August 1, 2020 - 10:20 am
While the vast majority of Clark County School District students will begin online classes next month, a handful of schools in rural areas plan to reopen classrooms at least part-time beginning Aug. 24.
Schools in rural communities where COVID-19 transmission has remained relatively low received permission from the district Board of Trustees on July 9 to bring students back under a hybrid plan. But they’ve since found that the approval is limited to the cohort-based model developed by the district — leaving some chafing at the constraints they say don’t apply to their much smaller student populations.
School leaders from Bowler Elementary in Logandale, and Lyon Middle and Moapa Valley High in Overton had hoped to bring students back under a variety of different proposed plans, including full-time in-person learning for the youngest students and a four-day week for middle school students.
But those plans were rejected by the district, they said at a Friday meeting of the Moapa Valley Community Education Association Board, over concerns of equity and adequate time for cleaning.
Options narrowed to 3
CEAB Chair Wendy Mulcock said principals were told that they could instead choose one of three options outlined by the district: full-time in-person learning, full-time distance education or the cohort-based model that sees students attend class two days a week and learn from home three days a week.
With three weeks until students are back in class, principals told the CEAB that they will plan to reopen under the district’s cohort model, while the board plans to request more flexibility in the future from district and state officials.
“What we’re hoping for, our ultimate goal, is that we get a seat at the table to have autonomy to make decisions,” Mulcock said. The reopening decision echoes other moves made by the district to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to schools that look much different than those in Las Vegas, she added.
If they can’t implement their preferred schedules to start, Mulcock said she hoped the state would allow them to do so in a future reopening phase, or when urban schools are allowed to move to hybrid learning.
CEAB Vice Chair Teresa Holzer said that she’s ultimately grateful that rural schools were given consideration at the CCSD board meeting at all. But moving forward, she’d like the district and the state to consider a hybrid plan that works better for rural schools, rather than one aimed at the challenges of urban schools, which can’t safely bring their entire student populations to campuses at the same time.
“I don’t think they ever considered that it would be only the rural schools reopening,” Holzer said. “The guidelines say, keep them 6 feet apart. We can do that.”
Not all want return to class
The desire to return to class is not universal, even within the community.
Della Frank, head of the district’s Indian Education Opportunities Program, said at the CEAB meeting that some families at Ute Perkins Elementary located near the Moapa River Indian Reservation opposed the full-time return to classes that the school had proposed.
Frank said students on the reservation have been on lockdown for several months, with gatherings of more than five people restricted and school buildings such as Moapa Educational Support Center — a tutoring center and computer lab that offered a space for up to 30 students — closed. It has made her worry about her students’ academics, she said.
But Frank added that access to internet and devices has improved since schools shut down in March, with an assist from the Moapa Valley Telephone Company. She said she’s also looking for teachers to provide additional virtual tutoring to her students.
On the other side of Clark County, Indian Springs Schools, a Pre-K -12 program with a total enrollment of 271 students, plans to implement distance learning for middle and high school students, according to Principal Brian Wiseman.
The school had proposed to bring students in kindergarten through third grade back to class full-time, while implementing online learning for those in older grades. But on Friday, Wiseman said that the plan had been rejected and that the school would look to use the district’s cohort model for the elementary school instead.
To ease the challenges of internet access in the area, Wiseman said in a social media message to parents that the school would hand out hotspots, as well as submit a proposal to the district to create on-campus workstations.
Wiseman also said that Lundy Elementary on Mount Charleston, a school of 12 students and two teachers, would be allowed to reopen full-time. A lone student who expressed discomfort with returning to class would enroll in distance learning.