Staff Report

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Foundation has delivered $100,000 in donations to Santa Ynez Valley schools in order to help educators meet high-tech needs and the unique challenges distance learning has presented at the start of this school year.

The foundation’s Remote Learning Resources grant sizes were based on each school’s expressed need and its student enrollment. Using this formula, Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, which boasts the largest student population in the valley with an enrollment of 853, received the top grant of $32,175.

The high school has taken a creative approach to reducing the distance some students may be feeling while learning from home.

“This donation to our school district has allowed us to fund a ‘community liaison’ position that will provide a critical point of contact with, and support for, valley families that are experiencing unique struggles with facilitating distance learning for their children,” said Scott Cory, Superintendent of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District. “The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians continues to be amazing community partners with us.” 

The foundation’s Remote Learning Resource program was developed to help schools address unforeseen costs caused by COVID-19 restrictions. 

The other 11 schools receiving donations were Ballard Elementary, Dunn High School, Dunn Middle School, Jonata Middle School, Los Olivos Elementary, Oak Valley Elementary, Santa Ynez Charter School, Santa Ynez Elementary, Santa Ynez Valley Christian Academy, Solvang Elementary and The Family School, with grants ranging from $14,625 to $2,500 for these schools.

Randal Haggard, Superintendent of the Buellton Union School District, said donations to Oak Valley Elementary and Jonata Middle School will help some students gain access to the Internet.

“We have students who live on ranches and in areas that have shadow spots for cell service and wifi access, and connecting those families can be a significant expense,” he said. “These funds will help defray some of those costs. Also, it was the tribe’s generosity that helped us kick-start our one-to-one technology program, so this donation will be another shot in the arm for that effort.”

Haggard added that the gesture from the tribe represents the strength of the local community and its willingness to support its youth.

“At a time when we probably use the word unprecedented too frequently, this is truly a situation we’ve never experienced before,” he said of distance learning during a pandemic. “A donation like this meets the immediate needs. I can’t say enough about how grateful we are to have our community reaching out and being a safety net during this incredibly difficult time.”

Kenneth Kahn, Tribal Chairman for the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, said the foundation’s board has been inspired by the extraordinary lengths schools have gone to ensuring that students are successful in today’s new learning environment.

“Our tribe places a high value on education, and we felt it was important to help our local schools with additional funds during these challenging times,” he said. “We’re proud to be part of a community that will go the extra mile to meet the educational needs for our future leaders and innovators.”

The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians has donated more than $25 million to hundreds of groups, organizations and schools in the community and across the nation as part of the tribe’s long-standing tradition of giving.