Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

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By Dr. Susan Salcido, Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools

As school begins and routines shift from summer to school mode, students, staff, and families adjust in multiple ways to help launch the year successfully. Children and family members learn bus schedules, sort out carpools, reset morning alarms, and excitedly wait to see which friends are in their classes. Teachers and staff reunite at schools ahead of the students to thoughtfully prepare a vibrant, fulfilling, inclusive experience for every student.

Due to evolving COVID-19 conditions, emotions will vary over the next few weeks: individuals may be excited and anxious, they may look forward to school and after-school activities while worrying that some activities may need to close in the future, and many may wonder what change will be next. The Governor’s Office and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued orders and guidance for TK- 12 schools to support their goal for all students to access safe, in-person instruction to the fullest extent possible. Based on these requirements, here is what is in place as we begin the school year: 


The State of California adopted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance that in-person instruction can occur safely without physical distancing requirements as long as masking indoors for students and staff is in place. Districts have the latitude to organize classrooms and groups of students without physical distancing requirements. Schools may also utilize outside spaces for student activities throughout the day. Lifting the physical distancing requirement allows for full-time in-person instruction.


All students and staff indoors must wear face coverings indoors and on school buses and other modes of public transportation. However, face coverings are optional in outdoor settings. CDPH has indicated it will decide on updates or revisions to the mask requirements for all TK-12 schools no later than November 1. 


Independent study options are available for students whose health may be at risk by in-person instruction, as determined by the parent or guardian. These options may include district-based programs, inter-district transfers to other independent study programs, or existing online independent charter programs.


California requires all TK-12 schools to verify that workers are fully vaccinated or be tested weekly. Volunteers working with students on a school site must be vaccinated or undergo weekly testing as well.


CDPH recently updated the close contact protocols for schools, including new information based on the widespread availability of vaccines for individuals 12 years and older. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD) is currently mapping out these new protocols for contact tracing and quarantines for close contact with individuals who test positive with COVID-19. SBCPHD will share these protocols with school leaders and post them on the SBCPHD website.


Students and staff members should monitor their personal wellness and stay home from school if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Remember to cover coughs and sneezes with the elbow and wash hands regularly.


Below is a list of opening dates for all public school districts and charter schools in Santa Barbara County. Please contact the school or district with questions about site-specific programs or visit the district’s website for more information.

  • August 11: Guadalupe Union School District

  • August 12: Los Olivos School District, Olive Grove Charter School, Santa Maria Joint Union High School District, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District

  • August 13: Orcutt Academy Charter School, Orcutt Union School District, Santa Maria-Bonita School District

  • August 16: Lompoc Unified School District, Manzanita Charter School

  • August 17: Cold Spring School District, Family Partnership Charter School, Santa Barbara Unified School District, Trivium Charter School

  • August 18: Adelante Charter School, Ballard School District, Blochman School District, Buellton School District, Goleta Union School District, Santa Ynez Valley Charter School, 

  • August 19: Hope School District, Montecito Union School District, Santa Barbara Charter School, Solvang School District, Vista del Mar Union School District

  • August 20: College School District

  • August 23: Carpinteria Unified School District, Cuyama Joint Union School District

  • August 25: Peabody Charter School


Conditions and guidance related to COVID-19 continue to evolve. What remains constant is our unwavering resolve to protect the health and safety of students, families, school employees, and our communities while providing dynamic learning experiences for every child and student in Santa Barbara County. With gratitude to the myriad partners who contribute to our children and schools every day, we thank you. We welcome all Back to School.

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SBLetsGetAlong Aug 16, 2021 03:28 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County


Why are they limiting class sizes below normal sizes? Why are the schools citing Covid & social distancing to not allow kids to do intra district transfers?

Transparent Aug 15, 2021 02:33 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

So, from the comments it seems 'confirmed' that math will only be one semester. This is a really huge mistake that will impact most the kids without parents who will get them tutors to fill the obvious gaps. When were we going to be told?

If you have any doubt this is a terrible idea, read the text below from Santa Barbara Unified's own website. What it says is common sense:

"For proper preparation for baccalaureate level course work, all students should be enrolled in a mathematics course in every semester of high school. ... ... Experience has shown that students who take a hiatus from the study of mathematics in high school are very often unprepared for courses of a quantitative nature in college and are unable to continue in these courses without remediation in mathematics."


This is a huge mistake, and a huge shame. [My kids will be fine.]

Basicinfo805 Aug 14, 2021 12:06 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

From everything I’ve seen Susan, our local schools aren’t getting the job done and this tweaking (experimenting) you’re doing - unheard of grading strategies (no one can fail), “co-seated classes” (wtf?), and Spanish “immersion” are all likely to fail, pushing students even further behind in a global economy. Get your head out of your you know what and get back to basics.

Transparent Aug 15, 2021 07:35 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

70% of our kids not at grade level in math. Doing great though... sure.

"College eligibility" rates look good because we give passing grades to anyone who shows up, and whoop-de-doo everyone is UC/CSU eligible. Mission Accomplished. If 70% below grade level doesn't get you thinking we have SERIOUS need for improvement, then respectfully this will be my last comment.

