Merced County Office of Education launches Ready to Return campaign

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- School districts across Merced County are ready to return to in-person instruction with measures to keep students and staff safe.

On Monday, the Merced County Office of Education launched its "Ready to Return" to school campaign on many different platforms, promoting the message, "Students thrive when they are in the classroom."

Parents, teachers and students across Merced County are gearing up for the start of the school year very soon, with high hopes for in-person learning.

Josh Pedrozo is known by many as a county supervisor, but he's also a father who worked as a teacher for more than 12 years.

He said, "I'm really excited and they're incredibly excited to get back to work and to see their friends."

Pedrozo believes students, including his own, need to have that direct teacher support in the classroom.

"My son, he needs somebody to be able to have a teacher who is actually helping with him to do the work as opposed to learning online. He had a difficult time doing that, so I personally witnessed the learning loss of it," Pedrozo said.

In a press conference Monday, Merced County Office of Education leaders addressed just that - learning loss.

MCOE launched its Ready to Return campaign with video and radio commercials, plus billboards that will be around the county and featured on social media.

Merced County Superintendent of Schools Steve Tietjen, Ed.D, says students experienced a loss of two to three months of progress in comparison to a typical year in the classroom.

"Emotional collateral damage has been a challenge for students in California," Tietjen said.

To do that safely, school districts in Merced County are requiring students to wear masks indoors. and some sites are holding vaccine clinics over the next two weeks.

Any unvaccinated teacher or other staff member must keep their mask on all day.

In addition, schools have worked to improve ventilation by upgrading their H-VAC systems with new and stronger filters - or replacing the unit entirely.

Merced County's Public Health Director Rebecca Nanyonjo, said, "Some of the tougher days may be ahead of us. One of the safest places for students to return is school."

The health department's focus is to increase the vaccination rate.

Right now, only 39 percent of the residents in Merced county are fully vaccinated.

Fifteen percent of children 12 to 18 have received COVID-19 vaccinations in the county.

The county's K-12 school districts serve about 60,000 students with many of those students back in the classroom next Wednesday, August 11.
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