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Laguna Blanca’s Lower School Campus Celebrates Its Homecoming

By Aaron Briner
Apr 25, 2018 at 04:54 PM

By Brooke Holland, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @NoozhawkNews | April 23, 2018 | 8:54 p.m.

Students and staff at Laguna Blanca’s Lower School in Montecito returned to their campus Monday, more than three months after the Jan. 9 debris flow forced the temporary closure.

The K-4 grade school at 260 San Ysidro Road escaped undamaged by the passage of thick mud, debris and boulders from the hills above Montecito, but maintenance crews have been deep cleaning to remove ash and dust in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire in December.

“It’s emotional,” third-grade instructor Brooke Green, a Laguna Blanca School Class of 1997 alumna, said of returning to campus. “This is our home. We can be together and start fresh."

Classes had not been held at the campus since Jan. 8, and young learners were housed at the Girls Inc. facility in Goleta, according to Laguna’s Head of School Rob Hereford.

“We are grateful,” fourth-grade student Sadie Young, 10, said of using Girls Inc. classrooms and outdoor play place.

Students in fifth through 12th grade at the Hope Ranch campus were not displaced after January’s destructive storm that claimed the lives of 23 Montecito residents, damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and forced widespread evacuations.

About 82 Laguna Blanca’s Lower School students were bused to the Montecito campus for a “Welcome Back” ceremony after brief instruction at the Girls Inc. location on Monday morning.

Students pose for photo with Montecito firefighters.Click to view larger
The Montecito Fire Protection District welcomes students at Laguna Blanca’s Lower School to their Montecito campus on Monday. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

Students were enthusiastic about walking into their classrooms and using the outside playground, and many climbed a rock wall from UC Santa Barbara and participated in a lineup of interactive activities.

Parents celebrating their kids return to campus also were in attendance. 

“We were evacuated for three months from our house, and it feels amazing to be back,” said Patricia Connor, a Montecito resident and mother. “The faculty and Andy Surber (head of the Lower School) have done an incredible job. The kids feel safe, and they are excited to be back.” 

Crew 91 from the Montecito Fire Protection District were on hand to greet and take photographs with the cheerful students.

“We like to be part of the community, and are here to serve,” said Capt. Jordan Zeitsoff. “The schools are a big part of the community.” 

Tuesday was Laguna Blanca’s Lower School's first whole day of instruction on campus.

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