GDP Aug 15, 2021 06:17 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

So all these first generation students getting into all these great schools are evidence that are schools are failing? That at 2019 at DPHS (the school I'm familiar with) 65% graduated college and career ready (20% above the state average?). In addition, it's not a half year of condensed math; it's a system similar to the one at SBCC and that has been in practice at SMHS for years. As I understand it, it gives students 90 minutes of math each day 5 days a week, so how is that a half year of condensed math? And it allows them to lower class size in case we need to pivot during COVID like last year. Yes, there are different structures for how this works (Santa Ynez does 90 minute blocks every other day for the entire year), and yes, some will prefer a different system, but that's where reasonable minds may disagree. Saying that our schools are failing is just a republican talking point; in fact seeing all these kids matriculate at all these outstanding schools is evidence that they are preparing our kids well. Explain the success they are having with first generation college bound students: https://www.independent.com/2021/06/27/advancement-via-individual-determination/

Transparent Aug 15, 2021 04:18 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

Sorry GDP, are you okay with ~70% of our kids not meeting grade level standards for math at 11th grade? And keep in mind those standards are looooowww... like bargain basement low... like fall out of a boat and try to hit water low.

The kids who are doing well are getting their nutrition elsewhere. Those depending on the public system are in big trouble. We need to change that. The failure of our public schools is the biggest source inequity we have right now. The solution is not more of the same... it certainly does not include changint to only half a year of condensed math.

GDP Aug 15, 2021 03:00 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

Hmm. Let's see. At Dos Pueblos HS where my grand daughter just graduated I learned at the senior awards ceremony that 17 graduates are heading to CAL, 9 to UCLA, others to Columbia, Stanford, NYU, USC, a ton to other UCs and Cal States (many are first generation, low income students)-- and many who got into great schools but are choosing to start at SBCC with 2 years of free courses at the #1 community college in the nation-- and many are first generation, low income students. All this at a public school that takes all that enroll- those with family support, those from poverty, those with learning challenges, and those from high income families-- in short- they serve the community. Tired, tired, tired of the narrative that our schools are failing.

Informed User Aug 14, 2021 12:24 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

Yeah, I am wondering how the hiring is going at the dual immersion school? I heard that two teachers hired specifically for that school left after a year because conditions were so bad. Goleta can go 20:1, but SBUSD is struggling to fill teaching positions at the elementary school level. Class sizes at some schools are what they were prepandemic (33 upper elementary and 25+ for primary). If we had to go back to social distancing indoors, good luck! Maldonado promised families and teachers that the CARES money was going to keep class sizes down. I wonder where the money is actually going? The number of administrators (with bloated salaries), plus staff members (to make their jobs easier) working at the district office seem to keep growing.

Watcher237 Aug 14, 2021 11:28 AM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

Always somewhat miffed the school starts in the middle of August. What an idiotic way to stomp out whatever was left of August family vacations... So now school starts in August and ends in early May, instead of June. What great objective did this accomplish? Why not return to the simplicity of school starting after Labor Day?

Transparent Aug 13, 2021 04:19 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

Is it true that high school kids are only doing math or science for HALF (one semester) of the school year?

I really hope that's not true and that I was misinformed. Even if you say it's a full-year of content "condensed", this means that our high schoolers will go months and months (plus the summer!) without doing any math in between. Talk about a summer slide... It's also dubious to condense foundational content that builds upon itself and needs time, reinforcement, and practice to solidify.

Please tell me it's not true, because if it is it's borderline educational malpractice.

Informed User Aug 15, 2021 01:49 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

Lack of transparency from the district constitutes lies. When were parents going to be informed of changes that affect their children's future beyond high school? What is easiest for high school counselors does not equal what is in the best interest of all students.

GDP Aug 15, 2021 01:33 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

This person is not as informed as they claim in their username. Lots of mischaracterizations and even some lies in this. Have concerns or questions? Just talk to your school's administrators.

Informed User Aug 14, 2021 11:51 AM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

It is true and choice is being taken away from parents at SBUSD because the San Marcos model is what is being forced at the other 2 high schools. If you don't like it, start contacting board members and district leaders.

Furthermore, be aware that the school district is moving to co-seating classes. Your student could be designated as Honors, but will sit in the same English 9 or English 10 class as "College Prep" or "Special Ed" (including low functioning students). The grading scale will change from A-F to 1 - 4 on assignments. When teachers asked what the grading expectation was with the new scale, they were told that in the co-seated class, Honors students in 9th or 10th grade English "would have to earn a 4 to get an A grade". How? "By demonstrating achievement in the 11th or 12th grade standards" (which are not going to be explicitly taught in a 9th grade class).

I also wonder how this new system will affect college admissions when the Honors students get a 3 for doing well in a class, but don't earn the "4" for somehow being able to prove that they are above and beyond what is expected for their grade level. With standardized testing (SAT) going by the wayside for some colleges and universities, grades can become more important. Having grades that admissions officers understand is imperative.

Please don't think all teachers are agreeing with this. In typical district fashion, they are throwing teachers under the bus, and expecting them to mop up this ill-conceived mess at Back-to-School Night. Please remember that the source of the problem is district leadership. There has been no broad parental input. Sadly, these public employees at the district office have forgotten who they serve--the people of Santa Barbara, and instead are serving their political and ideological values, making a mess here to further their own future careers somewhere else.

Sbrysa Aug 14, 2021 06:41 AM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

You must be talking about San Marcos. It’s actually really cool. Each class is twice as long bc missing one day with the block schedule is like missing 2 days at a different high school. They actually take 8 subjects in a school year vs 7 so most kids can graduate early by senior year. I went to dp and San Marcos and loved them both for different reasons but I loved the block schedule

Seabird Aug 13, 2021 07:35 PM
Welcome Back to School, Santa Barbara County

@Transparent, why launch a diatribe when you admittedly don't know if the hearsay is true? All it would take it actually speaking to a high school student or two. That said, my experience with two high schoolers over the last four years is NOT AT ALL what you "heard." Keep in mind that senior year academics are indeed different from the prior three years, as they are mainly electives.

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