Education Spotlight: How MCOE is preparing to bring students back to school

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- In ABC30's segment, Education Spotlight, Action News Anchor Landon Burke will talk with Merced County Office of Education (MCOE) officials about some of the biggest topics in education.

"Back to School" has a whole new meaning this year.

Landon Burke spoke with the MCOE superintendent about the county's plans for bringing kids back to the classroom.

Landon: Today, we are talking about the Ready to Return campaign. Can you tell me a little bit about this campaign?

Dr. Steve Tietjen: Sure. Well, what we're trying to do is emphasize the importance of students coming back to school. We had about 60% of the kids come back last spring when all the districts were open, and quite frankly, we were worried that there still be a large number of kids that would stay at home and want to do independent study or parents who would want to do that because they weren't sure if it was safe or not. We spent a lot of time and effort to try to make sure that parents understand how hard districts, school districts have worked to make sure that their children are safe. They're coming back to school because it's a community-wide issue, not just for schools but for employers as well. We want to be that strong community partner that supports the entire community and families getting back to something like normal of 2019.

Landon: Tell me a little bit more about that point you made about how this affects the wider community?

Dr. Tietjen: I sit on the Workforce Investment Board that provides employment training for unemployed members of our community. In listening to the Director of Workforce Investment this past spring, he was quite concerned that we just don't have the labor available to reopen to go back to normal. That we lost a large sector of employees that happened to be moms, and that those moms are choosing to stay home. We're concerned that if we don't get employment back up, then we're not going to fully recover. And if we don't get kids back in school, then moms are not going to go back to work. We would like to support the community, getting our places of business fully staffed here in Merced. We'd like to do that by making sure that parents are comfortable with the safety measures that we're taking in schools. We want to be sure that parents who have questions can reach out to me or reach out to their local district superintendent to ask questions about safety protocols. We want to also make sure that if parents absolutely want an option, there is an independent study option here in Merced County. It's not like last year, Zoom kind of all day, on it in front of the camera, it's much more concise and focused in than hour per week for older kids, an hour per day for younger kids, it's not the classroom experience at all. And it's going to require a lot of parents' support for kids to go on independent study. And so we just want to make sure parents understand that as they look forward to this coming year, and we want to welcome them all back if they are comfortable coming back.
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