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Five Day Blended Learning Schedule approved

Tehachapi School Board Update

A special board meeting of the Tehachapi Unified School District was held by teleconference on Zoom, April 29. The primary reason for holding this special board meeting was a proposed Five Day Blended Learning Schedule. This blended schedule, involving in-person instruction and virtual, is designed for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year, not the 2021-2022 school year. The Superintendent commented that Kern County is currently in the orange tier; the soonest Kern County can be assigned to the yellow tier is May 12. She complimented the Tehachapi Association of Teachers on their flexibility throughout this extraordinary time.

The Board voted unanimously for the Five Day Blended Learning Schedule.

There are, of course, certain procedural steps to opening the schools for in-person learning five days per week instead of two. Wednesday was eliminated as a deep cleaning day. The new schedule launched Monday, May 3, which meant that teachers and staff spent the entire weekend beforehand preparing their classrooms and curriculum.

Students cannot attend school all day because the District has to offer a virtual opportunity to students whose parents do not want in-person learning for their children. Virtual learning is scheduled for the afternoons. As noted, this is a blended learning model and students will still need to do virtual work even if they attend in-person instruction. Parents have a choice of frequency; they can send their children to in-person learning as many or few days per week as they choose. Students in grades two through 12 who have been issued a district Chromebook will need to bring them to school. If they do not bring one, they will be issued a device in the classroom. Masks are required in the classroom unless the student has a medical exemption.

Mealtimes are still challenging because students are without their masks and still need to be six feet apart. Classroom eating is eliminated because of the three foot distancing mandates in the classrooms. While outside on the playground students must wear masks, however, they are not spending as much time outside; they have a quick snack and play break.

Pick up meals will still be available and it was recognized that many families depend on these meals. Transportation is also available with students being distanced to the greatest extent possible. There will be no transportation costs for the remainder of the school year. Bus riders must wear masks unless they have a medical exemption. Those families who have been granted an inter-district transfer are responsible for their own transportation as the bus routes are set routes, which do not conform to deviations from those routes.

The Five Day Blended Learning Schedule began Friday, April 30, with all of the appropriate protocols. The District is continuing to work with the California Department of Public Health and Kern County Public Health on safety, adjusting local practices based on formal guidance from these agencies.

The Superintendent mentioned that the District is still trying to get information on how virtual learning will look for the 2021-2022 school year.

The floor was opened to comments from the public. Several parents, staff members and a couple of teachers asked questions and/or made comments thanking the Superintendent and the Board for their efforts, for listening to the parents' concerns and generally supporting the Five Day Blended Learning Schedule. One parent asked for clarification as to how the schedule is going to work for those students still involved in all virtual learning versus those students involved in the blended learning instruction. The Superintendent explained that students involved in all virtual instruction do independent assignments in the morning and are involved in the virtual instruction with their teachers in the afternoon. The schedule is reversed for those students involved in blended learning. Lunch and the virtual instruction are preventing all day in-person instruction. The State Legislature mandates what kind of educational instruction is allowed and the districts must abide by what the legislature decrees.

A couple of parents questioned why the five day blended instruction was being implemented so late in the school year, making it difficult for parents to plan. Others asked why school could not just return to normal as education was before the pandemic. One or two parents questioned the mask policy saying it is unnecessary for children to mask. Emily Van Andel, a teacher in the District, reminded all that the District does not have the power to allow children to unmask; that is also mandated by the State.