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Kern County's two largest school districts will begin to reopen this month

20201110-bc-KHSD (copy)

Some small groups of students have returned to school at the Kern High School District, but in the next month the district plans for large numbers of students from all grade levels to return for the first time. In this file photo, Bakersfield High School special education teacher Steve Kliewer helps a student in his classroom, as some small groups of KHSD students returned to campus in December.

It might feel like there's a first day of in-person school somewhere or another every week. That might be true: Kern County has 47 school districts and many small or medium-sized ones have opened for in-person instruction.

But April is shaping up to be a blockbuster month for many families who have been eager for the opportunity to send their students back into classrooms.

On Thursday, Bakersfield City School District begins the process of opening its campuses to general education students for the first time since campuses closed in March last year. And on Monday, the Kern High School District plans to begin opening up its campuses.

Together the two districts account for 37 percent of all K-12 students in the county. If all goes according to the districts' plans, all of their students who are interested in returning to in-person learning should be back in classrooms by the end of the month.

BCSD will welcome its youngest students onto its elementary school campuses on Thursday. Students in transitional kindergarten all the way up through second grade will return to classrooms. Students in special education classes are also preparing to arrive.

Their teachers have been on campus since Monday preparing for their arrival.

"Excitement is in the air as most of our students who elected to return to in-person instruction are set to experience their first official day on campus in a little more than a year," BCSD spokeswoman Tabatha Mills said in a statement. "This is a truly special and long-awaited moment as the magic and joy of educating students will fill our school campuses once again."

Thursday is also an important day for the elementary teachers of older students. Those who teach third through sixth grade will arrive on campuses to prepare for the arrival of their students on Monday.

On Thursday night, Deputy Superintendent Mark Luque will provide BCSD's board with an update about its return to school roadmap during a special board study session.

The board meeting will also address summer learning and family engagement. There will also be a closed session to address Luque's successor when he becomes superintendent.

On Tuesday night, KHSD's board heard an update on its own phased-in plan for bringing students into classrooms. This was the first time the board met since the district announced its plans to bring back all grade levels, not just seniors as originally planned.

Seniors will return to campus on Monday. They will be a smaller group than the next group: freshmen, who will step foot on campus for the first time April 21. Sophomores and juniors will arrive together April 28.

Assistant Superintendent Dean McGee told board members that about 40 percent to 60 percent of students, depending on the campus, have indicated they plan to return to in-person learning. 

Students will stick to the block schedule that they have been on for this year; this will be helpful in case there is a case of COVID-19. 

Teachers will teach to their students in classrooms while simulcasting to students on distance learning at home.

"I have had the opportunity to speak with many parents and staff members who are hopeful that many students will be able to see their friends on campus," Superintendent Bryon Schaefer said.

This week the district finished bringing back its students with disabilities and the rest of its students in its career technical education programs.

The reopenings have been made possible by declining local COVID rates and a series of gradually loosened state regulations that made it easier for districts that hadn't already reopened in the fall to begin the reopening process.

One new state regulation announced last month that allows students to sit three feet from one another instead of six has been a game-changer, in particular for KHSD. It announced it was opening its schools to all grades once the new standard was announced.