It hasn’t always been easy, but the Tehachapi Unified School District continues to steer the course in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Following the rest of the state, TUSD closed its doors to in-house learning March 17. Since this time, education has become yet another example of a an up and rising virtual world with local students making the transition from classroom to computer.

TUSD Superintendent Stacey Larson-Everson said she has been working continuously behind her desk addressing the kinks to help her students make this transition.

According to the superintendent, classrooms will indeed remain closed throughout the end of the school year. She is in discussion with other county superintendents concerning what the fall semester will bring.

“We will take direction from Kern Public Health, but we are working on different scenarios so that we are prepared for an opening, a staggered opening, a delayed opening. We don’t know what it will look like, so that’s why we are preparing for the different scenarios,” said Larson-Everson.

In other words, as with the rest of the world in all things, the virus will pretty much dictate what will happen.

According to the superintendent, TUSD students have been provided several distance learning opportunities online, including virtual classrooms and other forms of communications such as Zoom and Google Classroom. Students were also provided the opportunity to pick up instructional packets.

The first step to closure, however, was making sure that students were provided with meals so that learning could even take place.

“That has greatly increased over the course of the closure,” said Larson-Everson. Meals were served to 128 students during the first week of closure, and last week more than 750 students were served.

Meals are served four days a week, Monday through Thursday. During distribution, students are given lunch for that day, plus breakfast for the following morning. On Thursday, students are given an additional lunch for Friday. Locations and times of distributions can be found online at the TUSD website. No proof of income is required.

This past week, nearly 600 Chromebooks were checked out to families to assist them with virtual learning, with a second round of Chromebooks to be checked out soon.

“However, if you don’t have internet connectivity, that could be a hurdle,” said Larson-Everson, adding that WiFi hotspots have been established in the parking lots of all schools, available 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. One common password is provided to all students.

According to the superintendent, students of today are more “technology native,” and are making the transition “really well.”

Said Larson-Everson, “We cannot force families or students to participate in virtual learning. That is a choice on their part, but what I can tell you is that our teachers and administrators are working so, so hard to engage with our kids. I have principals who are making phone calls wishing happy birthday to our kids and teachers lining up with signs saying, ‘We miss you.’ We want them to make sure that they are OK, that they have everything that they need, and that they know they can continue their learning and there are options for doing that.”

Unfortunately, a traditional high school graduation will not be held for the Class of 2020, but a ceremony of some kind is in the works.

“This is a very important milestone, and we do want to recognize their achievements, so we are laying out our different options on how we can recognize the students and what kind of a ceremony we can hold,” said Larson-Everson.