MOJAVE – Kern County’s handling of the coronavirus, including reduced infection rates over the last month, is likely to shift its status into the red tier of California’s four-stage re-opening process. 

Despite being hit with an artificial inflater for not meeting state average testing of COVID-19, if Kern’s metrics continue to lower, the county may begin re-opening some indoor services on Tuesday.

But schools must wait an additional 14 days before they can re-open, per guidelines from the California Department of Public Health and Kern County. That means Kern County must remain the in red before schools can resume in-person instruction Oct. 27."

The waiting period ensures student and staff safety in the event Kern County shifts back into a purple tier, the most restrictive stage.

Mojave Unified School District has already taken steps to push that, despite a board decision made at a Sept. 28 special meeting to continue distance education through December as a precautionary measure.

Mojave and California City students have remained at home since the start of the fall semester, Aug. 6. The district has provided all of its students with Chromebooks, as well as mobile hotspots as needed for those without adequate internet access.

When the state announced a change in how it tracked metrics, the governor also announced school districts in “purple” tier counties would remain limited to distance learning models.

On Oct. 6, the board of education provided Superintendent Katherine Aguirre to push ahead with re-instituting in-person instruction.

“On the 14th day we could declare our schools open,” Aguirre told the board. “That would come as an unhitching of our wagon from the county Department of Public Health as well as the county office of education to proceed as we need to as a district to meet the community needs.”

Aguirre stressed it wouldn’t mean an accelerated opening. Instead, the decision will allow MUSD schools to re-open at their own pace with the safety of students, staff and teachers in mind.

“It would give us the advantage of hitting that very tiny window should the county into a purple status,” Aguirre said. 

Should the county remain in the red zone past the mandated 14-waiting period, the school district would file its declaration with Kern County and post it on its website.

In a Sept. 29 letter to parents, Aguirre addressed what a re-opening might look like once the school district gets the green light.

“The reopening of campuses will be gradual and with appropriate protocols in place,” Aguirre wrote. “We are committed to the safety of our students, staff, and community and while we can’t guarantee a 100% virus-proof environment, we can make sure that we have safety protocols in place.”

Mojave Unified will utilize a Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan that the board of education adopted on Sept. 1 and finalized Sept. 28. The plan outlines everything from student transportation to requiring masks of students and personal protection equipment for teachers and staff. 

The district will have to address how to properly schedule middle and high school classes and limit contact with other cohorts to prevent a COVID-19 outbreak.

Aguirre also noted the impact the distance education has had on staff, parents and students but expressed admiration for all in trying to ensure that the school year did start as smoothly as possible.

“We definitely had some obstacles to overcome and it took everyone to work through them,” Aguirre wrote. “With your continued support, we will make this year a success for all of our students.”

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