Nevada students deserve extra support and right tools to succeed in post-pandemic world

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The past year has shown that with the right tools and resources, students can be successful in online learning. (Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels)

A year ago, Nevada was forced to shut down to stop the spread of the new and deadly coronavirus. Life was upended and suddenly everyone had to adapt to a new normal. For students that meant being pulled out of the classroom, away from their peers and teachers, and getting their education from behind a computer. For many families, this abrupt transition wasn’t easy. Parents had to balance working while caring for their children at home, families had to navigate the logistical challenges of attending virtual classes, and many young students suffered from isolation or found themselves not suited for this type of instruction. While parents and educators worked their very best to make sure our students all receive the education and guidance they need during this difficult time, many of our children still need additional help to be ready for next year.

Last month, Clark County School District students returned to their classrooms for the first time under a hybrid model, where families can opt to send their children to school part time for in-person instruction and part time at home for online learning. This is the relief many families have been seeking since the pandemic began. But while many are eager to return to school, some aren’t ready to face the health risks involved or have decided that they prefer virtual learning for their children. Adjusting to a new hybrid model, with some families opting to stay virtual, will present new challenges. It’s therefore imperative that we reimagine the way we provide sufficient support so that our students can succeed, while also doubling down on our commitment to provide our kids with high quality education. It’s important that we provide children with distance learning tools that adapt to the challenges of different learning styles and environments.

We have learned from the challenges of the past year that with the right tools and resources, students can be successful in online learning. With enough patience, guidance and a good educational platform, they can learn to navigate a new environment and actually thrive in it. Distance learning can provide opportunities and make education more accessible for all students, but only if they are given adequate support, resources, and educators are provided training to tailor their instruction for an online learning environment. The technology is already here for our students to succeed, we just need to make sure we help our students get the most out of a digital education.

In addition to enhancing and retooling our kids’ online learning experience, making summer school free for all K-12 students is a step in the right direction to get students caught up. During the pandemic, CCSD has seen an uptick in failing grades, chronic absenteeism, exacerbated teacher shortages and double the cases of adolescent suicide than in the previous year. SB173, which was introduced in the Nevada Legislature and unanimously passed out of the Senate, will address the difficulties many of our students and teachers faced as they navigated distance learning. With a summer program that is free and accessible to all, and balances social emotional support with academics that focus on acceleration, not remediation, families can have the opportunity to ensure that their children receive all the support and services they need to make up for any setbacks they experienced during the school year. We are looking forward to seeing the same enthusiasm and support for SB173 in the Assembly that it received in the Senate.

As we start reopening our schools, we must acknowledge that online learning is here to stay and that we must improve our kids’ learning experience for the sake of both their social-emotional wellbeing and their educational outcomes. CCSD, the nation’s fifth largest school district, has the responsibility to provide our children the right tools and services because we owe it to them to make sure no one falls through the cracks, especially as we begin to transition to a post-pandemic life.

Dan Cogan-Drew
Dan Cogan-Drew is the chief academic officer of Newsela, a distance learning company with a significant footprint in Nevada.