Many families in Montecito are looking for temporary housing and ways to continue with their lives after mudslides filled with boulders and debris killed at least 20 residents and destroyed or damaged more than 400 homes.
For kids, part of the process of returning to everyday life means going back to school. Tuesday more than 400 students at the Montecito Union Elementary returned to classes at remote locations outside of the evacuation zone.
Tuesday and Wednesday the kids and their teachers will be divided between the Santa Barbara Zoo and MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration and Innovation.
While the students are at the zoo and the MOXI, work will be done to prepare Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) to become an alternative campus for the elementary students, adding temporary bathrooms and reconfiguring classrooms.
Thursday, classes will move to SBCC, and Santa Barbara Unified's McKinley Elementary across the street from the college. Superintendent of Montecito Union, Anthony Ranii said they expect to be at this alternative campus for a couple of weeks at least.
There's a lot to do with gas to make that safe, with our drinking water. I think electricity is mostly online but there are still impassable roads and some really unsafe situations. So as much as we want to get back to Montecito Union School, of course, we want to do that safely.
A handful of Montecito students students stranded by the 101 freeway closure are also temporarily attending classes at Summerland Elementary in the Carpinteria School District, until the freeway is reopened.
Ranii, said that the Montecito Union had shut down earlier due to air quality concerns during the Thomas Fire. Students only attended two days of classes before the school had to close again because of the mudslide evacuations.
With all the disruptions, Ranii said it could be helpful for students to finally return to the structure of the classroom.
It might sound strange but I think it's reassuring to return to division and reading and social studies because it's something that students know how to do, they know what to expect, and that routine can be healing.
The school will have counselors and support staff, in addition to teachers, to help students process the recent natural disasters.