Advocating for Schools in Downtown Santa Barbara
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 [email protected] 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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