BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — Local health data is determining the fate for students this upcoming school year as Governor Gavin Newsom laid out new public and private school education guidance for schools looking to reopen this fall. 23ABC's Tori Cooper provides details on the new guidelines and a response from a local parent.
As of right now, Kern County is not on the state's monitoring list for additional COVID-19 guidelines. That means schools in the county can technically reopen this fall with specific measures in place. But the county ends up back on the list soon - as health officials are still projecting - distance learning will be mandated once again.
Newsom announced the new guidance Friday for schools looking to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year, stating that schools in counties that have not been on the state monitoring list for 14 days can physically open for in-person instruction. However, those schools must follow specific measures depending on students' grade level.
"All staff and students in third grade or above must wear masks," said Newsom.
Students in second grade and below are also strongly encouraged to wear a mask or a face shield. Students who are unwilling or unable to comply with mask requirements may be asked to switch to remote learning.
The state will require sanitation stations on campus, with all staff and students following the social distance rule of six feet apart in the class. Along with each school day starting with a temperature and symptom check.
But the governor did not specify who would be responsible for enforcing these protocols.
Kelli Crespo, a Kern County other of three weighed in on the new requirements.
"I know my kid personally has a panic attack every time she puts on a mask," she said.
Crespo told 23ABC she has one child with ADHD and two others - one in middle school, the other in high school - who she believes learn best in an on-campus class setting.
"I personally think the Zoom meetings are a complete waste of time for the teacher and the students. I feel like they need to stop focusing on in-person and they need to prepare a day or a week curriculum and make it for three or four hours and have their child do it with their parent whenever they can," added Crespo.
And while Governor Newsom agreed the best scenario is in-person teaching, for the time being, he is requiring daily live interaction with students studying at a distance.
A $5.3 billion state legislative package will help to accommodate special education needs and help school districts purchase materials needed for distance learning like wifi and laptops for students.
Communications Director Rob Meszaros of the Kern County Superintendent of Schools also addressed the challenges faced by schools.
"Teaching and learning suffered because distance learning was simply a foreign concept for k-12 education and I believe many strides have made in a few short months and our school districts are in a far better place now than they were in March," explained Meszaros.
If a teacher or student in a classroom tests positive for the coronavirus, the state's recommendation is the whole class be sent home to self-quarantine. If multiple classrooms are having to self-quarantine on campus "we stipulate 5 percent of the school, the local school not the district but local school, is positive then it would trigger criteria to consider closing or mandate rather closure of that school site," said Newsom.
A district would be closed if 25% of their schools are closed within a 14-day period.
Many school districts were planning on reopening this fall in Kern County under a distance learning model through the beginning grade period. But either way, if Kern County does not stay off the watch list schools will not be able to reopen.