School District plans for phased reopening

School District plans for phased reopeningBy BRIAN COSNER

News Review Staff Writer

Sierra Sands Unified School District Superintendent Dr. David Ostash announced earlier this week via Parent Square that the district intended to implement its phased reopening plan as early as November now that the state’s COVID restrictions have lessened in Kern County.

“Given the continued restrictions and strenuous requirements by the state, County Department of Public Health, the COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan, and negotiations with all three of our bargaining units, the reopening of our schools will be most successfully accomplished by phasing, and scaling up in the coming weeks and months,” said Ostash in his announcement.

The district’s current plan is as follow:

• PHASE 1 – Small cohorts start in November with nine special education classrooms (six at Richmond Elementary, two at Gateway Elementary and one at Burroughs High School)

• PHASE 2 – Supervised “Distance Learning Hubs” on campus starting in November with Transitional Kindergarten through 1st grade at all elementary schools, scaling up through all grades month-by-month.

• PHASE 3 – Hybrid on-campus instruction start dates are to be determined.

According to Ostash, state provisions allow small cohorts to address the equitability for students who require the campus care, instruction, targeted services and support they simply aren’t receiving from the distance-learning model.

“Based upon their needs, some students are at an even greater disadvantage than the average student,” said Ostash. “They’re falling even more behind.”

Ostash said this primarily included Special Education, but other targeted groups include English-language learners or other students unable to participate or engage who are “at risk of just completely falling off.”

“This isn’t ‘certain students get to come back and others won’t,’” he specified. “We’re phasing student back in a way so that all students will end up back on campus over the next few months who want to be.”

Families still have the opportunity to continue distance learning as phases are implemented.

For Phase 2, learning hubs will not be face-to-face learning between students and teachers, but a safe location for students to utilize educational tools and technology while receiving adult supervision from school staff.

“If parents are working, maybe they don’t have that supervision at home,” said Ostash. “It’s important we start with our earliest learners and keep them on track during their formative years.”

The hubs will start with the youngest students and be built out to include all of K-12 over the coming months.

Phase 3 includes students returning to campus with their teachers and may occur simultaneously with the other phases and will largely depend on the results of previous phases.

‘It is very important that we ‘roll out’ phases of reopening so that we don’t have to ‘roll back,’” said Ostash. “By taking prioritized, incremental steps, we will ensure safety and success as we move determinedly toward on-campus learning opportunities for all staff and students.”

Story First Published: 2020-10-23