Small cohorts could be allowed on campus

Taft-area schools are discussing a plan to open schools for a limited number of students.

Both Taft City School District and the Taft Union High School District boards recently discussed the guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health for allowing small groups of students and staff to attend in-person schools.

It's part of a larger program designed to provide education and supervision in a "...controlled, supervised, and indoor environments operated by local educational agencies, non-profits, public and private schools, child care providers, recreation programs, before- and after-school programs, youth groups, and day camps."

But its not going to be an easy prospect.

TCSD Supt. Julie Graves updated the Board of Education on the limited reopening last week, and it was on the agenda for Monday's TUHSD meeting as well.

Graves said it cannot involve more than 25 percent of the district's students and will involve only 14 students and two adults per room.

Each school will have to prepare and get approval of a safety plan before the students can come back in.

The plan came up as a TCSD teacher told the board that the Canvas educational program the district is using for online instruction is causing a "super high frustration level" for students and teachers.

Michelle Geary said there are problems sharing documents and students are being dropped as often as 5 to 6 times per hour. She said the Chromebooks the District is using aren’t designed for Canvas.

Still, she said what the district has done so far to educate students online "an amazing feat."

Graves aid the new small cohort plan will be used until Kern County's COVID-19 situation improves enough to allow schools to reopen for in person instruction.

The plan is apparently not aimed at the general population.

State guidelines indicate the program is aimed at prioritizing "...English learners, students at higher risk of further learning loss or not participating in distance learning, students at risk of abuse or neglect, foster youth and students experiencing homelessness..."

Graves said the district hopes to identify a cohort group for the program in the next week.

"The purpose of this guidance is to establish minimum parameters for providing specialized services, targeted services and support for students while schools are otherwise closed for in-person instruction.”

State documents contained the following guidelines:

• Cohorts must be limited to no more than 14, with no more than two supervising adults. 

• Cohorts may not interact with other such groups, including interactions between staff assigned to different cohorts. 

• Supervising adults should be assigned to one group and must work solely with that group. 

• Cohorts must be kept separate from one another for special activities such as art, music, and exercise. 

• Physical distancing between children in the same cohort should be balanced with developmental and socio‐emotional needs of the age group. 

• Physical distancing between adults must be maintained to the greatest extent possible, and adults and students must wear face coverings, pursuant to the CDPH Schools Guidance. 

• One-to-one specialized services can be provided to a child or youth by a support service provider that is not part of the cohort. 

• Requirements for adult to child ratios continue to apply for licensed child care programs.