LAS VEGAS — The Clark County School District has finally settled on how to approach the coming school year.

Stay home. At least to start out.

CCSD, which includes the Laughlin schools, has opted for a choice that few parents find appealing as it means their children will not be going to school at all next month, but rather will start the school year from home doing distance learning full time. 

CCSD had mapped out a mixed methodology to its approach and that concept passed by vote with the board of trustees. The original plan called for two days of in-person schooling and three days of distance learning (online learning from home). As was the issue during the height of the COVID pandemic, when the children are schooling from home, so too must a parent, (or a guardian) also be present, thus placing a financial strain on households in which both parents work. Either one of them has to quit their job, find a way to work from home or they must hire a caregiver for them thus causing added financial strain on the household.

On July 21, in a slight reversal of their previous position on mixed in-class/home-school approach, the Clark County School District Board of Trustees voted unanimously for students to start off the school year with full distance learning. Trustees claimed after a lengthy meeting the decision was “dictated’ by health concerns and a climb in COVID-19 cases in the Vegas Valley.”

“Hospitals have been reporting a rising trend in hospital ICU bed occupancy and ventilator use until about the last 24 hours with a slight decline noted,” said Linda Kalekas, health services coordinator for CCSD.

CCSD staff are now emphasizing the need to address rising COVID cases in Nevada and surrounding states when they came to that vote to start off the school year fully online for students. The school year will also be set back to a start date of Aug. 24.

Dr. Linda Young, of the CCSD Board of Trustees, said, “I’m going to be blunt, I’m really frustrated,” adding, “We’ve been talking about broadband access and connectivity and then give out survey that many people in my community can’t even do the survey because they don’t that access. They don’t have connectivity. They don’t have devices — and it’s like we’ve been doing this almost three months.”

Survey results released Tuesday, included about a third of the district’s more than 320,000 students. In that survey, a majority of parents voiced a desire for some form of in-class instruction. One of the main reasons was because of worries about child care for families of students and staff.

“This has all been about the spread of disease and yet we have a letter from the county commission asking if we can warehouse kids for daycare in our schools,” said Chris Garvey, of the CCSD Board of Trustees. “So there’s conflicting language here.”

The district is still trying to determine which areas don’t have internet access and is working on a plan to get Chromebooks for the remaining students who don’t have one using CARES Act money.

“What about my homeless kids?” said Young. “Nobody’s asking me about those 15,000 plus kids that are homeless. And when are we going to follow up with the principals? They know their schools better than everybody.”

Several trustees during the meeting said that more power and input needs to go to principals moving forward rather than the district.

Tuesday’s vote did have some silver lining for parts of the district in that rural schools will have the option to participate in in-person classes if their COVID numbers are lower. They must meet infection rate criteria and follow social distancing guidelines, but some of the most vulnerable and least able to afford caregivers for their kids might just be spared the extra costs associated with full time home schooling. 

District officials plan to utilize the distance learning for the first semester, and the board will get constant updates from Southern Nevada Health District and from CCSD officials to determine when other options can be pursued.

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