Heritage Montessori

Heritage Montessori School in Ridgecrest

A small 20-student elementary school in Ridgecrest reopened Tuesday after its waiver to hold onsite instruction was approved despite Kern County being on a state watchlist for having a high number of COVID-19 cases. 

Heritage Montessori posted on its Facebook page that the school opened earlier this week. It is one of 113 schools in the state approved to reopen through the waiver process and the first school in any Central Valley county to do so.

The approval process is made by the county public health officer in consultation with state health officials. 

"We felt very comfortable with all the restrictions they were putting in place," said Kern County Public Health Services Director Matt Constantine.

The California Department of Public Health announced earlier this month a series of detailed measures schools must meet in order to be allowed to hold in-person classes on campus. If approved, those schools would be exempted from an order issued by Gov. Gavin Newsom that mandates schools do remote learning only for now in Kern and about 30 other counties hard-hit by the virus.

The state guidance on waivers says that schools in counties with 14-day case rates of more than 200 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents shouldn't be considered to reopen. 

Kern County had 222 cases per 100,000 residents as of Wednesday, according to a state website that monitors counties progress on the virus.

The waiver is only available to elementary schools whose students typically struggle more than those in older grades with learning from home.

All other schools may open once Kern County is off the state watchlist for 14 days, Constantine said.

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