Editor’s note: Bakersfield School announced Oct. 16 that, due to an increase in covid cases in the school and the community, it was again transitioning to virtual learning until Tuesday, Nov. 3. Here, Bakersfield superintendent Dr. Amy Britt shares her thoughts about the district’s decision.
It was such a hard decision this time to go back to virtual learning, even though we had more kids and staff with the virus and quarantines. The last day we were in session, we had 34 percent of the student population in seated learning, and we were sending more kids home sick every day. Our entire high school was already virtual, one of the kindergarten classes was completely virtual, and well over half of the middle school was either positive or quarantined.
With that kind of spread, it was tough to risk that the other kids at school would not only get the virus but also take it home to people who live with them who are vulnerable.
We have taken massive precautions at the school, but I think outside activities are also contributing to the spread. It seems people are becoming weary of the precautions. I understand. I want life to go back to normal also. The weather is turning cooler, and people want to get out and enjoy the fall season. People are tired of not seeing their loved ones. I completely identify with the desire for life to get back to normal!
It’s tough because I know it’s best for kids to have seated instruction. The staff also prefers seated instruction because they can provide immediate feedback to the students in a seated situation. For most students, seated instruction is the best-case scenario for learning because the teacher is right there and can help them correct mistakes to better ensure mastery of skills.
Additionally, kids need the social interaction that comes from seated learning. Even though many students won’t recognize this, I believe kids have an internal need for school. The structure and socialization that come from learning in a public setting cannot be replaced by distance learning. Online learning definitely has its place, but it cannot replace the human connection that comes from seated learning.
Another concern I have is the stress virtual learning adds to kids and families. I know that both parents must work in most households. To work all day and try to teach your child, or sometimes several children, in the evenings adds stress to the parents and to the kids. I know this is not the best situation. I really wanted to stay the course with seated learning, but the numbers were so high it really did not make sense or seem like the safest course of action during this time.
So we will sanitize again and work hard to be ready when students may return on Nov. 3. After that, we will have three weeks until Thanksgiving break and then three weeks until Christmas break. It is my earnest hope that this is the last virtual session we will have to have.
I appreciate all the parents, students and teachers who make this work. I have seen our teachers spend time online, on the phone, on Messenger, on Zoom, and even going to kids’ houses, down to the park and driving up beside parents and students in the parking lot to help kids. I know it’s hard to connect at times that are convenient for parents who work during the day, but our teachers are extremely flexible and they want to help our students. I appreciate their dedication.
During this virtual session, we have staff members available during school hours for calls, messages, Zooms or any other method of communication necessary. In addition to this, all staff (unless they are positive for covid) will come to school on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5 to 7 p.m. to assist kids (who are not positive or quarantined). Please wear your mask!
Learning despite obstacles is never easy, but my dad always told me that anything worth having was worth working for – and usually didn’t come easy. Knowledge is something no one can ever take from you and is definitely worth working for. Keep fighting the fight, and stay healthy!