In a special meeting of the Carpinteria Unified School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Sept. 15, members voted 4 to 1 (Rogelio Delgado dissenting) to approve a waiver application to the state of California that would allow a partial return to in-person instruction for elementary students on Oct. 1.
The “hybrid” plan splits classes into two cohorts of no more than 14 students each. Cohorts will attend two-consecutive days (Monday-Tuesday for “Cohort A,” Thursday-Friday for “Cohort B”) of in-person class from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and rely on distance learning via Zoom for the other days of instruction.
Over 100 people attended the online school board meeting, with 40 speakers presenting compelling points-of-view from both sides of the issue for nearly four hours. Seventeen members of the public spoke in favor of the hybrid reopening plan, and 22—many of those CUSD teachers—spoke against it.
Parents and teachers opposed to the partial reopening plan pointed out the dangers of exposure to Covid-19 while the pandemic is still in the most-severe stage in the surrounding areas of Santa Barbara (particularly North County) and Ventura, Oxnard and Los Angeles beyond.
Those in favor of reopening spoke of the very low rates of Covid-19 infections in Carpinteria, and a generally downward trend in the numbers of hospitalizations across the region, as well as the negative effects of ongoing social isolation for young students. Additionally, the statistically low rates of infection and transmission of Covid-19 in children 10-years-old and younger, versus the difficult-to-impossible task of homeschooling while simultaneously trying to work, led many parents to advocate for the reopening plan.
Safety measures and protocols were presented by Superintendent Diana Rigby, which teachers’ union representatives said were not only impossible to implement, but also mischaracterized. CUSD teacher Krista Munizich said, “Staff did not participate in Covid safety training as stated by CUSD,” and noted that the plan called for classroom windows to be open at one-foot for ventilation, but that the windows in her classroom only open four inches. She also questioned the amount of available personal protective equipment the district claimed to have.
Another issue for some parents is the lack of alternatives to the reopening plan. Students will either attend class in the hybrid model, or lose their place in school and instead take an independent study course online. For participants in Dual Language Immersion, the prospect of losing a spot in the program is particularly upsetting. Weighing all the competing claims, the school board voted in favor of proceeding with the hybrid reopening plan.