The county’s public health department has approved waivers for Kernville Union School District and two more schools, bringing the total number of schools in the county approved for in-person learning to 25. The other two schools approved were Linns Valley Union School District and Bethel Christian School.
Kern County is considered a “purple” county by the state, meaning it’s under the heaviest restrictions for its rates of COVID-19. It also means its schools are closed for in-person learning, except for vulnerable groups like special education students. But the state gives counties the authority to approve waivers so schools can bring in students in grades TK through 6 to in-person instruction.
Kernville, located in the Kern River Valley, is the largest school district to seek and win a waiver in Kern County: its total enrollment at its three schools is 816 students but the number of students eligible to return back to school under the transitional kindergarten through sixth grade waiver is 624.
A Facebook post from the Kernville Union School District said, “In order to safely bring students back to school, students in transitional kindergarten, kindergarten, and 1st grade will be able to return to school first, for 1/2 days beginning Monday, October 5th.”
The Facebook post added that an announcement would be made about second through eighth grade later. The approved waiver did not mention any staggered rollout plan.
The Kernville Union Schools Teachers Association was consulted and 58 percent were in favor of returning to in-person instruction, according to the waiver. The local chapter of the California School Employees Association was consulted and on a 5-point scale, with 5 being most comfortable: 47 percent of the membership was at a 5, 24 percent was at 3, 13 percent at 2 and 16 percent at 1.
Families were more eager to send their students back: 81 percent of families said they would send their students to school and 18 percent would continue distance learning.
Linns Valley Union School District, a public school in Glennville, has an enrollment of 18 students and plans to reopen Oct. 5. One of the 13 families contacted indicated they intend to continue distance learning, but everyone else plans to return to school.
Bethel Christian School, a private school in Bakersfield, received a waiver to open for in-person learning for its 21 students in TK through sixth grade. The school’s proposed reopening, according to its waiver, is Oct. 13.
The Public Policy Institute of California did a survey last week of schools that had successfully been approved to reopen through the waiver process. It found that 93 percent were private schools. Private schools serve an average of 137 students in K-6 grades, while public schools serve an average of 252.