The decision is in. The Tehachapi Unified School District held a special meeting July 21 and voted unanimously to use a virtual learning environment or independent study format at least through the first quarter of the 2020-21 school year.
Since Kern County is on Gov. Gavin Newsom's monitoring list, school districts are required to resort to online learning at a minimum through Oct. 9.
"The conditions have been changing quite a bit over the last several days. What hasn't change on the part of the district and the trustees, I believe, is that students' and staff's safety continues to be a top priority," said Superintendent Stacey Larson-Everson at the start of a PowerPoint presentation she gave during the Zoom meeting.
Although there is no replacement for face-to-face learning, Larson-Everson said at this time, there is little choice but to move forward with a very different start to the new school year than is traditional.
"It is my understanding, based on conversations with Public Health, that a part of the reason that we saw such a significant rise in our county so suddenly was because of the backlog of testing," Larson-Everson said. "Instead of a 48-hour turnaround on testing results, it was turning into a week and a half to two weeks."
The superintendent said the district is also facing staffing challenges, with 36 percent of its staff experiencing challenges either with child care or having compromised immune systems in their home.
In the virtual learning, instruction will be provided through daily interaction between teachers and students. The learning schedule will be flexible with students learning part of the day using the Canvas Platform to receive instructions from teachers and get daily updates. They will also use their schoolbooks offline for part of their daily routine.
Technology support will be provided, with additional assistance given to students who are struggling, Larson-Everson said.
While the county continues to remain on the monitoring list, Larson-Everson said that one-on-one time with students and teachers will not be available.
The other option for parents is the Tehachapi Independent Learning Academy.
Said Larson-Everson, "That is another pathway that parents can select. We will provide all the books and materials, but work will be supported and validated by certificated staff."
The superintendent expressed her confidence in the teachers and students moving forward in that they would be able to collaborate and have a successful school year.
As the new learning landscape continues to evolve, Larson-Everson said that students with special needs will have to be addressed individually to decide what is appropriate.