Bakersfield City School Districts finalizing talks with Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association for return to in-person learning

Posted at 5:51 AM, Mar 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-12 08:51:59-05

The Bakersfield City School District was originally supposed to phase-in in-person classes this month. Those dates were pushed back to early April, shortly after being announced.

Thursday, the Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association and The Bakersfield City School District met for over seven hours to finalize a memorandum of understanding on BCSD’s return to school.

“It’s not just for the teachers’ safety and the staffs’ safety: Our students live in the most vulnerable zip codes and the hardest hit zip codes in Kern County, and there’s not a single employee that wants to be responsible for bringing in a virus to a child.” Steve Comstock Jr. the President of The Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association told 23ABC. “While they’re (children) not as susceptible to it, they can still be carriers, and their families have been really hard hit.”

Comstock said BETA wants to make sure all teachers and staff who want to get vaccinated before returning, have that opportunity. About 80 percent of their members surveyed want to get the vaccine.

“‘We’re just asking for as much for as much safety as possible, and the district has been really willing to work with us on that,” Comstock said. “We’re really appreciative.”

Comstock said shortly after BCSD tentatively pushed in-person instruction dates from mid-March to early April, Governor Newsom allocated 10 percent of vaccine doses to teachers and put forth new legislation for schools returning in-person.

Plus, Comstock said the district secured a deal with couple local healthcare facilities, to get teachers and staff vaccinated at district sites rather than at mass vaccination ones.

“We know that the other interventions work. We know that masking works. We know that distancing works, that vaccinations are a layer on top of all the other layers we’ve put up to protect ourselves from the transmission of COVID-19,” Kimberly Hernandez, the Assistant Division Director of Health Services at Kern County Public Health told 23ABC. “So, we can get students back into school with those non-pharmaceutical interventions.”

The CDC has voiced this, too, but Comstock said they had those interventions back in October when Kern County entered the red tier, and they ultimately had to shut down again.

“And the yo-yo effect of opening and closing, is even more difficult than continuing to stay in distanced learning until we can get to a point to open up and stay open,” Comstock said.

Here are some of the other working conditions Comstock said BETA is hopeful to finalize at Friday morning’s meeting:

-How often classrooms, bathrooms and common areas are cleaned

-Having plexiglass in certain areas

-Ventilation systems

-Accommodations for teachers for underlying health conditions

-Any safety guidelines that the CDC, California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA have laid out

Comstock told 23ABC that they’ll have another meeting with BCSD 9:00 a.m. Friday. He’s hopeful about coming to an agreement.

We reached out to BCSD, and they could not meet our interview request at the time.