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12 Clark County schools to offer distance learning in fall

Updated July 8, 2021 - 10:28 pm

Twelve Clark County School District campuses will offer a full-time distance learning option this fall, a reversal of the district’s original decision to have virtual instruction at each of its 350 schools.

The change was made after fewer students than expected — around 11,800, or 5 percent of the total registered — opted in to virtual learning, according to a statement from the district.

But any school that did get enough participation to staff an all-virtual program will offer the option, according to a Thursday presentation to the Clark County School Board of the district’s plan for the next school year. That list includes one elementary school, nine middle schools, one high school and one combined junior/senior high school.

Mask rules for the next year will remain the same as they have been since June 1: optional for students in preschool through third grade, required for fourth and fifth graders, and optional for older students who have received their COVID-19 vaccine.

All staff who are not vaccinated must wear masks indoors, and on school buses, masks are required for all.

Superintendent Jesus Jara noted ahead of the presentation that the provisions of the plan are liable to change according to federal health guidelines.

“This is a living document,” Jara said. “This is something that may change. In fact tomorrow, the CDC will release new guidelines.”

Thursday’s meeting again saw trustees evacuate the room after board President Linda Cavazos called for district police to remove an audience member who called out another audience member by name during public comments.

Next year’s plan

After comments from audience members questioning why only fourth and fifth graders would be required to wear masks, Jara said the vaccine was not yet available to their age group, while younger students don’t have to wear masks under a state mandate.

District Chief of Staff Christopher Bernier noted that community input overwhelmingly supported safely reopening schools.

All capacity limits will revert to the max size allowed by fire code, but the district will continue to practice social distancing, Bernier said, and students who must quarantine will have access to school via a hybrid model.

All students will be issued a district-owned device, and the district will subsidize internet access to families without it, according to the presentation. The board also approved two purchases with federal emergency funds to support distance learning, including $950,000 for wireless hot spots and $650,000 for internet connectivity for qualifying households.

Another 17 schools potentially will implement a blended-learning model, according to a statement from the district, but that list of schools was not provided.

Trustees also gave their final approval Thursday on a new grading policy that allows for “revision and reassessment” and modifies letter grade bands, while eliminating behavior considerations like attendance and participation from final grades.

The policy was part of the board’s consent agenda. A motion from Trustee Danielle Ford to pull the item for discussion did not pass.

The new language had gained some detractors among teachers, students and parents leading up to its approval, some of whom said it lowered expectations in the classroom. Others said that the policy was too hurried and that more input from teachers and administrators was needed.

Jim Frazee of the Clark County Education Association cited the upcoming challenge of teaching students who have spent more than a year in virtual classes, while also learning a new grading system.

“Now is not the time,” Frazee said.

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at 702-383-0218 or aappleton@reviewjournal.com. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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