Information & Frequently Asked Questions
The impacts of the coronavirus are touching every aspect of our lives and forcing all of us to find creative ways to adapt to this unprecedented situation. We know the disruption in normal school operations has created many issues and uncertainties – from distance learning to meals to graduation plans. On this page, we will answer some of your most pressing questions as best we can.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Updated April 28, 2020
How does the Governor’s stay-home orders impact schools?
Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20 on the evening of March 19, 2020, which directs “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.”
One of the 16 federal critical infrastructure sectors that is referenced in the Governor’s Order is Government Facilities. Included within that sector is a sub-section for K-12 schools.
The Governor’s further clarified that critical functions of education as outlined under the governor’s previous Executive Orders on Education are still in effect and exempt from the statewide stay-at-home order. These previous orders include:
• Continue delivering high-quality educational opportunities to students, to the extent feasible, through distance learning and/or independent study.
• Provide school meals in non-congregate settings
• Arrange for, to the extent practicable, supervision for students during ordinary school hours.
• Continue to pay employees.
When will school reopen?
On April 2, 2020, after consultation with the Kern County Department of Public Health, and the 47 Kern County School Districts, Dr. Mary C. Barlow, Kern County Superintendent of Schools, recommended that Kern County School Districts follow the recommendation of Governor Gavin Newsom, and complete the 2019-20 school year utilizing alternative teaching methodologies, including online distance learning. To be clear, the 2019-20 school year is not over. Instead, districts will continue their transition from classroom instruction to online distance learning. Students will be expected to complete assignments to satisfy course requirements. Teachers, classified employees and administrators across Kern County will continue to provide relevant and engaging learning for students during the remainder of the school year. Individual school districts will communicate their plans directly with their staff and families through their normal communication channels.
On April 28, 2020 during a daily news conference, Gov. Newsom said “We are considering the prospect of an even earlier school year into the fall—late July, early August…Having talked to many other parents and educators, even the kids, I think we might want to consider getting that school year moved up a little bit.” It is important to note that Kern County school districts already begin in late-July to mid-August, earlier than many districts throughout the state that start after Labor Day. All Kern County school communities share the Governor’s goals of re-opening our schools as quickly as possible to serve our students. The decision to alter the academic calendar, will be made by local school boards after careful consideration and input from parents, staff, local health experts and other local community stakeholders.
How will physical distancing be achieved when schools open?
It’s too early to speculate exactly how physically re-opening our schools might look. As an educational community, we will consider and plan for a variety of possible scenarios, with the understanding that there likely will not be a one-size-fits-all strategy. Physical distancing in a traditional school environment would prove very tricky. It is going to take a great deal of collaboration and planning to address a number of variables like student/staff safety, scheduling logistics, transportation, workforce issues, and many other factors.
How will remote learning be provided for students at home?
Kern County school districts have been working around the clock to provide distance learning opportunities for students over the past two weeks. This will continue and amplify as we move forward. Schools are using a combination of paper packets, while leveraging online tools like Google Classroom, Canvas, Zoom and other virtual learning applications.
Are students required to participate in remote learning?
Yes. Families who have situations that make participation difficult or impossible should work directly with their child’s school so that appropriate accommodations may be made.
How will families without devices be accommodated?
Upwards of 40,000 students do not have access to computers and/or internet connectivity throughout the county. Many school districts already have 1:1 devices available for students. These devices are being allowed to be taken home during closures. Some districts do not have 1:1 technology. KCSOS and Kern County school districts assessed the needs of families to determine where there was a gap in devices. KCSOS has sourced 20,000 Chromebooks, which have either been received or are on order. We feel very strongly that with these orders, we will have enough Chromebooks to provide devices to all students who need them. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION
How will families without internet connectivity be accommodated?
Providing connectivity to homes is a bigger challenge. For this reason, KCSOS and school districts are deploying various strategies to meet the need:
• 5,000 MiFis (mobile Wi-Fi hotspots) have been ordered. We are continuing to locate devices and acquire them as they are located. These devices are in very short supply currently.
