The first day of school is Wednesday for several Kern County schools, and Bakersfield City School District and Kern High School District students might notice a few changes this school year.

The 2019-2020 school year will see the formal launch of BCSD's Extended Learning Program's After School Academies across 42 school sites. Implementation of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) activities has been the result of a previous year-long planning with all stakeholders in the district and community partners, said Deanna Clark, director of extended learning.

STEAM programs employ a project-based learning approach that more closely aligns with what students experience in college and the workforce.

"Project-based learning is the hub of our BCSD Extended Learning Academies in which students will gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period every day to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem or challenge," she said. "The BCSD STEAM Academies will also incorporate the arts into their framework by recognizing that in order to be successful in technical fields, students must also be creative and use critical thinking skills."

Two academies were implemented the previous school year: an Agriculture Academy at McKinley Elementary School and a STEAM Academy at Fremont Elementary School.

The district also remodeled rooms this summer to prepare for the opening of four new state preschool centers at Pioneer, Casa Loma, Noble and Williams elementary schools, Steve McClain, assistant superintendent of business services, explained.

BCSD began offering state pre-K in its current form known as the California State Preschool Program in 2007, according to Mark Luque, assistant superintendent of educational services. Fourteen school sites were offering the program prior to the addition of this year's four sites.

"The opportunity to expand access to preschool programs for children residing in the Bakersfield City School District is a district priority," Luque said. "These school sites were identified as ideal host locations to ensure access across our district boundaries for interested families. We look forward to welcoming 816 preschool students this week."

Stella Hills and Horace Mann elementary schools will change from serving grades kindergarten through fifth grade to kindergarten through sixth grade, and more classrooms were added to make space for the additional students.​

Numerous other facility improvement projects took place this summer, which include: a remodeled office at Williams Elementary, new basketball courts at Emerson Middle School, paint work at Jefferson Elementary, Horace Mann Elementary, William Penn Elementary, Rafer Johnson S.E.A.L. Program and Williams Elementary and parking lots resurfaced and striped at other sites, according to McClain.

KHSD has also expanded learning opportunities for its students this year. Five new educational centers at the Regional Occupational Center will be open for students interested in careers in cosmetology, culinary arts, veterinary tech, automotive technology and construction trades.

In total, 34 different program options will be available to ROC students this fall, more than doubling the number available four years ago.

An addition, scheduled to open in the fall is the Kern Aquatic Complex next to Independence High School and the future Career Technical Education Center, according to district spokeswoman Erin Briscoe-Clark.

"The Kern Aquatic Complex will include an Olympic size swimming pool, a diving and warm-up pool, an advanced timing system and scoreboard, lighting to support competitive nighttime events, a large classroom for instruction and meetings, stadium seating for over 800 spectators and a large grass area for team encampments," she said.

The last pool built by the district was at Bakersfield High School in 1919. It was demolished in 1938 for the expansion of the gymnasium.

Students will have new principals at two district schools — Ben Shirley at Bakersfield High School and Megan Gregor at West High School. Additionally, there were several renovation and improvement projects completed over the summer: new gym lights at Golden Valley, Highland, Frontier and Independence high schools, library remodel at Bakersfield and Liberty high schools and a new home economics classroom at Bakersfield High School.

Quick Cafés are opening at West and Highland high schools after Arvin opened one last school year.

"The Quick Cafés have roll-up doors and serve students during breakfast and lunch," she said. "The same food being offered in the cafeteria will be available at the Quick Café providing students with quick and easy access to food."

Briscoe-Clark also noted suicide prevention information will be printed on student IDs.

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

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