Due to staffing issues, the superintendent of Tehachapi Unified School District announced that all students will return to virtual learning in a letter dated Dec. 7 and posted on the school district's website.
Tehachapi News reached out to Superintendent Stacey Larson-Everson, who responded via email to the following questions:
TN: You stated in your letter that the district was returning to virtual learning as of Dec. 7 due to staffing issues. I think the biggest question on everyone's mind is what happened to the staff? Are they quarantined or have they come down with coronavirus?
Superintendent: TUSD holds itself to a high standard for the safety of students and staff. To respect for our staff's privacy, we do not discuss the specific number or locations of positive cases reported to us. Recently, as we have seen across our county and state, there has been a rise in the number of positive cases, exposures, and symptoms. This has temporarily reduced the number of personnel available to ensure implementation of all safety measures across all district operations.
TN: How many teachers or other staff members are you down right now?
Superintendent: To respect our staff's privacy, we do not discuss the specific number or locations of positive cases reported to us. We have adequate staff to provide instruction to our students virtually. The decision to temporarily pause in-person services was made in consideration of the staff needed to implement all safety protocols for in-person services across 14 different district departments and sites, in addition to the buses that transport students.
TN: What efforts are being made to replace them?
Superintendent: We have the capacity to provide instruction and services via virtual learning. This same challenge is being experienced by other schools and school districts within Kern County and across our state. Under typical conditions, our substitute pools are sufficient, however, we reached a point that our substitutes as well as shifting of staff and duties could not accommodate our high safety standards and protocols districtwide. This is how we arrived at the decision to pause in-person services.
TN: Do you have a time estimate when you might return to in-person learning?
Superintendent: The district will resume in-person services when we have adequate staff available to fully implement all safety protocols and procedures across the district, at all sites and departments. While we understand that this situation is disappointing, we must put the safety of our students and staff first. We look forward to getting our students and staff back to in-person services as soon as possible.
TN: What challenges are you hearing from parents and teachers, and what is being done to try and address them?
Superintendent: We understand how difficult this pandemic and the resulting changes across all our lives has been for so many families, including our students and staff. The safety of our students and staff remains a top priority. We want to ensure that when students do return to campus, they do so safely and with all resources available and in place.
TN: Is there any other information the district would like the public to know?
Superintendent: Our students are still learning, and our amazing teachers are still teaching. TUSD's board approved a reopening plan on Nov. 10. That plan is currently being implemented and in-person services have simply suspended due to the staffing challenges that in-person services present during these unusual times.
We want our community to know that we are committed to being open, accessible and accountable to them. I encourage parents and community members to become familiar with our reopening plan and to stay tuned for updates as circumstances change. The reopening plan is posted on our district website. We are confident that with the community's support, we will continue to get through this difficult time in the best way we can.