• A common guest Wi-Fi network has been established at select school sites (CLICK HERE FOR LIST) so that students will be able to connect their devices to the internet from the school bus loop or parking lot
(Guest User Name: Student_WiFi / Password: Connect!)
• KCSOS and school districts are in the process of installing mobile Wi-Fi devices on school buses so that these “mobile hot spots” are available to travel into neighborhoods where there is the greatest need.
• Communication with families that both Charter/Spectrum and AT&T are offering no-cost, or low-cost, in-home internet connections for low income families.
How will school closures impact grading and graduation requirements?
Ultimately, all decisions related to grading and graduation requirements will be a local decision, made at the school district level. Individual school districts will communicate their plans directly with students and families. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced, on April 1, 2020, that the California Department of Education (CDE) and the California State Board of Education (SBE) issued new guidance on graduation requirements and grading for seniors. The guidance is based on feedback from local education agencies, and was produced in collaboration and alignment with higher education institutions. That guidance is HERE.
On, April 20, 2020, the Kern High School District released its plans, HERE.
How will colleges/universities make accommodations for high school seniors?
On April 2, 2020, the California higher education community (CSU, UC, and California Community Colleges) offered assurances regarding:
• Re-evaluation of the financial needs, as well as the eligibility for federal and college financial aid, for families whose circumstances have changed;
• Acceptance of Credit/No Credit grades in lieu of letter grades for A-G high school courses completed in winter/spring/summer 2020;
• Flexibility associated with the receipt of official transcripts and confirmation of admissions offers, including deferments of deposits or fees where needed;
• Flexibility and support for students currently enrolled in dual enrollment course offerings;
How will school closures impact end-of-year celebrations?
One of the most difficult aspects of the closure is the disruption to traditional end-of-year activities including high school graduation ceremonies. School districts are currently exploring alternative ways to celebrate the end of the year and recognize our students for their accomplishments.
Will state CAASPP testing take place?
The state CAASPP testing in math and English language arts has been canceled for the current school year and will not take place.
Will school meals continue to be provided?
Yes. Kern County school districts will continue to provide school meals during school closures. Meals are being distributed daily, during varying hours, at sites all across the county. The most updated information on times and locations is available HERE.
Kern County Superintendent of Schools makes recommendation for schools to extend closures through the end of the current school year
April 2, 2020 — After consultation with the Kern County Department of Public Health, and the 47 Kern County School Districts, Dr. Mary C. Barlow, Kern County Superintendent of Schools, is recommending that Kern County School Districts follow the recommendation of Governor Gavin Newsom, and complete the 2019-20 school year utilizing alternative teaching methodologies, including online distance learning.
To be clear, the 2019-20 school year is not over. Instead, districts will continue their transition from classroom instruction to online distance learning. Students will be expected to complete assignments to satisfy course requirements. Teachers, classified employees and administrators across Kern County will continue to provide relevant and engaging learning for students during the remainder of the school year.
The Kern County Superintendent of Schools praised the commitment of Kern’s 47 school districts for accelerating the development and delivery of online learning for students, providing swift independent study lessons to meet the immediate instructional need of students and ensuring food services to our most needy populations.
Superintendent Dr. Mary C. Barlow stated, “Kern County school districts recognize the impacts of school facility closures for families in Kern County. The most effective way to slow and disrupt the transmission of this pandemic is by continuing to follow the advice of the Kern County Department of Public Health, implement social distancing practices, and look for alternative ways to ensure our children continue to grow and thrive. All 47 school districts are committed to taking those actions, collectively.”
Kern High School District Superintendent Dr. Bryon Schaefer acknowledged the significant impact of school closures, stating, “our district’s students, parents and staff are all learning to adapt to new ways of providing ongoing and meaningful education to students while they remain at home, as well as addressing our students’ nutritional needs by continuing our modified meal services. Affording one another grace and patience, while also acting with common sense and persistence, we will persevere and make the upcoming months productive and a valuable educational experience for all students.”
