Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

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By Alice P. Post, Founding Member of Coalition for Neighborhood Schools

The mission of Coalition for Neighborhood Schools is to provide neighborhood elementary school facilities in the downtown area of Santa Barbara.  For generations, previous to shortsighted and disastrous decisions by the Santa Barbara school board in the 1970s, the area between the 600 block (Cota Street) and the 2100 block (Padre Street) of State Street, and those residential neighborhoods to the east and west, were home to three elementary schools: Lincoln, Wilson, and Garfield.  

Lincoln School served the downtown area for over 100 years.  The historic Lincoln School site is the current site of the Farmer's market, at Cota and Santa Barbara Street, where a new police station is being entertained.  The land is owned by the City of Santa Barbara.  Wilson School, at the corner of Castillo and Anapamu Streets, is currently the Westside Community Center, also owned by the City of Santa Barbara.   Garfield School is currently the Schott Center for Adult Ed, owned by SBCC.  

While closing and selling off school sites must have seemed to be the "right thing to do at the time" (to the school board), the effects of that drastic divestment of school facilities is still being felt today throughout the community.  The pain of that loss will actually never go away in terms of residential quality of life in Santa Barbara's neighborhoods. The closure of those three schools was fought vigorously by the community, particularly by the "downtown" school communities of Lincoln, Wilson, and Garfield.  I still occasionally meet someone my age or older who attended or taught at those schools.  If you are one of those alums or retired teachers, we'd sure like to hear from you!  I know there are many from my graduating class of Santa Barbara High. 

Neighborhood schools create a number of significant community benefits.   Neighborhood schools promote healthy activities because students can walk to school rather than being forced to ride in cars.   Neighborhood schools promote community because students remain close to home, parents are more easily able to monitor their activities, and parents are more likely to interact and associate with other parents in the same neighborhood.   In a downtown area, neighborhood schools result in stable property values, and promote downtown residential property ownership.   Such schools also promote diversity and inclusion, as students interact with other students from different cultures.   

The Coalition for Neighborhood Schools is hosting a Candidates' Forum for candidates for the SBUSD on Thursday, September 17, at 7:00 pm on Zoom.  Please email to receive the Zoom link.  Kindly put "RSVP to Candidates'  Forum" in the Subject line.  

We encourage the public to attend.  Please submit your questions in advance by email.

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Lorax Sep 14, 2020 11:51 PM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

I"m glad their are community groups like this demanding we do better for our children.
Public Education has never hit a lower point! Private schools have all signed up to open up school on campus now and here we sit with our inferior Santa Barbara Public School system failing to meet the needs of children as they get further behind , further, this current board's choice of curriculum is not inclusive or sensitive to parent participation
Its important to get all 3 current board members out and vote in strong leadership . Please inform yourself and make your vote count! Please sign up by emailing for the upcomming zoom meeting .
Santa Barbara Unified School District Candidate's forum
Thursday September 17th from 7:30 pm to 9:00 pm
Zoom hosted by CNS
Coalition for Neighborhood Schools
Moderator: Dr. Lanny Ebenstein, former Trustee SBUSD

If you have questions to submit, please email them to BEFORE noon on Wednesday, September 16.

sbalice Sep 13, 2020 09:51 AM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

Thank you 1063 for the question about forum being videoed! I will look into this possibility with our team and respond. If you email us at, we can be sure to keep you posted.

dukemunson Sep 11, 2020 12:26 PM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

Good news everyone!!!! We're getting another school downtown (errrr "Learning Center"). As per KEYT's website: Not every student learning at home is able to do so with a few clicks on a computer. A solution on the Santa Barbara Eastside has come in the form of a learning center, now open, right across from Franklin Elementary school.

"Some of these kids were not even logging on. They weren't going to school basically," said Santa Barbara City Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez.
With remote learning challenges, comes solutions before the school years gets too far along and some students get too far behind.

This newest site is at the Second Baptist Church on the Santa Barbara Eastside, and is an alternative to space at home, if there is any.
Claudia St. George works at the church and helped to coordinate the learning center. She says it is an environment that's much different than many homes."Some parents they have two, three kids, some five and they don't have enough wi fi at home or the space is not big enough because they have the headphones they have to communicate with their teachers. "

This project was a collaboration, when some of the kids were seen inside cars at the school nearby just to use the wi fi nearby.

a-1600021795 Sep 13, 2020 11:29 AM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

Not sure she works at the church — it is the St. George Community Church, named after its owner, Ed St. George who changed its name (and affiliation) from Second Baptist when he bought it. I hope that since they are acting as a “learning center” for the across-the-street Adelante charter school and the wonderful Franklin School that has made tremendous educational progress the last years that they are meeting all the necessary state safety and operational requirements.

dukemunson Sep 11, 2020 12:37 PM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

So now, we have another spot opening up to supervise and educate our it's not in the spots that are designed and equipped to teach them, no no no, we're going to do it anywhere and everywhere else!!! As per the article:

"The program has more demand that it has space.
Gutierrez says, "the school district has provided lunches, and the word is getting out in the community that this learning center exists. We have a waiting list now."

