After a long year in distance learning, the Kern High School District has a new message for its families: Come back to the classroom.
"Please send your kids; we're ready for them," said trustee Bryan Batey.
"Welcome back," added board president Jeff Flores. "Come back, come back."
Assistant Superintendent Dean McGee presented data to the board demonstrating that 13,146 students, or about 32 percent of its students, had returned to classrooms. Though the end of the year is approaching, he said school sites are encouraging those students who haven't yet returned to do so.
"We're saying that's perfectly fine, please come," McGee said.
He said the numbers have been improving every week, because word-of-mouth among students seems to help the cause of in-person learning. Students who return tell their friends, who then want to return.
"It's a great environment for kids to be in around their peers as well as around supporting staff," McGee said.
But McGee said he has noticed some patterns. After a year in distance learning, he said, attendance is "off the rails."
Some students who said they want to return to in-person learning have had trouble with that commitment, and they want to switch back to distance learning some days. He said staff is working with them to encourage them and motivate them to return to campus.
"We need to recondition students to be at school every day," McGee said.
McGee shared data with the board that shows quite a bit of variation by class. As expected, seniors were least likely to return to campus: 24.53 percent, or 2,363, have returned. McGee attributes this to the fact that some seniors have other commitments and responsibilities. Some have picked up jobs and are making plans that have to do with the next stage of their lives after graduation.
Freshmen, on the other hand, were the most likely to return to campus: 38.53 percent, or 4,223, returned. These are students who in many cases had yet to step foot on campus.
The other classes were in the middle. There were 3,540 sophomores who have returned, or 33.68 percent. There are 3,020 juniors who have returned, or 30.22 percent.
Kern High School District also shared data with The Californian that reveals there's quite a bit of variation in who returned by school site and region.
The high schools with the highest rates of return to in-person instruction were Stockdale (38.08 percent), Liberty (38.16 percent), North (37.42) and Bakersfield High (36.39).
The high schools with the lowest rate of in-person instruction were in south Kern and east Bakersfield: Mira Monte (21.72 percent), East (22.98 percent), Golden Valley (24.22 percent), Ridgeview (28.57 percent) and Arvin (29.99 percent).
Stockdale High School is the only school in the district to have more seniors on its campus than any other class. There are 260 seniors on campus, compared to the next biggest group, 227 freshmen.
Bakersfield High School also has quite a few seniors on campus. Of the 1,065 who have returned, 235 were seniors. Kern Valley and Foothill high schools also had relatively robust senior turnout and evenly matched classes.
But on other campuses, even ones with relatively high return rates, the number of seniors returning is very low, and the differences between classes were more dramatic.
North High has the third-highest return rate in the district; however, seniors account for only 62 of the 727 students who have returned to campus. Compare that to the 266 freshmen who have returned.
Arvin is another school where grade has made a very big difference in who has returned: 82 out of the 823 students who have returned are seniors, while 331 freshmen are back on campus.