With pressure growing for the Clark County School District to modify its school reopening plan, Superintendent Jesus Jara said Tuesday that the time has come to move forward on the existing blueprint.
The plan, which calls for a hybrid approach that would allow students to attend classes in person two days a week and work online for three and includes an online-only option, is headed for a vote before the Board of Trustees on Thursday.
Jara, speaking at a virtual news briefing on Tuesday, said he hopes to have answered lingering questions trustees raised in a special meeting on Monday by the time of the vote.
In addition to facing a state deadline requiring districts to submit a reopening proposal at least 20 days before the proposed first day of the school year on Aug. 10, the district is also under the gun in planning implementation, he said.
‘We’ve been on this for months’
“We have to start routing our buses, we have to start moving forward,” Jara said. “We’ve been on this for months.”
The district was required to submit a plan that accounted for in-person learning, distance learning and a hybrid model to the Nevada Department of Education by the deadline. If it doesn’t, or the plan is voted down, the district may need to delay the start of the 2020 school year, according to Jara.
It’s not entirely clear when the deadline is: Jara said the district must submit its plans by July 13, 20 business days before the scheduled first day of school, but the state didn’t specify that it was going by business days, meaning the district could have until July 21 to act.
Jara noted that the district’s plan, which closely resembles the draft presented to the School Board on June 25, has been modified in response to concerns raised in the intervening weeks and will be further amended to reflect feedback about teacher prep days in the final draft.
The Clark County Education Association said Tuesday the union would like the district to offer a a five-day, in-school option in addition to a five-day distance learning-only option.
Union wants 5-day classroom option
“Every parent should have a choice to have their child do distance learning five days a week or be in a classroom five days a week,” the union said in a statement. “Every educator should have a choice to either teach in a classroom five days a week or do distance learning five days a week.”
Jara said the district’s class sizes and expected funding levels do not support a return to classes five days per week.
He described the plan as a shell providing a basic structure for schools. If individual schools see a majority of their students choosing a distance learning option, he said, the remaining students may be able to return to schools full-time.
CCEA also said it would not support the reopening plan unless Gov. Steve Sisolak provides additional resources to CCSD, including $14 million in CARES Act funding to establish testing and contact tracing protocols for employees.
The union is requesting the federal funds for testing all 40,000 CCSD employees before school starts, ongoing testing throughout the year and personal protective equipment for all.
Sisolak’s office did not immediately return a request for comment on the union’s demand.
Jara said the district itself is in the process of reviewing the governor’s budget reduction proposal, which cuts $166 million from K-12 education across the state, but does not impact the state’s Distributive Schools Account, which accounts for approximately one-third of CCSD’s operating budget.
Mayor Goodman weighs in
Others have also recently taken up the call to return to classrooms, including Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, who said at a monthly meeting of the Nevada Republican Club Tuesday that she had asked Jara and the CCSD Board of Trustees to consider an option for younger children to go back to schools with temperature checks as they board buses.
“I asked our governor, please give us a waiver, and let these children in K-5 or a Pre-K program go back to school,” she said. She did not elaborate on the response, if any.