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CCSD welcomes students as 22-23 school year begins

Updated August 9, 2022 - 2:58 pm

Check out our team’s coverage of the first day of school in the Clark County School District.

1:20 p.m.

New faces, improved security

Shortly after the dismissal bell rang at Foothill High School, students streamed outside as parking lots and nearby streets became congested with cars.

Savannah Thomas, 16 – who was standing on a sidewalk near the school with her bicycle – said there were lots of new faces on the first day of school, noting she has friends who have graduated.

She said the first day wasn’t much different from past years, but she noticed one change: “The security is a lot better.”

Thomas said there are stricter tardy lockouts – referring to when the school’s entrance is locked – and new gates.

She said her class sizes range from about 20 to 40 students, with the largest being her theater class.

— Julie Wootton-Greener

12:30 p.m.

Foothill High School

At Foothill High School in Henderson, Superintendent Jesus Jara and other officials — including U.S. Rep. Susie Lee and University of Nevada, Reno, President and former Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval — visited teacher Regan Peterson’s English 101 dual credit class. It allows students to earn college credit through a partnership with UNR.

UNR offers dual credit classes at six Clark County School District campuses. The partnership began last school year.

Student Jadyn Rouse, 17, told visitors that she took the dual credit class after her middle school English teacher inspired her to push herself.

Classmate Ashton Winningham, 15, said, “I like to challenge myself educationally and get ahead.”

Sandoval told students that he thinks taking the class will be an amazing experience for them and that they’re “part of the Wolf Pack family.”

“You really are pioneers,” he said, noting they will set an example for students who come after them.

Sandoval said there’s no difference between the material students will learn through the Foothill High-based class versus what’s taught at the university’s main campus in Reno.

— Julie Wootton-Greener

12:30 p.m.

School bus fire

A Clark County School District bus caught on fire, prompting a partial closure of the 215 Beltway in the western Las Vegas Valley.

Nevada Highway Patrol spokeswoman Ashlee Wellman said the bus caught on fire on the shoulder of the highway at 12:30 p.m. near Hualapai Avenue. Only the bus driver was on board, and no one was injured.

“The bus was also safely pulled to the right shoulder, before catching fire,” Wellman tweeted. “The fuel then leaked onto the roadway.”

The bus was badly damaged by flames before firefighters put out the blaze. The westbound lanes of the highway were closed at Hualapai as of 1:45 p.m.

— Glenn Puit

11:40 a.m.

‘179 more to go’

On the first day of school, the district had 291,893 students enrolled, Superintendent Jesus Jara said at a mid-day news conference at the Central Technical Training Academy and Global Community High School campus.

There weren’t any law enforcement incidents on the first day of school, Jara said about school safety.

He said his message to parents is “you are the first line of defense” and encouraged them to ask their children about their day at school and then dive deeper to ask what they learned and how they can support them.

As for transportation, there was a 90 percent on-time arrival school bus rate Monday, Jara said, noting there are still 82 bus routes that have vacancies.

The district had a 62.5 percent “substitute fill rate” – how many classroom vacancies on the first day of school were covered by substitute teachers. The rest were covered in other ways, such as teachers selling their preparation periods and school district central office administrators being deployed to classrooms.

Jara said the teacher shortage is a “a crisis of inequities,” since many schools with the largest number of vacancies are largely in the north valley.

He said the district is monitoring the situation, and channeling substitute teachers to those campuses is a high priority.

As he wrapped up after answering reporter questions, Jara said his message to the community is: “Great first day. 179 more to go.” He also thanked the district’s employees.

— Julie Wootton-Greener

11:15 a.m.

Central Technical Training Academy

and Global Community High School

At the new Central Technical Training Academy and Global Community High School campus, Superintendent Jesus Jara chatted with a few students who were eating lunch, including Central Technical junior Roman Hernandez.

Hernandez attended Coronado High School in Henderson before transferring to the new school, where he’s studying construction.

“It’s really in line with my life goals,” he said.

Hernandez said he likes the campus and its modernist architecture, saying it’s a nice break from the brick and concrete at other schools.

He also said there are small class sizes.

Jara and other district officials, along with state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert, visited a Global Community science class.

Teacher Carolina Mendez introduced herself to students and asked them to repeat, “Today is Monday, August 8.”

Global Community has about 140 students from 11 countries — all of whom have been in the United States for less than two years.

Principal Elena Fabunan said the school community spoke with the architect before the campus was built to share their vision for an open space and “nothing enclosed,” noting that some students were previously in detention centers and experienced trauma in their journeys to the United States.

— Julie Wootton-Greener

9:15 a.m.

Duncan Elementary School

At Duncan Elementary in North Las Vegas, Superintendent Jesus Jara toured the school’s “Zen Den.”

Jara said a goal is to expand the “Zen Den” concept to other schools in every community and ZIP code.

The space — which started with a punching bag — was created pre-COVID-19 pandemic to help children curb aggressive behaviors in an appropriate way, Principal Amy Manning said.

After children returned to campuses in 2021 after a year of distance learning, the focus shifted to being used as a positive reward, as well as for students who need more support.

Teachers and staff also use the room during preparation time when they need a calming environment or a reset, Manning said. “Everyone is entitled to a bad day.”

The space features spa-like music, mini trampolines, games, seating like bean bag chairs and balance balls, a hammock — which Jara tried out — and a celestial-themed pop-up tent with a tunnel.

Children spend a maximum of 20 minutes in the room, Manning said, noting academics come first, but it helps students get into a ready-to-learn mode.

