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Custodian Jim Williams disinfects a room before students arrive for an afternoon session at Freedom Middle School in this November file photo. The middle school in Rosedale Union School District was only able to remain open for just over a week because of staffing issues related to COVID-19.

Rosedale Union School District announced its plans to bring students back onto its school campuses beginning Tuesday in phases over three weeks.

The K-8 district had previously welcomed students of all grades onto campus for in-person learning in the fall, but, like many schools in Kern County, it switched back to distance learning when rising local COVID-19 rates made it tough to staff its campuses ahead of winter break.

Superintendent Sue Lemon shared a board-approved timeline in a letter sent to parents Tuesday evening.

“Our goal remains to get staff and students back to in-person instruction as soon as possible; however, when making decisions about when and how to resume in-person instruction we must consider how the virus spread affects our organization,” Lemon wrote.

The plan is for special day classes and students in grades TK through second grade to return to campus on Tuesday, Jan. 19. The following week on Monday, Feb. 1, third through sixth grade students are scheduled to return. The final group to come back to campus will be seventh and eighth grade students on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Lemon had noted previously that the oldest grades were the toughest to staff, because students change classes. If one student tested positive, it could put six teachers in quarantine instantly.

Students who want to remain in distance learning are given that option, as well, according to the letter. Families are asked to commit to distance or in-person learning for the quarter.

Unlike Rosedale, most schools in Kern County have taken a wait-and-see approach as they’ve returned from winter break, saying that they’re waiting for case rates to go down before they announce a return date.

That’s even been true among those districts that only brought back handfuls of students. The brief comments from Kern High School District Superintendent Bryon Schaefer at this week’s board meeting were typical.

“We hope once the positivity rates of the virus go down, we can return to bringing groups of students back to school,” he said.

Even Norris School District, which returned students to in-person learning on a similar timeline as Rosedale last semester, made the announcement its students would stay in distance learning until at least Feb. 12.

However, private schools, including Bakersfield Christian High School, Garces Memorial High School and other local Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno schools have already returned to in-person learning.