The Kern High School District made a big announcement Thursday: It aims to drastically ramp up its reopening plans by bringing back all grade levels by April 28.
As recently as the board meeting last week, the KHSD administration announced that the only full grade level it planned to bring back were seniors on April 12.
But on Thursday afternoon the district announced plans to bring back the other grades through a phased reopening throughout April.
The announcement states that it will return freshmen, who have yet to step foot on their high school campuses, on April 21.
On April 28, the district plans to return sophomores and juniors, according to a news release.
“We’re going to bring them back safely and effectively and close out this year on a high note,” said board president Jeff Flores.
He said the district is excited to give students the optimal in-person instruction for those who want it. The campuses won’t look like a pre-pandemic campus: there will be temperature checks, PPE, disinfection and social distancing. And Flores added that he’s proud of the work the district has done providing virtual instruction. But he said Thursday was a day to celebrate.
“We’re so pleased,” he said. “We want to give the best quality education in this environment.”
Several factors went into the decision that allowed the district to rapidly expand its reopening plans, according to district spokeswoman Erin Briscoe.
“The decision to bring back all of our students by the end of April was a combination of new social distancing guidance, declining COVID-19 rates in the community, moving to the red tier, and the availability of vaccines,” she wrote in an email.
Over the weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the California Department of Public Health released new guidance recommending at least three feet of distance between students rather than six, as long as students are masked. This recommendation came on the heels of the CDC making the same recommendation.
Many districts were keeping an eye on that guidance before it was announced, because they knew it would have big implications. When the bubble of social distance around a student’s desk shrinks by three feet, it allows many, many more students into a classroom.
At last week’s meeting, KHSD trustee Bryan Batey said that under current state guidance, the district could only bring back seniors. But he vowed to parents that he would bring students back if the state relaxed its guidelines.
“There is no other way — with the 6-foot distancing and the square footage of the buildings — that will allow us to do anymore,” he said. “And so if the state changes our standard from 6 feet to 3 feet or they make some kind of other ‘opening up’ deal, we will be there as a district to have as many students on campus as possible.”
Batey added that all KHSD employees will have had a chance to have their COVID-19 vaccination shots and time for them to take effect by April 12 when seniors arrive on campus.
Students who wish to remain in a distance learning format can do so. All students will also continue on the current block scheduling that has been in effect for this school year, according to Briscoe.
Free meal service will continue through grab-and-go meals for those on campus or via drive-thru distribution for those who aren’t.
The district is still on track with announced plans to return its remaining vulnerable and high-need students, including mild and moderate students with disabilities, as well as students taking classes in the Career Technical Education Center and Regional Occupational Center, on April 6.