beyond these two specific needs, we are not going to offer summer school for two reasons. First, our staff need a break from the exhausting demands of teaching and learning under pandemic conditions. We need to preserve our planning energy for the fall as we think about how to begin a new school year with great uncertainty. Second, there is no new money coming from the State of California for an expanded summer school program.

First Day of School – Tuesday, August 18, 2020

We are planning on beginning the 2020-21 school year on Tuesday, August 18, 2020.  There were comments from Governor Newsom about starting the school year earlier in summer to catch up on missed learning, but that failed to take into account approved school calendars.  We wanted to reaffirm this date for opening of school so staff and families can make appropriate plans for summer.

2020-21 school year and possible scenarios

The big question on everyone’s mind is what will school look like next year? We are working as a district to study and plan for a variety of scenarios, which include:

Scenario 1 – Re-open school continuing our full distance learning model. This is our current model and one we will need to sharpen and improve upon if we have to open school using full distance learning.

Scenario 2 – If society can re-open to allow gatherings of groups of people, we can re-open our brick-and-mortar schools and develop a hybrid model of at-school and distance learning. Achieving the social distancing standards of 6 feet between students will require flexible use of time and physical space in ways that we never imagined. There are many challenging aspects to solve, but we are committed to finding solutions that can take advantage of the opportunity to have our students and teachers meet in person, even if not on a daily basis.

Scenario 3 – Return to “normal”: We look forward to the day when everyone can be back at school in person. I believe we will be a different society and educational system and hopefully take the best of what we have learned about distance learning and build new and better models of teaching and learning.

Grab & Go meals distribution

We are proud of our food services team that is providing thousands of meals every day to our students. During the week of May 4th, we provided 31,326 meals (about 6,265/day) a 4% increase over the prior week.

We also recently received news regarding additional relief our families may qualify for through the Pandemic Electronic Banking Transaction (P-EBT) Card Program. Due to the rise of food insecurity in the time of COVID, governmental funds in the form of a P-EBT card have been made available for families who qualify for free and reduced-priced meals. Totaling up to $365 per child, such assistance is an important piece in the effort to ensure the health of those most impacted by the crisis in our community. We will be communicating more details in the coming days so that all are aware of this program and how to qualify.

Distance learning student participation

We instituted a weekly monitoring system of our student’s participation in online learning. We collect data every Friday from our 850 teachers and now have two weeks worth of data. The initial report is positive. We learned that about 82% of our elementary students, and 92% of secondary students, participated in learning opportunities this past week. As we solve issues of wireless connectivity and student engagement, we will continue to work at raising these numbers.

Thank you for taking the time to review this message. I wishing you all a safe and healthy week.

Cary Matsuoka
Superintendent