She says an effort is underway to open other centers. Gutierrez said, "they're going to open a center at Elings park, and hopefully the City of Santa Barbara will open one of their parks to work with Just Communities to open one of these learning centers."

What a great solution!!! Good job City Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez!!!! We have to teach our kids...but let's definitely not do it in the safest best spot...that would be crazy!!!

a-1599850958 Sep 11, 2020 12:02 PM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

Check Jerry Roberts' interviews with the SBUSD candidates, those willing to speak with him, that is. There are some very worthy candidates. The list of candidates follows the article on the Teachers Association list: The candidates forum on the 17th (thanks for the mention of that!) should be very interesting.

sbalice Sep 13, 2020 09:47 AM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

Thanks for your interest! I will look into this possibility with our team and respond. If you email us at, we can be sure to keep you posted.

sbdude Sep 11, 2020 10:40 AM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

The school district has no money to expand their operations. They blew all their capital budget on Peabody stadium and the Armory and their operating budget has been in the red for several years. Total financial mismanagement for years going on down there, with zero oversight from the board.

Byzantium Sep 11, 2020 10:48 AM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

Being green matters more at SBUSD, than continually operating in the red.. School boards should not be playing global politics; they should be overseeing the fiscal and education basics of the local school system they were elected to serve.

Byzantium Sep 11, 2020 09:58 AM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

Some local neighborhood city schools were closed and consolidated their student populations in response to federal school de facto desegregation mandates at that time. An interesting chapter in our local education history. Some were also closed due alleged earthquake deficiencies. A good topic for our resident local historians to delve into.

dukemunson Sep 10, 2020 09:25 PM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

Life is all about timing... and the timing of this shaky. I’m all for changing all kinds of things about the current school system, but first things first let’s open the schools we have!! Then we can talk about some additional schools and perhaps some flexibility and updating of our current school systems (stop with the mandatory 8:15am... science says it’s too early for most kids so let them sleep!)

a-1600022239 Sep 13, 2020 11:37 AM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

Prop 98 guarantees 50% of all state general funds go to public education; no matter the numbers of students enrolled. Declining student enrollment means more per pupil spending. It means Prop 98 funds are not diluted across our presently much larger student population numbers. But it also means enrollments must drop state wide; not just locally to get that increase in per pupil spending and the state economy must remain strong - and the top 1% who currently pay 50% of all state income tax revenues are not scared away. Prop 98 was put in by the voters after Prop 13 to guarantee this state would always invest in public education first.

a-1600021074 Sep 13, 2020 11:17 AM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

How can there be talk of more schools when the school population is dropping. As it is the amount of money Californians pay for schools is very high while accountability in terms of the very important scores is very low.

sbres Sep 10, 2020 08:56 PM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

That's what the Santa Barbara Community Academy was suppose to be. When it opened in the fall of 1999 it was housed at Santa Barbara Junior HIgh while the building where the School District is housed was being made into classrooms for the Academy. It operated downtown for the next 5 or 6 years. It was suppose to expand into the rest of the School District building but, as I recall, there were concerns with the environmental report. The Academy eventually moved to the campus of LaCumbre JH.

RHS Sep 10, 2020 06:26 PM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

I agree that supporting public schools is essential. The idea of free public education is one of the foundations of the American experience and American exceptionalism. Over the years people with money and influence complained that they had to pay for this, instead of being proud of it. They wanted to give their children great education but resented the idea that less affluent people might also get this. It was an advantage to them and their heirs to strangle this leveling of society. We need to return to proper, even extravagant, investment in public schools to save our democracy.

195930 Sep 10, 2020 05:19 PM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

Totally agree! Would love neighborhood schools to return!!! I remember you talking about these benefits years ago. Really makes the best sense and what a disaster closing those three schools.

Byzantium Sep 11, 2020 10:23 AM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

One candidate now running for the SBUSD school board currently costs taxpayers over a quarter million dollars every year as a school administrator for the very small Montecito School District - those sort of school overhead costs are punishing. ( Cite: Transparent California)

letmego Sep 11, 2020 10:19 AM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

You've got it. It's WAY too expensive. With declining enrollment, the district has bigger fish to fry.

Yes, it's a pain for kids who are bused (based on address) to Monroe, Harding, Peabody, Washington, Adams...did I miss anyone? It's basically a grid. Some of these schools have a significant number of students who are bused in. If you even put one school downtown, you'd have to get rid of another due to sheer numbers.

a-1599801437 Sep 10, 2020 10:17 PM
Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara

The highly regulated delivery of education made it too expensive to have smaller enrollment schools in every neighborhood. Not just classrooms and equal numbers of teachers anylonger - there are all sorts of additional personnel and demands places on schools that did not exist back in the golden years for Calif K-12, when we were the envy of the nation. Turn the clock back to what the Ed Code looked like back then; what teachers salaries looked like back then; what classrooms looked like back then, ( pull down maps, desks in a row with inkwells, chalkboards and some erasers); what text books looked like back then that were used over and over again -- yet we turned out some pretty amazing students back the too.

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