College Campus Welcomes Evacuated Montecito Elementary Students
Kids and parents find their way to class on the first day of school for Montecito Union students on the SBCC campus in Santa Barbara. (Steven Cuevas / KQED)
On Wednesday afternoon, crews were still outfitting roughly half a dozen portable classrooms for a few hundred Montecito Union School students with desks, books, laptops and other essentials.
“It’s been pretty remarkable. We’re really building an elementary school from scratch in a matter of days,” says Santa Barbara City College spokeswoman Luz Reyes-Martin.
“As you can imagine our furniture is for adult-sized students, so a lot of the school districts pitched in to drop off furniture, books. The whole community has really rallied around getting them whatever they need.”
It’s unclear when Montecito Union’s 400-plus students will be able to return to their own home school because it sits in the middle of a mandatory evacuation zone.
By Thursday morning a crowd of about 500 people, including Montecito Union School students, parents and staffers, started the first day on the Santa Barbara City College campus singing the school song "All Standing Together,'’ penned by singer Kenny Loggins when his own kids went to school in Montecito in the 1980s.
“That school song means so much to me now,” school superintendent Anthony Ranii tells the students, sitting in a large outdoor tent for a morning assembly.
“In that song it talks about [how] miracles happen,” Ranii says. “And the fact that you are all safe and your families are safe, that’s a miracle. Let’s clap for that!”
Some of the younger kids in the K-6 school will have classes at nearby McKinley Elementary School.
The rest, including 10-year-old Elliot Blinderman, will learn in the portable classrooms at the oceanside college campus, walking distance to the beach. Elliot’s pretty cool with that. But he misses his old fifth-grade classroom.
“I’m sort of sad that we didn’t get all of our fluffy pillows and stuff. But I’m happy to be with other people from other classes in the same room,” says Elliot.
His dad, Jonathan Blinderman, is just glad to have the routine of school again.
“Any level of normalcy helps all of us,” says Blinderman.
The Montecito attorney says the family’s home is inundated with mud and debris. But it’s still standing. And his wife, three kids and dogs are all OK.
“There’s such incredible uncertainty for everyone,” says Blinderman. Including the kids.
“You worry about their schedule and about them falling behind in school, but my kids, they travel well. They know how to live in hotels so it’s not been that bad. It really hasn’t.”
Blinderman has just signed a lease on a rental home. That’s where they’ll live until the family can get back in to their Montecito house.
Montecito Union staff who have been able to collect a few things under police escort are hopeful. They say the school, which was constructed in the 1930s, seems to have survived the disaster relatively unscathed.