School days near again, efforts toward Apr. 5 TK-5 & seniors

School days near again, efforts toward Apr. 5 TK-5 & seniorsBy LAURA QUEZADA, News Review Staff Writer

There is nothing simple nor straight forward about getting students back into the classroom as the world, the country, the state, the county recover from the pandemic. The agreement between Sierra Sands Unified School District (SSUSD) and the Desert Area Teachers Association (DATA) still needs to be ratified by the members of DATA, followed by ratification by the SSUSD school board. There are also plans and negotiations around returning seniors back to Mesquite and Burroughs High School by April 5. Not only do DATA and the school board need to reach agreements, Kern County needs to be in the red tier in order that to happen. It appears Kern County may transition into the red next week.

In a letter to SSUSD families on March 17, Ostash reported, “We are eager to see our elementary students back on campus on April 5. While our faculty and staff have worked tirelessly on ensuring the very best educational service during the pandemic, we know we are able to do so much more when students and teachers are in the classroom. When it comes to meeting all the needs of the ‘whole child’ we are much better equipped to do that successfully when interpersonal relationships are at the foundation of education.”

Ostash continued, “The TK-5 in-person instruction registration process is in full swing and, as of today, close to 70% of students district-wide are enrolled for in-person learning. We now see more hope than challenges as we move forward.”

Ostash told the News Review, “The vaccination clinic held last week transformed the conversation. Through a partnership with Ridgecrest Regional Hospital (RRH), more than 250 district employees have received the first dose of the vaccination. Of the 250, more than 200 received the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This figure does not include those staff who made arrangements to receive the first and/or second dose of the vaccination outside of the district’s partnership with RRH. When you combine the two amounts nearly 380 employees have been vaccinated. This has positioned us very well so we can better serve our students.”

As part of the ongoing effort to meet the needs of students, “We are going to be in receipt of additional monies, some of which are labeled, ‘Learning Loss Mitigation Funds.’ We have planning meetings happening right now, to not only roll out our customary credit recovery summer school program but also additional learning opportunities for students who may benefit from a more robust summer learning opportunity than we have been able to provide in the past.”

There are several hurdles to jump. “We are trying not to make it confusing by announcing things methodically as plans are completed,” Ostash reveals. “It is my hope that everything moves along the right way in our society, our state, our community where we can go back to our new normal in August where we have full in-person learning, full activities, full extracurricular programs, and that there are no significant restrictions that we must abide by.”

Pictured: Avel Galvan, school custodian measures classrooms for safe distancing requirements. ± Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2021-03-19