Wednesday, September 22, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 29

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on September 9th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 28 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 22, Issue 28

COVID-19 quarantine protocol causes high student, teacher absence rates

By Taylor O'Connor

Teacher shortages and student absences within the Santa Maria-Bonita School District have been increasing due to COVID-19 exposures and quarantine guidelines.

From Aug. 5 to 31, the district saw 100 positive cases within the 16,800 student population, and 26 teachers tested positive and had to be off-site for the 10-day quarantine protocol set in place, said Santa Maria-Bonita School District Superintendent Luke Ontiveros.

“When you see we’ve had 100 students report positive tests, we probably had 10 times that number quarantined due to close contact,” he said. 

“Quarantine has driven normal attendance rates down and higher absentee rates for teachers. There’s a shortage of substitute teachers as well, it’s got us in a scramble,” Ontiveros added.

Students who tested positive for COVID-19 in August were exposed outside of school, said Santa Maria-Bonita School District Superintendent Luke Ontiveros.

Principals, assistant principals, coaches, and certified staff members have filled in as substitutes. Maintenance staff and faculty covered bus routes due to a shortage of bus drivers in the district. Depending on the severity of exposure at the site, classrooms have been combined to help continue student learning, he said. 

“It’s a challenge; you wind up with a significant number of students out of a class and missing their opportunity to learn. It’s hard to make up that ground. That’s always the case with student absences, but it’s harder with a larger number,” he said.

In order to get more students and staff in-person, Ontiveros said he wants to implement a modified quarantine where people exposed can attend classes if they are tested frequently and wear a mask, but the district does not have testing kits on-site to make this possible. 

The school district currently requires faculty and students to screen themselves prior to arrival and to wear face coverings indoors. There are no stated physical distancing requirements at this time, according to the district’s website.

Students in quarantine receive assignments prior to the missed days from their teachers or from the student services office—as opposed to official independent study options, which are for those who chose the long-term, virtual learning platform. 

“We’re treating it like any other illness; in many instances students have not contracted the virus, which is why we are pursuing that testing option in order to get modified quarantine,” Ontiveros said.

The superintendent said he is hopeful that more individuals across the community will get vaccinated to stop the increase of positive COVID-19 cases he’s seen in the past few weeks and keep students in classrooms. 

“Schools are where children need to be to thrive,” he said. “That’s why we send our kids to school … . We’ll keep rolling with guidelines and following the protocols in order to stem this and keep kids in school.”

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