In the coming days and weeks, districts will provide information regarding how grades, graduation, transcripts, scholarships, summer school, continued distance learning instruction, and a myriad of other issues will be addressed. This is a dynamic situation where information and circumstances can evolve quickly. The latest school-related information on the impacts of COVID-19 may be found at www.kern.org.
Kern County Superintendent of Schools makes recommendation for schools to extend closures through at least Friday, May 1, 2020, amid statewide stay-at-home orders
March 25, 2020 — In consultation with Kern County Public Health, and in light of Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-33-20, which directs “all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors,” Kern County Superintendent of Schools Mary C. Barlow has announced her recommendation to Kern County’s 47 school districts to extend closures of all public schools through at least Friday, May 1, 2020, to help contain the spread of COVID-19.
The Governor has clarified that critical functions of education, as outlined under a previous Executive Order, are still in effect and exempt from the statewide stay-at-home order. These orders include:
• Schools will continue to deliver high-quality educational opportunities to students, to the extent feasible, through distance learning and/or independent study.
• Schools will provide meals in non-congregate settings.
• Schools will arrange for, to the extent practicable, supervision for students during ordinary school hours.
• Schools will continue to pay employees.
Over the past week, Kern County’s 47 school districts have rapidly adapted to the emergency to provide remote learning, “grab-and-go” meal distribution, supervision during the school day and telecommuting. Kern County Schools will continue these essential functions during school closures.
“KCSOS’s leadership team and Kern’s 47 district superintendents are meeting daily through Zoom video conferencing and are problem solving in real time,” said Kern County Superintendent of Schools Mary Barlow. “We are learning from one another, adjusting plans daily and will be ready for any eventuality, including school closures beyond the May 1, 2020, recommendation. We hope it does not come to that, but we will be prepared, if the Governor and/or public health officials advise that school closures should be extended as we move forward.”
During the time of the school closure, we are asking that students and families follow the Governor’s orders to stay home and minimize social contact to the extent possible.
This is a dynamic situation where information and circumstances can evolve quickly. We are grateful to community members and our community leaders throughout our county for their tremendous care, collaboration, and understanding during these challenging times.
For the most updated information, please visit kern.org.
COMMUNITY VOICES: Heroes among us
By Mary C. Barlow, Kern County Superintendent of Schools
March 24, 2020 — Over the past couple of weeks as our community and schools have grappled with the uncertainties of the current pandemic, I have seen countless school employees put aside their own concerns and focus on the needs of students and families first. They are among the many true heroes of these times, and we owe them our utmost respect and gratitude.
Food service workers, custodians, technology staff, teachers, coaches, social workers, aides, bus drivers, maintenance staff, campus supervisors, administrators and a host of other employees have come together as a community to join and support parents in ensuring that students remain safe and continue to thrive in these challenging times.
This past Friday I saw our community at its best at numerous school-based food distribution sites. I saw smiling kids who were able to exchange hand waves and smiles with their friends, and an “air-hug” and a meal from their cafeteria staff, custodians, teachers and principals. I saw caring and grateful parents – thankful for a few minutes outside and appreciative that they have a place to go to connect with other compassionate people in this time of uncertainty. I witnessed joy on the faces of the school staff who were buoyed by a sense of purpose and the knowledge that they continue to make a difference in the lives of their students.
Educators, with little notice, used their own ingenuity to redesign what teaching and learning look like in this new environment, literally over a matter of hours! Teachers and teams of curriculum staff are working tirelessly right now to implement a county-wide rollout of distance learning options for students and parents. Districts will work to every extent possible to provide students with special needs the support they need, albeit through non-traditional technologies and approaches. Our expectation is that students will be able to stay connected to their classroom and their teachers through the use of technology and online learning. This transition is not only important for education continuity, but also for the social and emotional support and connectedness it provides.
