Despite being uneasy, and at times confused, about a drafted plan to reopen schools this fall, Clark County School District Trustees unanimously approved a proposal Thursday that looks at alternating between in-person classes and online learning.
It is still yet to be determined in what way students will actually return Aug. 24, when classes begin, since the plan still needs to be approved by the Nevada Department of Education before returning to the school board for potential modifications and a final vote.
But working under a time crunch that could put collective bargaining contracts and pay for employees at risk, CCSD officials moved forward on submitting the plan to the state despite unanswered questions and uncertainties.
“The plan is fluid and there is flexibility,” said Superintendent Jesus Jara. “Depending on where we are as a community, depending on the governor’s direction, the approval I am seeking this evening is just” to submit the plan to the state, Jara said. “Once we get feedback, we will bring this back to the board before we go in any direction.”
Now that the district board has approved the plan, Jara said the district will survey parents to get a better idea of their preferences and needs.
The proposal looks at a scenario in which students could be placed in cohorts that would alternate between two days in the classroom and three days doing online instruction. However, the plan also makes the assumption the state would still be in phase 2 — earlier in the evening, Gov. Steve Sisolak rolled bars back into phase 1 and threatened to do the same to other businesses if Covid cases increased.
The plan also looks at full-time distance education.
The proposal highlights the benefits and challenges of various scenarios such as year-long versus semester courses, but doesn’t land on a decision on what approach is best.
While giving a basic overview on providing pregnant employees or those with immunocompromised conditions accommodations such as the option to work from home or extra personal protection equipment, the district doesn’t provide specifics.
If a model that included in-class instruction did move forward, each school would be tasked with figuring out the best way for students to safely transition from class to class.
The anticipated cost of the proposed plan, with all its scenarios, is $110 million — an increase from an original $86 million estimate — to go toward Chromebooks, food services for students, cleaning supplies and personal protection equipment.
The extra $24 million was added to include in-home internet connectivity for households that need it. The money would come from a combination of federal funding, bond funding and general funds.
Some of the concerns presented Thursday night included how recipients of free and reduced lunches could get meals if the year was entirely online. Students would still have to come to their schools in order to pick up food.
Trustee Irene Cepeda said any plan that doesn’t fully take into account the needs of English Language Learners is a nonstarter.
In the middle of the presentation for the proposal, Trustee Danielle Ford proposed a separate motion for a “pre opening” that would require the first 30 days of school to be entirely distance education except for students with special needs, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.
The motion failed 2-5 with Trustee Linda Young joining her.