The Kern High School District board of trustees heard various comments from district leaders and the community Monday night regarding reopening schools in the fall and providing funds for the district's police department.
Brenda Lewis, associate superintendent of instruction, and others shared just some of the challenges the district faces if students return in the fall.
A vote did not take place Monday night, and the board will reconvene for a special board meeting in the next few weeks.
A hybrid learning model is proposed that would welcome one cohort of students Monday and Tuesday, and a second cohort of students on Thursday and Friday, explained Lewis. Wednesday would be reserved for a support day. Students would participate in online learning three days a week.
A deep cleaning in classrooms would take place nightly.
Students would be required to wear face coverings during the day, and desks would be spaced apart to allow for social distancing. Lewis said the district would be providing face coverings to students and staff members.
Associate Superintendent of Human Resources Mike Zulfa said employees will view videos on topics such as how to stop the spread of disease, not sharing items and wearing face masks.
In addition, a student's temperature would be taken before entering school. Body scanners are currently being looked at to allow for mass screenings.
District officials also discussed what the course of action would be if someone contracts COVID-19 at school. The appropriate school officials would consider school closures and would consult with local public health officials.
KHSD is also considering asking some parents to drive their children to school because buses can be filled at a 25 percent capacity. Additionally, the district will have to decide how to order meals so students can have food at home for the days they are distancing learning, if the board votes to approve the proposed hybrid model.
The district has been surveying parents the last few weeks to better understand what they would like to see in the fall. For English-speaking parents, data as of Thursday suggests 57.9 percent would like to see students return in a traditional setting, 28.4 percent would like a blended learning model and 13.8 percent would like a virtual-only model. In the event a combination in-person and distance learning model is required, 80.5 percent of English-speaking parents would like students to attend school two days a week. Around 41 percent of Spanish-speaking households would like a return to traditional schooling.
Staff members were also surveyed and around 45 percent preferred reopening with hybrid models in place versus around 26 percent who supported a normal reopening with no restrictions.
Although surveys were conducted, Trustee Cynthia Brakeman was disappointed that the district did not share more concrete plans or form committees with various stakeholder groups to get more input from teachers and parents about reopenings.
"We didn’t include anybody, and I don’t understand why," she said. "If I was still teaching, I would be really angry right now as a teacher that I wasn’t asked more questions or given an opportunity to have someone represent me on a committee to make a decision about what we're going to do in the fall."
Lewis responded that there are many items to consider when it comes to reopenings and the "landscape changes every day" so any plans could change in a few weeks.
Many public comments revolved around school reopenings as well, and community members were divided on the topic. Frontier High teacher Colette Moon said she did not feel comfortable with students and teachers returning to school due to "irresponsible behavior" seen in the county with social distancing and mask wearing. Others noted it would be difficult for students to follow safety guidelines.
Others, however, pushed for a return to classrooms because they claim distance learning was not effective for their children and being away from others impacted students' mental health.
Trustee J. Bryan Batey suggested it was important to hold a special meeting in a few weeks to consider all options for reopening.
A number of community members also shared their support or opposition for the district's police department.
The Kern Education Justice Collaborative launched a petition to defund the district's police force last week and, as of Monday, the petition received more than 1,600 signatures.
Public comments during the board meeting ranged from people saying there have been too many incidents where the district's police used excessive force, such as using pepper spray on a West High School student during an altercation between multiple students, while others expressed police officers provided support for students, such as making sure they got home safe. Many also threatened to remove students from KHSD if funding for the department was suspended.
Organizers wanted the board to approve a 2020-21 budget that defunds the KHSD police department and diverts approximately $4 million to hiring additional counselors, school-based social workers, psychologists, mental health clinicians and nurses; hiring diverse educators; implementing ethnic studies; and hiring restorative justice practitioners and removing police from all restorative justice models and Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.
KHSD has 29 total police officers, one substitute part-time officer, two full-time dispatchers and three support staff, KHSD Chief of Police Ed Komin said at a March board meeting. In 2019, KHSD spent approximately $4 million on its police force, according to the petition.
According to the district's Local Control Accountability Plan, six nurses serve 39,081 KHSD students and families.
This all comes after a lawsuit, filed in 2015 by 20 plaintiffs, which alleged that the district expelled and suspended black and Latino students at a disproportionate rate compared to other students.
A vote on the district's budget did not take before The Californian's print deadline.