Kern County’s school districts and institutes of higher education are working collaboratively and with a sense of urgency to bring educational normalcy back to students and families. The form of education may change radically over the next several months; however, the need to provide an excellent education experience for our children remains constant.
Everyone in our county should feel proud of the prioritization of essential services to our children during this pandemic. This will truly define us as a community. Kudos to our firefighters, law enforcement, healthcare professionals, grocery workers, gas station attendants, truckers and so many others that continue to make it possible for us to operate remotely.
I am hopeful that, while our community is temporarily isolated physically, we look for ways to come together emotionally and spiritually and uplift our collective hearts. In a local neighborhood, I see parents and their children playing outside, riding bicycles and walking together while practicing social distancing. I see neighbors talking and smiling – connected perhaps for the first time. I see people sharing food and supplies, and checking in on elderly neighbors to ensure that everyone has their basic needs met.
My greatest hope is that our community rallies behind our commitment and shared efforts to make sure our students continue to feel safe, learn and thrive. We do not know when school will return to on-site learning, and we are planning for every eventuality. But schools will continue to be a safe haven where essential services are deployed to neighborhoods, just as they have always been throughout our nation’s history. In the meantime, all of us can take this opportunity to reflect, to come together and help our community rise above the fear and despair. Education has always been a path out of troubled times, and I hail the unsung heroes – the education community, parents and students — who are united in our commitment to children.
Crystal balls are in short supply, yet resourcefulness, grit, courage and love are not. I know that because I have seen those qualities firsthand over the past several weeks, and I know in my heart that they will continue to guide us in the months ahead.
Kern County public schools to close temporarily to mitigate potential COVID-19 exposure
March 15, 2020 — Dr. Mary C. Barlow, Kern County Superintendent of Schools and Kern County Director of Public Health Services, Matthew Constantine, have recommended the temporary closure of the county’s schools as officials continue to step up the fight against the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Out of an abundance of caution, to minimize the spread of COVID-19 throughout Kern County, we are recommending a temporary closure of all Kern County public schools. This recommendation also applies to preschools and charter schools in Kern County,” Barlow and Constantine said.
“We applaud the efforts of school districts in Kern that have made proactive choices to prepare to close their schools to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and also comply with Governor Newsom’s Executive Order (N-26-20) to continue to deliver the following essential services to our children and families after school closure:
• High quality educational opportunities to students that address equity and access issues of students in disadvantaged communities,
• A free and appropriate public education to students with disabilities consistent with required individualized education programs under the IDEA,
• School meals in noncongregate settings that protects the safety of students and school personnel,
• Supervision for students during ordinary school hours.
Although there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Kern County, we are recommending that all Kern County K-12 schools, preschools, and charter schools close temporarily, no later than the close of school on Wednesday, March 18, 2020. We are further recommending that Kern County public schools plan to reopen no earlier than Tuesday, April 14, 2020. School closures should be implemented in a manner consistent with Governor Gavin Newsom’s Executive Order N-26-20 (March 13, 2020) to ensure the provision of core and essential services to children.
“This is a difficult but necessary decision as we try to slow the spread of the virus into Kern County and protect our most vulnerable populations. I fully support it,” said Dr. Mary C. Barlow, Kern County Superintendent of Schools.
“There has been extensive consultation and planning with our school district superintendents and the Kern County Public Health Services Department to determine the correct course of action while serving the needs of the children and families in Kern. I want to personally thank Matt Constantine and his staff for their extraordinary collaboration and support during preparations for the temporary closure of public schools in our county”, Barlow added.
While children are out of school during this temporary closure, it is important to reduce their risk exposure to COVID-19. “Parents should avoid taking their children to crowded areas like shopping malls and stores and should avoid all non-essential travel,” said Matt Constantine, Director of Kern County Public Health Services.
Residents are urged to visit www.kern.org and www.kernpublichealth.com for additional information.