LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- In the first Clark County School District board meeting since the announcement of end-of-year campus closures, trustees outlined the plan for student and teacher checkout procedures and summer learning opportunities. The way forward addressed resource availability, distance learning initiatives and a laundry list of concerns presented during public comment regarding budgeting and safety protocol.
On March 15, all Nevada schools were ordered shuttered by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak. More than a month later, on April 21, the closure was extended through the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, a safety measure that placed the onus of youth education on parents and educators through distance learning.
During Thursday's virtual meeting, trustees and board leadership spelled out end-of-term procedures in five steps:
CLOSING OUT THE 2019-20 SCHOOL YEAR
- STEP 1: School leadership will meet with principals to develop action items to complete steps 2 - 5.
- STEP 2: Principals will virtually develop groups of teachers to conduct end-of-year virtual meetings via Google Hangouts to: discuss schedules and maintenance. Staff will also help students with registration and communicate with parents.
- STEP 3: Teachers will secure classroom technology and school resources, gather personal items, secure classrooms and return keys. They will prepare for the distribution of student personal belongings at site-based distribution centers.
- STEP 4: School sites will be utilized to obtain personal items. Seniors will return digital devices, students will collect belongings and return school property through a drive-thru method. School property includes library books, textbooks, instruments, etc. According to trustees, the process can take more than one week. Only seniors will be required to return computers. All other grade levels will keep digital devices throughout the summer.
- STEP 5: Report cards will be made available on InfiniteCampus and also mailed to every student.
'SO MUCH ANGST'
Parents, students and teachers alike have expressed angst over the closures brought on by COVID-19. Forced distance education has presented a number of challenges such as technological scarcity, familial availability and communication barriers. This week, attendance officers conducted "wellness checks" on the homes of about 100,000 students who have not yet signed up for distance education.
"We are making several attempts to reach the students we are not able to contact," Brenda Larson Mitchell said. "
CCSD has used student contact forms to "navigate every way to reach those students," Mitchell said.
When asked if each student would receive a computer or learning device in the next school year, Superintendent Jesus Jara said he hopes to get "one to every child as far as the money can take us."
"Right now our goal would be to provide a one-to-one device to every student," Jara said. "We will start with high schools, then get them to middle schools and then hopefully to elementary schools"
During the closures, grades are, in effect, frozen. In a memo to parents Thursday, CCSD released guidelines for grading amid the shutdown. Third-quarter grades will remain open for 6th-grade students through 12th. Makeup and redo assignments will be accepted, according to the memo. Third-quarter grades will be used as fourth-quarter grades. Kindergarten through 5th grade students are also able to redo work and submit missing assignments to demonstrate the mastery of objects prior to the shutdowns.
"Nothing can be submitted that would hurt a student's grade," Mitchell said.
SUMMER LEARNING 2020
CCSD is working on providing summer learning opportunities through partnerships with organizations like the Boys and Girls Club and Clark County recreation centers. The goal is to use the summer season to accelerate student learning, develop essential skills and continue professional learning via distance education.
With lessons learned from distance education so far, some changes are on the horizon, board members said Thursday. Leadership is looking for creative ways to maintain safe social distancing, including staggered schedules.
"We have to be prepared to potentially implement a blending learning model, making sure students have devices," Mitchell said.
FEEDING THE KIDS
According to the board presentation, CCSD will continue to operate meal service at its 46 eligibile locations through June 30, 2020 or until the public heath emergency has ended.
But where do we go from here? In relation to CCSD budgeting, the district raised concerns surrounding the fiscal impact of COVID-19, the possibility of recession and enrollment numbers, among other worries.
HOW TO REOPEN: A PATH FORWARD
Before entertaining the idea of reopening schools in a physical format next school year, the board said a set of criteria must be met before entering "phase one" of the plan. Leadership will continue to monitor the outbreak and go from there.
- A consistent and sustainable downward trajectory of COVID-19 cases for a minimum of 14 days
- Healthcare and Public Heath Systems (SNHD) are able to adequately respond and trace cases
- There is a sustained ability to protect vulnerable populations, like those with pre-existing conditions
- Ensure protective measures are in place to accommodate a phased approach, including testing
Throughout the meeting, board members underscored the importance of increased two-way communication between students and teachers during this closure to "mitigate the learning loss for our children," Jara said. The school district is awaiting additional federal funds to help Nevada and its students and assessing alternative learning models to education the youth of the valley amid an unprecedented time.