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By Jamie Stewart
The Shafter Press 

Only distance learning for now


Last updated 7/26/2020 at 6:51am | View PDF

In an about-face, the Richland School District will begin their school year with students learning from home.

Last week, the district put out a reopening plan that would see two groups of students attend school in person for two days, while distance learning the rest of the week. But with Governor Newsom’s announcement of stricter guidelines for reopening, the Richland district had to rethink their plan.

“Unfortunately, with the new statement by the governor, we don’t qualify to reopen for in-person sessions, leaving us no choice but to start the year with distance learning,” said Rosa Romero, interim superintendent of the district. “I really wish that he would have come out with this sooner, saving us a lot of trouble and preventing a lot of heartache.”

Romero said that with Kern County appearing to being placed back on the watch list, no school in the county will be able to start with in-person learning.

In the original plan, students would be separated into two groups, and one group would attend school on Monday and Tuesday and the other would go on Thursday and Friday. The district had several precautions put in place including temperature checks, numerous hand-washing stations, social distancing, and wearing face coverings. That plan will be put on hold until it is deemed safe for children to return to school in person.

In the original plan, parents had the option to continue with distance learning full time.

“We are preparing a letter going out to the parents that will outline the new procedures,” Romero said. “We are encouraging those parents who were registering for distance learning to continue the registration process, giving us a head start on the process. The letter will let everyone know how to register and what the process will entail.”

Richland joins the Kern High School District, which had already decided to begin the school year with distance learning. In a 3-2 vote, the Kern High School Board approved a plan that would have the students learn from home for at least the first quarter, which ends in October. The decision was not met with a unanimous support, with a number of parents and administrators feeling that distance learning is not an acceptable alternative to in-person schooling.

Board member Cynthia Brakeman, who recently spoke at Shafter High’s graduation ceremony, said, “I think that we work best with face to face instruction. I know plenty of teachers who are ready to go back to school.”

The Kern High School Teachers Association, headed by Shafter High teacher Vickie Shoenair, supports a 100 percent distance learning model. With some teachers voicing their concern over the protocol that would allow them to return to in person schooling, the majority of teachers said they love teaching in person with their kids, but they want to do it only when it is safe. The situation will be revisited after the first quarter ends on October 9. If it is deemed safe, they will be adopting a hybrid schedule that would start with 25 percent of students returning to school, with that percentage increase if it is safe.


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