Tribe helps stranded students, staff return home

Staff Report

Many people were stranded by the closure of Highway 101 between Santa Barbara and Ventura last month, including 60 Solvang School fifth-graders, teachers and several high school student counselors who were in Malibu for Outdoor School.

The school usually makes the short trek to Camp Allegre near Lake Cachuma, but after the Whittier Fire closed the camp last summer, the school booked a popular outdoor-school program in Malibu.

However, despite having solved the problem created by the Whittier Fire, Solvang School was faced with an obstacle from the Thomas Fire.

The bus company that had been contracted to bring the students home had no Plan B, so school administrators called several other bus companies, both above and below the freeway closure.

Principal Pam Rennick said that other companies and even Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District were willing to help but, she said, “We didn’t want kids to have to ride school buses for what we knew would be a much longer trip back home on some windy roads.”

One bus company offered luxury buses, but at a steep price.

After a long day of searching for solutions, officials called the Chumash Casino Resort’s general manager Bill Peters, who offered help immediately.

“Mr. Peters was incredibly gracious. Right away I knew he understood our dilemma; he immediately went into action,” Superintendent Dr. Steve Seaford said.

The tribe ultimately provided two buses, for free, that were full of snacks and drinks for students and staff.