20191029-bc-downtown

In this file photo, students leave Downtown Elementary just after the final bell rang.

As local districts eye August as the start of the next academic year, one thing is certain: Schools will likely look much different for Kern County students.

Which scenarios schools ultimately go with — such as staggering student arrivals, limiting students per classroom, ensuring social distancing or sticking to virtual learning — will be decided by local districts, however.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced Wednesday some details on what next school year could include, but stressed “there’s no one size fits all” when it comes to reopening.

“We expect that students and staff will be wearing face coverings in school,” he said.

Smaller class sizes and having fewer students on each bus would allow for social distancing, and temperature checks will take place.

Some students will get instruction through distance learning, he added, which will help with social distance as much as possible.

“The more distance learning we are doing, that means we can have fewer students on campus and that means we can have smaller class sizes, which is going to be important,” Thurmond said.

To reduce the digital divide — Thurmond estimated about 600,000 students are without a device — he asked for help from California businesses, foundations and individuals.

Locally, the Kern County Superintendent of Schools said a school reopening task force has been meeting for the past several weeks, made up of educational partners from districts small and large throughout the county. The group’s charge is to research best practices and provide a document with guidance for school districts to consider as plans are made to safely and efficiently reopen school campuses for the 2020-21 academic year.

“It will ultimately be up to each individual school district to decide what their individual opening plans will look like for the 2020-21 school year,” said Rob Meszaros, communications director. “Those exact plans likely will not be made until sometime later in the summer.”

Several districts are looking at a tentative school start date of Aug. 12 or 17, while others are scheduled to reopen in late July or early August. The dates were set prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Meszaros said.

What school will look like in each district when classes resume remains undecided.

The Bakersfield City School District outlined possible scenarios for students and staff this fall during its Tuesday Board of Trustees meeting.

Deputy Superintendent Mark Luque said that could include: all students returning to campuses; 50 percent of students coming to school Monday and Tuesday, closing schools Wednesday for cleaning and bringing the other half of students in Thursday and Friday, allowing for a blend of in-person and online instruction; 25 percent of students coming to school Monday, another 25 percent Tuesday and so on through Thursday. Friday would be reserved for teacher preparation and operational items, or mainly virtual learning.

“All of those scenarios present significant challenges,” Luque said.

Luque said a more detailed report will be provided for trustees at the next board meeting in June. Officials will work toward having a formal recommendation presented in July, giving school sites at least a month to plan for fall.

Whatever is decided, Luque anticipates there will be changes up until school begins. The first day is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 12.

McFarland Unified School District Superintendent Aaron Resendez said the district is considering similar scenarios as BCSD, while also trying to find balance between meeting daily instructional needs of students and practical needs of families.

“We want to be sensitive to guidelines, considering all of the health and safety items that are included in CDC directions, but we’re also trying to balance that with the practical part of this,” Resendez said. “There are real-world factors like childcare, daily meals and access to direct instruction.”

Some scenarios the district considered include alternating schedules to allow for a certain number of students on campus at a given time, keeping class sizes small and, if necessary, continuing virtual learning.

The Kern High School District, also eyeing an Aug. 12 start date, is working with the county on guidelines. No information is currently available, but public information officer Erin Briscoe said classrooms will have hand sanitizing stations in place and personal protective equipment will be available.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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(9) comments

Boris25

Not worried about it, my two grandchildren will be home schooled next year.

Independent Voter

This is all absolutely ridiculous and utterly impractical. Realistically, school CAN'T look much different than it has looked the past several decades to be meaningful and affective. This accepted-without-debate notion that things MUST be different due to a virus that has scarcely affected children is foolishness. Just how harmful and destructive to children and their families must we be? Will common sense prevail at all in this or are we determined to destroy a generation of children just for the fun of it?

Lilyrose

Smaller class size and cleaner schools are Great ! Go for it. !

jtorczon

That may or ma not be a good idea. Read the comments by Independent Voter and myself.

jtorczon

I’m with you on this, considering what I’ve heard about the virus having a negligible impact on children and the significant unlikelihood of them transmitting it to others. We should be more concerned about the impact of the social isolation on children. Last night I watched a father tell the heartbreaking story of his son, who was nearly 13 years old, committing suicide because he missed his friends and sports. His father is in a mission to warn others of this other “plague.”

Lilyrose

How will smaller class size and cleaner rooms damage children?

Finally kids will be given adequate attention .

Independent Voter

You obviously know less about children than you do COVID, Lily. There is a social/emotional component that they require - which liberals were all for until a handy "pandemic" came along to disrupt. Preschool and primary age children learn best in active groups. Think about it. The risks they face locked down, separated or isolated are more dangerous than the risks of infection from a virus that has largely touched their age group. But, Lily, if it makes you feel better and fulfils your need to justify what has been done so far in the name of protection and mitigation, keep pushing your agenda.

Veritas

Lily, you may or may not be well intentioned here, but smaller class sizes in the ways that they are proposing is unrealistic and will be a failure. Kern’s poor educational system and proven apathetic parent base will only become worse with any of the mentioned scenarios. For several years now the state has mandated schools to limit homework assignments, so now they want them to hold a structured class online? The children in the lower socioeconomic areas will be the most negatively affected. Lack of WiFi access is one problem for many. Another is a lot of them have a home environment that is not conducive to learning. If there is strong parenting to support this then it will work, but as I stated earlier Kern is not generally known for having committed parents. They will be lucky if they get a third of all kids to participate on line on a regular basis.

Lilyrose

Veritas and Voter:

The return of campus learning in a style more like a private school is positive.

And no need to inform me about your pre -covid local education system. I'm optimistic for the future if it's rolled out right. A jump in learning can take place.

It's not lack of funds, it's lack of quality and management.

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