School’s out: Sisolak shuts down all K-12 schools

Even prior to the pandemic, suicide was the most prominent cause of death in 12- to 19-year-olds in Nevada. This issue did not appear with the coronavirus pandemic. (CCSD photo)

All Nevada K-12 schools will be closed until at least April 6, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced Sunday.

The governor stressed the decision was “difficult” and “did not come lightly” given the hardships it puts on families, but he said it had become “increasingly clear” over the past 48 hours that further social restrictions are needed to curb the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

This means Clark County School District students will be out of school until April 13 because of spring break, which runs April 6 – 10. Washoe County School District’s spring break falls during the governor-mandated closure period.

Sisolak clarified the closure applies to all schools — public, private and charters — and said schools will not be reopened until being cleared by the state’s chief medical officer. When asked about daycares and non-district preschools, the governor said further guidance would be coming.

listThe governor said the state superintendent would be working with individual districts to help provide community resources for families.

More than 60% of CCSD students qualify for free or reduced breakfast and lunch, meaning they come from families making 180% or less of the federal poverty guidelines.

Sisolak clarified at a second press conference held hours later that free lunches for students would continue during the school closure period. By Sunday night, a list of food and academic resource distribution sites was already circulating. Sisolak also said during his conference that the neighborhood casino companies Boyd Gaming, Red Rock Resorts (i.e. Station Casinos), and South Point were donating food.

Sisolak urged employers to be flexible with scheduling given the childcare burden that will now fall on parents of school-age children.

Sisolak and CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara, who joined him at the press conference Sunday afternoon, had no additional details on what the closure means for the school year as a whole.

Jara said the district would follow the collective bargaining agreements and that employees — licensed educators, police, administrators and support — would be getting paid during the shutdown.

“This is unprecedented waters,” he added.

Schools are required by the state to provide students with 184 days of instruction. When schools cancel an instruction day (for bad weather, for example) they are required to make it up at a later date. However, the length and circumstances of this closure make the situation unique.

The state superintendent of education could waive the 184-day requirement.

While most of the state’s public colleges and universities have closed their physical campuses and are transitioning to online learning, CCSD officials have said remote learning is not feasible for their district. Shortly after the press conference Sunday, CCSD employees received an email saying only employees deemed “essential” will be required to work during the closure.

Clark County Education Association Executive Director John Vellardita told the Current Sunday the school district will run into contract issues if the school closure extends past the district’s spring break. According to the collective bargaining agreement between CCSD and CCEA, the work year for licensed educators is supposed to end no later than the second week of June.

He echoed earlier comments from district officials saying remote learning would not be possible during the closure. That said, Vellardita emphasized his support for the closure, saying it was a statewide public health issue.

(Note: This story was updated with additional information, including the release of food distribution locations.)

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.