BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — With the school year beginning and COVID-19 cases on the rise, there are mixed reactions when it comes to returning to campus. But school officials say they're doing everything they can to ensure the health and safety of returning students.
“We’re all going to be jumping in and helping out where we can to support our students," said Kim Reynolds, Lead School Social Worker for the Kern High School District. "That’s obviously our main going is to make sure they’re supported and safe.”
School districts and the state legislature are all working to ensure the safety and return of students this school year. Officials saying a key goal for this year is not only bringing kids back, but keeping them back.
As per state guidelines, students, staff, and faculty must wear masks indoors on campus and on school buses. Masks are optional for everyone while outside.
For those students and families who don’t feel it is safe to return to campus due to health reasons, the state has mandated schools offer an independent study option. It is up to the individual districts to decide how the program will work.
“We’ll have conditions about engagement and making sure you and your student are engaged in daily instruction and outline a condition that if you are failing to come to class virtually or be a part of independent study," said Bakersfield City School District officials during a back to school town hall livestream.
However, some parents feel independent study methods aren't enough for students.
Lori Ann Wiley is a parent of three students in the Kern High School District. She said as a retired educator, she doesn't believe students can get what they need through independent study. She said she wishes the districts were offering zoom classes and distance learning like last year.
Reynolds said the KHSD is expecting some students will feel anxious about returning to school after a year of distance learning, and she's urging parents and teachers to monitor student behavior closely.
“Anxiety will be a little higher because those students who excelled in a virtual environment are going to have to come back and get into that routine again that they haven’t had for the past year and a half,” Reynolds said.
As an added layer of safety on top of wearing masks, school districts are also implementing facility needs such as updating HVAC systems for long-term ventilation for staff and students. School districts also have the option of partnering with the state to offer COVID-19 testing on site.
The KHSD said in an effort to keep kids in school, the California Department of Public Health will allow a modified quarantine, which means unvaccinated close contacts may continue to attend school after being exposed to COVID-19, if not displaying symptoms, continue to mask, and are tested twice a week during the quarantine period.
For more on back-to-school guidelines from the state, visit the Kern County Superintendent of Schools website. Parents are encouraged to reach out to their individual school districts for more information.