Since March 2021, the Goleta Union School District has enforced safety measures across its nine school sites in order to resume in-person learning on a five-day modified schedule. As a new school year begins, the school district has returned to full in-person learning as of Aug. 18 while implementing additional COVID-19 prevention strategies.

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The school district’s comprehensive COVID Safety Plan for the 2021-22 school year includes guidance on learning options, health screenings, school meetings, contact tracing and layers of safety in the classroom. 

Diana Roybal, superintendent of the Goleta Unified School District (GUSD) board, said that the school district’s plans will be revised and updated continuously based on the mandates from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Santa Barbara County Public Health Department (SBCPHD). 

The school district is following all state mandates for indoor masking and vaccination requirements for staff. According to Roybal, over 90% of staff are already vaccinated. 

While COVID-19 screening was done at school during the 2020-21 school year, parents will now screen their children at home prior to bringing them to school. 

“Parents should always check on their children to ensure that they are well enough to be in school. We trust our families to do the right thing,” Roybal said. “Our staff members know the symptoms of COVID-19 and they will also monitor and refer children to our school nurse if there are any concerns.” 

Richard Mayer, UC Santa Barbara professor in the psychological and brain sciences department and GUSD Board of Trustees member, said that the district has worked to ensure that classrooms are safe for students to return to in-person learning. 

“I am particularly pleased that we have been able to hire new teachers to allow for Goleta’s extremely low class size — now at less than 18 students per classroom,” Mayer said. 

Each classroom will be equipped with a medical-grade air purifier to increase ventilation, as well as sanitizing material like hands-free washing dispensers and hand-washing sites. 

The district has also expanded the use of outdoor learning spaces through canopies and is maintaining grade-level cohorts to facilitate contact tracing, according to Mayer. 

After-school care and learning experiences will be instituted at each school for families who need it, as well as independent study programs for families who do not wish to return to in-person learning.

“I am grateful for the guidance that we receive from health agencies that include CDC, CDPH and [SBCPHD],” Roybal said. “They are medical experts and because of their support, we are definitely prepared to provide GUSD students with a safe environment for learning.”