TUHS discusses opening with 'hybrid' education

Staff Writer
Taft Midway Driller
Faculty representative Wes Morris says TUHS staff "overwhelming" wants to return to class but are afraid of COVID-19.

Taft Union High School's Board is going to vote on reopening school in a hybrid model with a student body divided into two groups of students on Aug. 3 but it could be forced to stay in a distance learning-only mode.

Other local districts, too, may end up without a voice in reopening school campuses after Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined his new guidelines for schools.

Under the rules announced on Friday, schools in counties on the state COVID-19 watchlist for high infection and hospitalization rates will not be allowed any on-campus instruction.

Kern County isn't currently on the watchlist, but it could soon be, county officials said as they announced ramped up testing and evaluation of tests that is expected to dramatically increase Kern's numbers.

Thursday night the TUHSD Board discussed the recommendations from a committee of about 100 teachers, parents, students, school employees and administrators.

The committee is recommending that Westside school districts have half of the students attend on Mondays and Thursdays and half attend Tuesday and Friday. Schools will be closed for cleaning on Wednesdays.

The TUHSD Board met before Newsom's announcement.

The TUHSD Board is scheduled to vote on reopening at a special meeting Aug. 3. The TCSD Board discuss the issue on July 22.

"The likelihood we will impose a hybrid model at sometime is very high," Supt. Blanca Cavazos said.

The recommendation includes strict safety protocols, including masks and screenings for all students and school personnel entering a campus, plus social distancing at school and on buses.

Its complicated and bound to be controversial.

TUHS administrators said they are going to have to deal with parents who have widely different opinions ranging from not wanting to send their children back to a campus to parents who will send their children to attend without masks.

Teachers representative Wes Morris said he has polled the TUHS staff and they want to return to classroom teaching but are afraid of being exposed to the coronavirus.

"My main concern is safety for our members," Morris told the board Thursday evening.

"Kids are wanting to be kids and they are wanting to get back to school," she said. "Overwhelmingly, they would prefer to be in the classroom with their students but they don't feel safe."

The TUHSD Board gave direction to begin preparing to implement the hybrid model before a final decision at the Aug. 3 meeting.

Board member John Kopp expressed frustration at the entire situation.

"Do I want to do an Orange County? Heck yes I do," he said, referring to the Orange County Board of Education's decision not to require any district in the county to take any precautions against CVID if they choose.

"Do I see 100 problems with the hybrid model? Yes I do," he added. "There is no way we can possibly prepare for all the permutations of the hybrid model. This is just an impossible task. We are just not going to feel good no matter what we do."

Kopp said his frustration is not with the administration, but the situation the district has been forced into.

The TUHS teaching staff has been learning about online instruction, which will be a part of the hybrid model, from Taft College professors. Cavazos also said the school is receiving supplies from the California Office of Emergency Services is providing face masks and face shields for teachers and face masks for students.

She also said the District is going to have to hire temporary employees to help with deep cleaning the school.