NewsCovering Kern County


Elementary Schools looking to get a waiver from the state to get back to the classroom

Posted at 3:37 PM, Jul 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 19:03:23-04

While most schools across the state will start the fall semester with full distance learning, under Governor Gavin Newsom's order, some elementary schools may be able to hold in-person instruction with a new waiver.

In order for a school to obtain this waiver, it will have to be approved first by our local Public Health Department. 23ABC spoke with public health who said their first and most significant concern is the safety of the kids.

Matt Constantine, the Director of Kern County Public Health, says he believes the safest way to start the school year would be with full distance learning. They will remain open to approving waivers for eligible schools.

He says,“I think the state has intentionally left this open so we can explore unique circumstances in each area.”

In recent weeks, Governor Gavin Newsom said schools can physically return to in-person instruction once the county that they operate in has been off of the state's monitoring list for 14 consecutive days. But now with a waiver, elementary students from kindergarten to fifth grade can return to the classroom if it is approved.

And according to the state's website, “A waiver may only be granted if one is requested by the superintendent, in consultation with labor, parent, and community organizations.”

The Director of Kern County Superintendent of Schools says he believes there will be some local candidates.

Robert Meszaros says, “especially for some of our rural districts, out in our mountain communities and desert communities.”

But with little communication from the state, Meszaros says they have taken it upon themselves to form a local task force. “We thought it would be important to bring some stakeholders around the table to try to come up with an acceptable process for us locally. In the event that we don’t get any clear guidance from the state.”

Once the process is complete, it will go onto our local health department and the state's website says, “ local health officers must review local community epidemiological data, consider other public health interventions, and consult with CDPH (the state) when considering a request.”

While there has been interest from local schools, Kern County Public Health says no one has formally requested the waiver.

Both Meszaros and Constantine say they have received very little guidance from the state. 23ABC also reached out to the state health department with questions and they forwarded us directly to their website.