The Kern High School District Teachers Association executive board is recommending beginning the 2020-2021 school year operating under a 100 percent distance learning model, according to an email from the executive board.
Due to high local COVID-19 infections, the executive board stated it's best that KHSD keep school campuses closed when the semester begins Aug. 12, adding "our students, our staff and their families deserve a consistent, well-thought-out structured reopening."
"Recent surveys of our membership show overwhelming support for returning to in-person school once the safety measures have been met for both the students and the staff as written in the CDC and Kern County Superintendent of Schools guidelines," the email stated. "Teachers have overwhelmingly shown support for clear guidelines to be established prior to the start of school, which we believe cannot be met currently, given our current resources and situation."
The executive board also recognized there's a balance between the needs of students' physical, social and emotional well-being versus the safety of the community as a whole. It encouraged the district to "pursue avenues that meet not just the state’s basic guidelines for reopening but go above and beyond. We feel that including our members and other stakeholders in discussions is crucial."
The KHSD board of trustees is scheduled to hold a special 2 p.m. meeting Wednesday to discuss and likely approve reopening plans for the coming school year. At last month's meeting, a hybrid learning model was proposed that welcomed one group of students Monday and Tuesday, and a second group of students Thursday and Friday. Wednesday would be reserved as a support day, and students would participate in online learning three days a week.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Monday that schools wouldn't reopen for classes Aug. 18, and will continue with online learning due to a surge in coronavirus cases.
Bakersfield High School math teacher Tamara Clark supports the KHSD Teachers Association's recommendation for a distance learning model. This past spring, teachers engaged in "crisis teaching," she said, because there wasn't ample time to prepare for distance learning. Now that there have been different opportunities offered to teachers over the summer focusing on strengthening distance learning, Clark feels confident the process will be smoother.
"I think that distance learning can be a real game changer for kids who perhaps like a different learning style, do better in an asynchronous setting," she explained. "If the governor says we can't be inside public restaurants, how can we say it’s safe for students to go back to brick and mortar?"
The Bakersfield City School District will also meet Tuesday to discuss and likely vote on a plan for the fall. The district has been considering options such as having all students return to campuses, hybrid learning models and full distance learning.