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News From Parent Square

Letter from the SMBSD Superintedent
October 16, 2020

SMBSD students, parents and staff members:

First, let me thank you for the incredible work you are all doing to make sure that students receive the highest quality education during Distance Learning. I know it has not been easy or convenient. Your commitment to learning and teaching is awe-inspiring, and you are helping our community cope during this unprecedented time in our world.

Part of supporting our community is ensuring that we all do our part to protect our own health and the health of everyone around us. That priority is why I am reaching out today with this letter. Our school district is committed to the health and safety of all students, their families and staff members. Our Board of Education members and district leaders closely monitor local health information and guidelines to help us make informed, careful decisions and plans about our schools and programs. 

On Tuesday, October 13, it was announced by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department that the county-wide COVID-19 reporting of new daily case rates per 100,000 population had remained in the “red” tier for the third consecutive week. As a result, K-12 schools in Santa Barbara County now have the option to initiate in-person learning. Any return to in-person learning for schools requires adherence to the Public Health Department’s health and safety protocols designed to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 within schools and within their communities.  

In Santa Maria-Bonita School District, we have been anticipating a return to in-person learning for months, having prepared a school reentry plan aligned to Public Health guidelines over the summer.  As a result, in addition to tracking county-wide new daily COVID-19 case rates, we have been monitoring the local daily case rates within the city of Santa Maria.  While the county rate has decreased to the “red” tier (between 4-7 new daily cases per 100,000 population), the rate for Santa Maria is still in excess of 7 new daily cases, which would fall into the “purple” or widespread tier and make us ineligible to open school campuses without a waiver from the Public Health Department. The table below is a comparison of the new daily case rates for Santa Barbara County and the city of Santa Maria from September 23 - October 7 (the raw data from which this table was generated can be accessed at
While the county-wide levels have subsided, the rates in Santa Maria (and North County more generally) remain high. As a result of the elevated daily case rates in the city of Santa Maria, Santa Maria-Bonita schools will not initiate the consideration to return to in-person learning until the local daily case rate has decreased into the “red” tier for the prescribed three consecutive weeks that are applied on a county-wide level. The priority that precedes in-person learning in schools is the public health of our local community and, as such, we will use the local data to guide our processes. We will continue to monitor the Public Health Department reporting, as we have done over the past several months, to gauge that progress.  

In the meantime, we will continue to provide daily instruction through Distance Learning for all SMBSD students. The partnership between school and home has never been more important than during this pandemic. Parents, please reach out to your children’s teachers or schools if you have questions, need assistance, or want to provide feedback. 

On behalf of the SMBSD Board of Trustees, I extend my respect and appreciation for the incredible efforts that have been made by staff, families, and students in managing the challenges presented through Distance Learning.  As we continue to work through those challenges, please, stay safe.

Luke M. Ontiveros
Published: Fri Oct 16 18:00:00 PDT 2020