So much has changed—but one thing remains the same—our students need an engaging and meaningful education, now more than ever when we are only able to teach our students from a distance. We learned a lot when schools went remote last year—things we knew but now were critical. We learned that some students did not have internet access. We learned that some students depend on their school for meals. We learned that some students live in crowded and noisy environments and need items like noise-reducing headphones so they can concentrate on what their teacher is teaching during their day in the “zoom classroom.”
These are urgent needs that affect more than half of the students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District.
Through a partnership with the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and the Santa Barbara Unified School District, the Student Online & Academic Resources (SOAR) campaign was developed to raise the necessary funds so that students will have the extra help they need for success in the classroom from afar.
At the end of last school year, an estimated 1,000 SB Unified families did not have internet access at home. Before Covid-19, resources like public and school libraries could help these students log on like their classmates. However, without these resources open to help fill these gaps, students need more help than ever.
SBUSD issued iPads and Chromebooks to all students, and with the support of donors and community partners, like Cox Communications, these families now have an internet connection. But connectivity is only the beginning. To help students navigate the remote learning landscape successfully as we enter the new school year, students need internet connectivity, essential learning tools, and food security. Additionally, students need materials to supplement lessons with hands-on activities at home in subjects like art, music, science, and physical education.
One out of seven students in the Santa Barbara Unified School District is considered homeless—they need internet hotspots to access their lessons. And 47% of our students depend on the school district for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Since school closures last March, SB Unified served almost 500,000 meals to students in need through “Grab and Go” food pick up sites in just a few short months. For all of the uncertainty SB Unified students and their families are currently facing, it seems that food insecurity adds another layer of instability during an already challenging time.
The SOAR campaign launched in July, and so far, SBEF has secured donations on the District’s behalf to launch the additional internet coverage and many take-home music and art kits for students. Still, we’ve got to keep fundraising to keep up with the basic needs of SB Unified students. No kid should go hungry, not anywhere, but especially not here.
“Right now, our students’ needs are great,” stated SB Unified Superintendent Hilda Maldonado, “but with our community’s help, we can ensure our continued academic success during this difficult time.”
For more information on the Santa Barbara Education Foundation and its efforts to support SB Unified students through the Student Online & Academic Resources (SOAR) campaign, please visit www.santabarbaraeducation.org.