LAS VEGAS — Clark County schools released their plan for reopening the Clark County schools last Tuesday, which includes a proposal to have students attend school two days a week and take classes online three days a week.
The plan was posted in advance of last Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting, and stated that students will be divided into two groups they call “cohorts.”
Cohort A will attend classes on campus Mondays and Tuesdays, and Cohort B attending classes on campus Thursdays and Fridays.
Both cohorts will receive the rest of their classes online on the days they are not on campus. CCSD will also offer a third choice for students who wish to avoid on-campus attendance altogether with full time distance learning.
The Board of Trustees heard the recommendations compiled by staff and could approve it at the July 9 meeting. The state board of education then also has to approve the plan The district also is considering a delayed start date of Aug. 24 and the maximum capacity for all classrooms will be 18 students.
According to the plan, elementary students will take language arts, math, reading, social studies and science classes on campus, receiving art, music, physical education and all research or library access online from home. The students will eat breakfast and lunch in the classroom.
For middle school students, their entire year courses will be condensed into one semester, with courses limited to English, math and a combination of social studies, science, health, physical education or electives.
High school also will be condensed to one semester, consisting of only four courses, with classes starting at 7 a.m. and limited to two two-hour courses each day. Students will eat lunch at noon.
CCSD will utilize a Department of Agriculture waiver to continue serving food at the previously established food sites for non-campus days. The schedules also include a 30-minute break for staggered passing periods to ensure social distancing.
The students and staff will all be required to wear face masks.
Transportation plans are being developed, with a parent and guardian survey coming soon to determine the number of active riders. The district is determining whether it has enough buses to transport students under social distancing guidelines. Bus drivers will be expected to disinfect handrails, seat tops and entrance doors, while a private contractor will disinfect buses nightly.
Another issue is gathering and distributing enough Chromebooks for all the students for home learning with another 96,000 devices still needed, according to the presentation, at an estimated cost of $28 million on top of the money already spent for the first batch that CCSD has been distributing across the district. Supt. Jesus Jara recently was in Laughlin handing them out to the students there on the fourth outing of the CCSD big bus.
The total cost of the proposed 2020-2021 school year plan is $84.6 million. Over half of that will be spent on the Chromebooks and building out school infrastructure to provide 1:1 WiFi to supply all areas of the district.
An additional $15 million will go toward personal protective equipment, and an additional
$3 million on professional learning for teachers, substitutes and support professionals.
This comes at a time when Nevada is $900 million in the hole due to COVID-19 revenue losses and cost overruns that already existed prior to the pandemic.
In reply, the Clark County Education Association released its list of demands for reopening schools, which include initial COVID-19 testing for all employees, follow-up testing as the year progresses and medical care for employees that become infected.
The CCEA also seeks options for all employees who don’t feel safe returning to work, according to CCEA Executive Director John Vellardita.
“You have a smaller class. You have them for two days. So what can you accomplish? And then do they slip, since they’re out of the classroom and doing distance learning?” Vellardita said. “They’re probably going to ask these teachers to be superhuman, teaching live and keeping track of the students doing distance learning.”
Vellardita said he believes the plan is likely to change pending the outcome of the special legislative session concerning the state budget and shortfall and more financial cuts that may come down from the state.
“It’s a precarious situation. It depends on the funding. That’s what’s hanging over all these reopening plans,” he said. “But the district is trying to comply with the requirements.”
There was an immediate reaction to the modified school week, mainly concerning how to deal with elementary-aged children on their off days. This would require child care and additional costs to the parents as well as logistical headaches just as they are returning to work and in desperate need of maintaining their income after many were furloughed during the state’s shutdown that lasted 78 days. Nevada is still only in Phase Two of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s four-phase plan.
Rebecca Dirks Garcia, a CCSD parent and president of the Nevada PTA, said “I have children who also had a very difficult time with online learning, and while I have confidence planned online learning will be different than emergency distance learning, I still know for two of my children it’s not a good fit, especially without significant supervision, which is hard if my husband and I are working,” Garcia, was a member of the working group trying to develop a plan and said she just learned about the district’s plan last Tuesday, stating “there is likely no perfect solution.”
“How to reopen schools in a state with the largest class sizes in the nation and chronic underfunding is an overwhelming challenge,” she said.
Jessica Houchins, a school counselor, said “There will always be negativity about a plan this large, but I’m happy with the outcome and hope that our community can pull together to figure out day care options for families that need it on the days kids aren’t physically in school.”