Santa Barbara- S County

Montecito Union and Cold Springs Elementary students return to school after mudslides

MONTECITO, Calif. - One week after the deadly mudslides raged through Montecito, hundreds of students are returning to school. 

Montecito Union School students can't return to campus because it is located in a mandatory evacuation zone.

The campus sustained minor damage during the mudslides and is also without gas and safe drinking water. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Santa Barbara Zoo and The Moxi Museum hosted all 415 students from Montecito Union. 

On Thursday, the students will attend school in portable classrooms at Santa Barbara City College, indefinitely. 

Evacuee Ben Hyatt is grateful for some semblance of a routine for his two children. 

"Our priority was to get them back into school. We are not going to be in our house for who knows how long, but it's all about getting them back to normal," he said. 

On Jan. 9, mud and debris came barreling down the hillsides into parts of Montecito and directly towards Hyatt's home. 

"It was like a locomotive," Hyatt said. "The whole house was shaking."

Hyatt lived in a neighborhood under voluntary evacuation and he was shocked to see mud trying to breach his doors. 

He rushed towards his son's bedroom. 

"I ran into Jack's room and threw him up on his bunk bed," Hyatt said. "I was afraid the mud was going to keep rising."

Three hours later, firefighters came to the rescue. Santa Barbara County firefighter Bryan Fernandez picked up Hyatt's son and took him out. 

"He immediately grabbed Jack threw him on his back and he was gone."

Montecito Union School Superintendent Anthon Ranii said the community is really stepping in to help families displaced by the mudslide. 

Ranii said the Santa Barbara Unified School District is loaning out furniture and curriculum for students. Other MUS students who evacuated south and are stuck in Carpinteria because of the 101 closure are attending Summerland School until the freeway opens. 

Cold Springs Elementary School students also returned to campus for the first time on Tuesday. 

Superintendent and Principal Dr. Amy Alzina said the focus is on addressing the social and emotional needs of parents, students and teachers. There is a crisis support team and a compassion center on campus. 

Only about 175 students attend the school which was hit incredibly hard by the disaster. 

"We had grandparents, parents, and students who lost their lives that are part of our school. Six in total and one still missing. We have families who lost their houses, can't get into their houses, and don't have water or electricity," Dr. Alzina said. 

Cold Springs has electricity, but not water. Students are using portable bathrooms and being supplied with water bottles.

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