Kern County school boards discuss reopening K-12 campuses

Katrina Singleton and Francisco Ruiz

Since the COVID-19 pandemic led to a shelter-in-place order in March, schools across the nation have shifted to distance learning.  

California Gov. Gavin Newsom recently updated the reopening system to the four-tier system, which categorizes counties by color. 

Kern County moved into the “Red Tier” as of Tues. Oct. 6. This upward movement in the tier system allows local councilmembers and trustees to discuss the reopening of schools. 

On Sept. 24, the Bakersfield City School District revealed a four-phased plan that will slowly bring students back to school. This plan will go into effect as soon as Oct. 19.  

This plan was then adopted by the Kern High School District on Oct. 6. 

The first phase will focus on bringing students with special needs and accommodations back to campus and in-person classes.  

Robert Meszaros, Kern County Superintendent of School’s communications director, explained the importance of physical classrooms for special needs students and their learning.  

“There is an inherent difficulty for students with disabilities to thrive in a distance learning model. This is the case because many of the services provided to students with disabilities are virtually impossible remotely or instance, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and IEP assessments, Meszaros said.  

Claudia Maldonado, a Math Instructional Specialist Curriculum and Instruction for the BCSD highlights the importance for teachers to be able to interact with their special needs students. 

“One of the most important responsibilities of teachers working with students with disabilities is ensuring an appropriate education, as mandated by I.D.E.A.,” Maldonado said. 

For this phase schools are only allowed to operate at 25% of the school’s building capacity and students with disabilities should be prioritized. 

In the second phase of the reopening plan will focus on foster youth and homeless students. Classes will not exceed more than 14 students and 2 staff members. This second phase, depending on the local conditions that are COVID-19 related, will be implemented on Nov. 2. 

Phase three, not expected to be implemented until Jan. 2021, will prioritize English Learners (EL) with a score of 1 and 2 on the English Language Proficiency Assessments for California (ELPAC), and students at risk of becoming Long Term English Learners. 

Phase four does not have a target date for all students to return back to campus, and that date will be determined if and when Kern County is in the “Red Tier” for 14 consecutive days, or two weeks.