The Bakersfield Christian High School campus is beginning to look a little more like its old self again, albeit on a smaller scale and with a few safety precautions in place.
The school welcomed back a small group of students beginning Monday for a two-week ACT/SAT prep summer school course. About 14 students are on campus daily, with 10 others participating in the same course via Zoom.
Schools are one of the sectors permitted to open under Stage 3, which Kern County entered earlier this month.
Summer school director Rachel Welch said the decision to welcome back some students on campus was made by following local and state guidelines and after restrictions were loosened. However, a signed COVID-19 waiver form was required for students.
"When you come on campus in the midst of these tumultuous times, you need to have this waiver signed," Welch explained. "There is a risk factor in even coming on campus and you’re willingly doing that at that moment."
For the 14 students participating in Steven Chai's in-person course, they're getting a firsthand look at what back-to-school procedures could possibly look like.
Students are required to wear masks and have their temperatures taken once arriving on school grounds. They also lather up on hand sanitizer before entering a building or classroom. These guidelines were shared with families prior to coming on campus so that there would be no surprises, and so far Welch said there have been no complaints.
Inside the ACT/SAT prep course, tables are spread out and facing one direction, with one student per table. Normally, two individuals would be seated at a table. A classroom with a collapsible wall was chosen to house the students since it allows for additional space, Welch said.
Looking at the small crowd Wednesday, physically distanced and wearing multicolored face masks, students appeared back in their old routine, and even happy to be in class, even if it came during summer break.
"I personally missed being at school because I feel like I learn better in the school environment," said junior Mikaela Bidart. "I was excited to come back because I knew it'd be easier."
Conquering distance learning wasn't always the easiest task, Bidart explained, especially when taking an online ACT/SAT prep course. Often it was hard to see problems shown on screen.
By attending Chai's class in person, she can see him work out math problems firsthand, ask questions and not worry about a laggy internet connection that could cost her a detailed equation explanation.
Even though she has to wear a mask and follow other safety guidelines in class, Bidart said she doesn't mind since "I don’t feel like I'm in danger or endangering others."
"I feel it’s easy to get used to, and I know that's what we have to do, It doesn’t seem like a big problem because I’d rather be at school than stay home," she added.
Junior Tom Pickett also expressed things don't feel too different, even if he's more spread apart from classmates. "It is way easier to focus, it’s impossible to pay attention online." Being back on campus also felt "excellent," he said.
Chai also said being in the classroom and teaching in person has been a nice change of pace. After eight weeks of online instruction, in-person lessons, even with COVID-19 mitigation efforts in place, offer an easier way to monitor students' progress, learning feels more authentic and engagement is better.
"It's good, it's exciting, it's refreshing" to be in class with students again, he said. "Students are willing to jump through the hoops."
Welch said this is the only course this summer that will be offered in person, while others will continue being available virtually.