School districts change course to reopen virtually after Kern put on COVID watch list


BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — With the new school year just weeks away, many districts must change their reopening plans now that Kern County is back on the state’s COVID watch list.

On Friday, Governor Newsom said counties on this list are not allowed to reopen school campuses until they’ve been off the list for at least 14 days. On Tuesday, several local school boards met to discuss reopening plans, but there wasn’t much of a decision other than full-time distance learning for now.

Fruitvale, Norris, Tehachapi, Arvin, Wasco Union Elementary, Delano Joint Union High, and Panama-Buena Vista Union joined the list of districts that will start the school year completely virtually.

Even local catholic private schools, like Garces Memorial High and St. Francis, which had originally planned to offer in-person classes five days a week, changed course. A representative from the Diocese of Fresno confirmed none of its five schools in Kern County will reopen physically on their start dates next month.

“The ones who have already approved their ’20–’21 school plans to include in-person instruction to a limited degree, will now have to pivot and re-change their focus and move forward in another direction,” said Kern Superintendent of Schools Spokesperson, Rob Meszaros.

However, there is an option to appeal if districts believe they should be an exception to Governor Newsom’s rule.

“The new guidance also outlines a waiver process for elementary schools only that can apply for in-person instruction approval based on local conditions,” Meszaros added.

Local public school districts will need Kern Public Health’s approval for this waiver. The Diocese of Fresno is already in the process of applying.

“I believe that many strides have been made in a few short months, and our school districts are in a far better place now than they were back in March in terms of their distance learning programs and what they’ll be able to offer,” Meszaros said.

To improve distance learning, many districts are promising increased video face-time with teachers each day, making sure to look after the mental health and social wellbeing of students.

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