August 5, 2022 - 7:00 am
Updated August 5, 2022 - 12:06 pm
About 300,000 students will load up their backpacks and head back to classes Monday in the Clark County School District.
Here are seven things to know about the new school year in the nation’s fifth-largest school district:
No mask mandate
Unlike the beginning of last school year, there’s no COVID-19 mask mandate, but students and employees can choose to wear one, if they’d like.
In February, Gov. Steve Sisolak lifted the state’s mask mandate for indoor public places and gave school districts the option of setting their own policies. The Clark County School District announced the same day it would no longer require masks.
As of Thursday, Clark County was experiencing a “medium” level of COVID-19 community transmission, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The school district is asking for parents to continue checking their students for COVID-19 symptoms, said Diane Lewis, executive director of health services and inclusive schools, at a back-to-school preview event Thursday for reporters at Bell Elementary School in Las Vegas.
Also, like last school year, there’s a phone hotline — 702-799-4322 — parents should call to report if their child tests positive for COVID-19, was exposed to someone who tested positive or if they have questions about symptoms.
The hotline is staffed from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Parents should call the hotline and not their child’s school, Lewis said.
Last school year, parents and employees struggled to get through phone hotlines at times when COVID-19 cases were surging.
Now, “we feel very prepared,” Lewis said, noting the district has increased the number of hotline staff. More than 30 employees are staffing the hotline on rotating shifts.
Employees will continue this school year to fill out a daily symptom monitoring questionnaire via emocha Mobile Health before reporting to work.
Students and employees who test positive for COVID-19 must stay home for five days and can return to school once their symptoms have improved — including being fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medication — and must wear a mask for five additional days.
If someone is deemed a close contact — less than 6 feet away for a total of at least 15 minutes in a 24-hour period — with someone who tests positive, quarantine rules vary depending on vaccination status.
Those who are up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations can return to school if they don’t have symptoms but are required to wear a mask for 10 days.
Those who aren’t must stay home for five days and then wear a mask for five additional days after returning to school.
All students are eligible for free school meals, and that will continue through the 2024-25 school year.
The offering is through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision, which is for school districts with a high rate of students living in poverty.
Last school year, all students also were eligible to receive free meals.
Parents don’t have to fill out free- or reduced-price-meal paperwork, school district dietitian Jake Yarberry said Thursday.
The big change this school year: Salad bars are returning to campuses after being put on hiatus earlier during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
To see menus, visit ccsd.nutrislice.com.
Clark County School District Police Lt. Bryan Zink said Thursday there will be increased patrols during the first two weeks of school — something that’s done every year.
Following a spike in school violence last school year — including a teacher who was beaten and sexually assaulted by a student in April at Eldorado High School — campuses will have increased security measures.
Those include new perimeter fencing and a single point of entry, and other district efforts such as upgrading security cameras and school bus cameras.
Instant alert systems were piloted at nine high schools over the summer. Teachers and staff wear a badge that includes a button they can push to call for help or trigger a campus lockdown.
Superintendent Jesus Jara said at a news conference last month there will be a recommendation coming to expand the instant alert system districtwide.
Free virtual tutoring
The school district recently announced during a news conference at Kelly Elementary School in Las Vegas that it’s partnering with Paper to provide unlimited 24/7 virtual tutoring.
It will be free for students, and the district is paying for the partnership using federal coronavirus relief money.
One-on-one support will be available in more than 200 subject areas, according to a news release.
Last school year, 11 schools piloted the offering.
School start and end times
The district is adjusting start and end times for more than half of its approximately 360 campuses this school year. It’s an effort to improve school bus on-time rates and boost efficiency.
Most of the changes are 30 minutes or less, but some campuses will see more drastic changes — shifts of one to two hours.
The district has 82 school bus driver vacancies, said Amber Rideout, director of operations for transportation, on Thursday.
Rideout said she doesn’t expect the same delays in service that occurred last school year, which caused some students to arrive late to school.
Parents can download the OnBoard mobile app to track the location of their child’s bus. Rideout also encouraged parents to make sure their children have their route information.
For more information, visit transportation.ccsd.net.
The district is facing a staffing shortage again this school year, including teachers and support staff.
Director of Recruitment Brian Redmond said on Thursday that the district will start the school year with a licensed teacher in 92 percent of classrooms and is 94 percent staffed for school bus drivers.
The district has more than 1,300 licensed vacancies, he said, which includes teachers.
For the first day of school, more than 60 percent of classroom vacancies will be covered by substitutes, he said. The rest will be handled by teachers selling their preparation periods or by school district central office administrators.
Even after the new school year begins, the district will continue to try to find more teachers, Redmond said, noting that recruitment is a year-round process.
In mid-July, the district had 1,373 licensed job openings — more than twice as many as previous years, according to data obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Classroom vacancies could lead to larger class sizes, more classes covered by substitute teachers and fewer course offerings.