Because of a continuous uptick in COVID-19 cases in Kern, the Kern High School District has decided to start the school year with a distance learning model, with a plan to incrementally phase in a hybrid model by the end of the first quarter.
In a split vote, the Kern High’s board of trustees voted Wednesday to begin a distance learning model by Aug. 12, 2020, as recommended by the district staff, through Oct. 9.
“We believe it is not a safe environment to start school on the 12th with face to face,” said Associate Superintendent Dean McGee.
Associate Superintendent Brenda Lewis said 25 percent of students will phase into attending face-to-face school one day a week. Once the district is comfortable with it’s COVID-19 policies, protocols and procedures with 25 percent, then the district will move toward 50 percent of the student body attending face-to-face instruction.
District staff originally recommended the hybrid model begin by Sept. 1, 2020 because legislation requires, as of Wednesday, the district to return to face-to-face instruction; however, some trustees advocated for the hybrid model to begin after the first quarter. District officials said the language in the law could change to allow for distance learning for a longer period of time.
Board Trustee Jeff Flores expressed support for the distance learning model; however, multiple board members expressed distance learning is not the best option for students.
“I’m not confident the level of learning will not be as good as face to face (instruction),” said Board President Bryan Batey.
Lewis said teachers, who will be required to be in their classrooms daily during a distance learning model, are more prepared to go into distance learning than they were in the Spring because the curriculum has been developed over the summer, and they have gone through training in Canvas, the online learning platform the district will use.
However, the board appeared skeptical of the transition to face-to-face instruction.
“I think kids should be in class, that’s the way we work best,” said Board Member Cynthia Brakeman. “So I think that’s best. I know there are a lot of teachers that are ready to come back.”
Many Kern High staff, such as teachers and school counselors, submitted public comment advocating for a full distance learning model, while many parents and students submitted public comments advocating for face-to-face instruction.
To have a successful distance learning process, the district said it is working on obtaining WiFi hot spots and Chromebooks for students to have in their homes for distance learning.
When it comes time to incrementally phase students back on campus, district officials said there will be protocols in place to keep students and staff safe.
Student’s temperatures will be taken daily; hand washing stations will be installed across campus; drinking fountains will be disabled; face coverings will be required; lockers will be disabled; filtration systems will be installed; and more custodial staff will be hired to clean campuses daily.
Social distancing will also be enforced on campus and in transportation, and there will be multiple lunch periods implemented with prepackaged lunches.
If a student of staff member were to contract COVID-19 at school, KHSD will conduct an assessment to determine where the individual as been and who they have been around.