CCSD to recommend alternating school days, delaying start of school year

coronavirus and the classroom
(Photo by Alexandra_Koch at Pixabay)

Clark County School District is recommending delaying the start of the upcoming academic year and having students attend physical classrooms on alternating days, according to a district presentation.

A PowerPoint highlighting recommendations for how a school district with some of the largest class sizes in the country can mitigate the spread of COVID-19 was uploaded online Tuesday afternoon as supporting materials for an update Superintendent Jesus Jara is expected to give the CCSD Board of Trustees this Thursday.

The presentation was posted online hours after The Associated Press first reported that CCSD “is planning to rotate groups of elementary, middle and high school students into classrooms by days or by weeks to ensure social distancing and classroom cleaning can take place.” That report prompted inquiries from the Current and other media outlets about when the district would make its reopening plans public.

According to the presentation, CCSD will recommend adjusting the start date for students. Currently, the first day of school for students is scheduled for August 10. Under an adjusted calendar, students would begin classes on August 24. Teachers and staff would begin at the beginning of August as currently scheduled and “engage in intensive professional learning.”

The district is also proposing that students at all grade levels attend physical classrooms two days a week and work remotely three days a week. Students would be put in two cohorts and either attend on Mondays and Tuesday, or on Thursdays and Fridays. An entirely-online option will also be available.

According to a facilities chart included in the presentation, a typical 900-square-foot classroom with a building code capacity of 45 students would have a reduced capacity of 18 students.

The presentation materials posted Tuesday do not show an option for only in-person courses, though additional material or options may be presented or discussed during the school board meeting on Thursday.

Nevada Parent Teachers Association President Rebecca Garcia says the superintendent told the parent council on Friday that at least three options will be presented to the board: an online-only, blended and in-person.

Garcia was one of more than 30 people on the district’s reopening working group. That group compiled and explored options, which they then passed along to the district for consideration.

“One of the biggest things I heard as a part of the reopening group was that parents wanted to be able to choose an online option or choose what the district offered in person,” said Garcia. “They wanted both options, and it sounds like that will be part of what is presented.”

On the other end of the spectrum, education advocates and parents alike have expressed concerns that working families do not have the resources available to keep their children at home on alternating days or weeks. Garcia said she and others have “constantly repeated” that issue, which is especially relevant to families with younger children.

“It is a reality that we have built a system where working parents assume their kids will be at school at a certain time,” she adds. “Do I think a teacher is a babysitter? No. But at the same time parents are expected to go back to work and workplaces don’t give them the flexibility.”

In the presentation, a list of “benefits and challenges” notes that “three days of child care/supervision” as one the challenges. Also listed as challenges to the district’s recommendations are the uncertainties of the state budget, transportation and technology.

The anticipated cost of the proposed reopening plan: $84.6 million. That figure includes $15 million for personal protective equipment, $28 million for additional Chromebooks, and $30 million for infrastructure to support WiFi.

That’s a hefty price tag, especially during a time when Nevada faces an estimated budget shortfall of $1.3 billion for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The district presentation notes that 96,000 additional Chromebook devices are needed.

The board is not agendized to take action on any reopening plans. That vote is expected to take place at a board meeting on July 9.

Gov. Steve Sisolak through an executive order directed all districts and independent schools to present their reopening plans to their governing body for approval in a public meeting “at least 20 days before the first day of the 2020-2021 school year.” For CCSD, that deadline is July 13.

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.