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It’s also used as a whole class reward, plus teachers pick two or three students each month who exemplify the school’s values to receive a 30-minute party in the den.

The space is a way to reinforce positive behavior, Jara said, including for those who don’t have that support at home.

— Julie Wootton-Greener

8:15 a.m.

Free supplies, snacks

As students at Kelly Elementary School walked the red carpet into their school Monday, they were greeted by backpacks filled with school supplies and snack bags with chips, candy and granola bars.

For mom Karla Zaragoza, the free supplies and snack bags came as a surprise. Her family just moved to the neighborhood from California, and it’s her son’s first year at the school.

“All the teachers we’ve met have been really friendly. We love it,” she said. “That’s the first thing we look at, how the teachers are, how the staff is. You can tell they love their jobs.”

Principal Jerrell Deborah Hall started her teaching career at Kelly 19 years ago. The school’s primarily Black and Hispanic students all qualify for free and reduced-price lunch and faced different challenges during the pandemic. When Chromebooks were issued to students to do distance learning, it was the first computer that some families had ever had in their home.

“Each and every day we work to meet the needs of the kids. They come to school each and every day, then and now, with different needs, and so we work really hard to meet those needs,” the principal said.

Superintendent Jesus Jara said Monday that it was a priority for him and the School Board to revive the community surrounding Kelly Elementary.

The school building, built in 1961, is one of the oldest in the school district. The district plans to rebuild the school in 2027.

“We’re excited to have a new, innovative building, just to kind of get that energy and pride for students as a place to come and learn and thrive,” Hall said.

— Lorraine Longhi

7:40 a.m.

Kelly Elementary School

Gov. Steve Sisolak, U.S. Rep. Susie Lee, Superintendent Jesus Jara and other officials gathered at Kelly Elementary School in the Historic Westside to welcome students and staff to school on a red carpet.

Earlier this year, the district reported that Kelly had the highest teacher vacancy rate in the district at 40.7 percent. Nearly 80 percent of students at schools with at least a 20 percent teacher vacancy rate are Black or Hispanic, according to the district’s numbers.

Sisolak said he had made a point to visit Kelly for the last several years for the first day of school because of its diverse population. More than 90 percent of the households in the school community were headed by single moms, he said.

“That school, they need to know, the students, the teachers, the faculty, everybody … that the community is behind them and we support them,” he said.

— Lorraine Longhi

6:30 a.m.

Eldorado High School

Waves of students, dropped off by parents and school buses, steadily streamed through the front entrance of Eldorado High School Monday morning on the first day of classes.

The single point of entry is just one of the latest security measures the district adopted following the brutal attack of a teacher at the school in April.

In the wake of the attack, the district announced new security measures at valley schools, including an instant alert system, upgraded security cameras and increased police presence. Eldorado will receive more than $26 million in promised upgrades.

Fifteen-year-old junior Ethan Burton walked up to the school, off of Linn Lane and Washington Avenue, after being dropped off at 6:30 a.m. It’s Burton’s second year at Eldorado, after he moved to the area from California.

Burton said the teacher who was attacked last year was his English teacher.

“I felt pretty bad about it. She was such a nice person, I don’t know why somebody would do something like that,” he said. “I can only hope she’s better now.”

He said he thinks safety could be improved at the school and that the crime left him “shocked,” but ultimately he still views school the same way he did before.

After a summer of doing electrical work with his brother, he’s looking forward to returning to school, where his favorite class is history, which he credits to the “the best teacher ever,” Mr. Woofter.

“He made everything fun. He made everything so simple. He didn’t make anything complicated,” he said. “He just made it easy to learn.”

In the moments leading up to the first bell, and even afterward, administrators and teachers continued to greet students and direct them to their classes. Teacher Jesica Benton stood outside the entrance, calling out affirmations to students as they walked in and pulling one incoming freshman aside to reassure her and calm her nerves on the first day.

“Look at that smile,” she said to one grinning student ducking out of the passenger side of his car while being dropped off. “That made my day.”

— Lorraine Longhi

5:40 a.m.

Arville Transporation Yard

Bus driver Fannie Carter did a safety check of her bus early Monday, did a little bit of cleaning, then readied to drive her bus out of the district’s transportation yard on Arville Street shortly after dawn Monday.

A full day of getting kids to and from school was underway.

“Very anxious,” Carter said, smiling. “You never know what to expect on the first day of school.”

This nervous excitement was a common thread at schools across Clark County as the district welcomed about 300,000 students for a new school year. The nation’s fifth-largest district, with more than 360 campuses, has a handful of events planned for the first day.

“We are excited to be welcoming all of our students back,” said Superintendent Jesus Jara. “Our educators, our staff, our support staff, our bus drivers. It is a great day for the Clark County School District. It is a great day for this community.

“The goal for the day, just to be quite candid, is getting our kids to school and getting them home,” Jara said. “That is the No. 1 priority to get all of the systems moving with children. For the academic year I’m going to tell you we’ve got to try and fill our vacancies. Our academic numbers have to improve.”

District Transportation Director Jennifer Vobis said safety was a top priority as 1,302 buses hit the roads to transport kids on the first day of school.

“There’s a lot of planning that goes into it,” she said. “We look at the number of routes, of students, how many schools, how many buses, the number of eligible students. How do we efficiently have one bus transport as many students as possible to different schools and make sure the times align to make sure everybody is on time.”

Vobis said the district has made improvements in filling bus driver vacancies. The district currently has 82 vacant bus driver positions compared to 250 vacancies at one point last year.

“We have a class in, 45 trainees, hopefully we will have a large pass rate on that class,” she said.

— Glenn Puit

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