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8 things to know about Clark County’s new school year

Updated August 9, 2021 - 10:47 am

More than 300,000 Clark County School District students headed back to classrooms Monday for a new school year.

Schools Superintendent Jesus Jara and Jennifer Vobis, director of transportation, kicked off the day by giving a send-off to bus drivers just after 5 a.m. at the district’s Arville Transportation Yard. Hundreds of buses started to roll out of the yard to transport kids just as the sun was starting to rise.

“Today is a great day,” Jara said. “Aug. 9, opening school for our kids, bringing all of our students back, face to face with our teachers and our educators, so we are excited. Parents right now, I’d ask you to be flexible. We are going to open up our schools, do a great job. Our staff is ready. Ready to welcome our students to have a great year in our classrooms.”

The return to school buildings comes amid rising COVID-19 case numbers boosted by the more contagious delta variant.

In a message to parents last week, the nation’s fifth-largest school district said it’s “committed to opening schools for all students as safely as possible for in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.”

Jara said the district is prepared to handle the need for students and employees to wear a face mask indoors and on school buses.

“Our kids will be wearing masks in our schools, our bus drivers, our staff is ready to keep our kids and our staff safe to make sure our children have a great academic school year,” Jara said.

Regarding masks, Jara said in the spring and summer “our kids followed through. They followed direction. They wore their masks in our classrooms. I have full confidence our children will follow the rules we have in front of them.”

It’s the first time since March 2020 that students in all grade levels will be offered full-time in-person instruction. After about a year of distance education, school buildings reopened in three waves in the spring.

As of Aug. 2, the school district had 293,670 students registered for this school year – 39,414 more than the same time last year, according to information provided Friday by the district. But official enrollment numbers are expected to be even higher.

“Enrollment numbers are not available until after the first day of school,” the district said in a statement.

The number of student registrations is the highest it has been in at least five years, according to school district data.

Here are eight things to know about this school year:

Face masks

All students and employees are required to wear a face mask indoors and on school buses, with the exception of those who have a medical or developmental condition that doesn’t allow for wearing a mask.

If a parent requests an exemption for their student, an individualized education program or Section 504 accommodation plan meeting must be held “to determine if the face mask exemption is appropriate,” the district said in a message to parents last week.

Distance education

In addition to in-person classes, 12 schools across the district are offering a full-time distance learning option.

Plus, the school district’s online school, Nevada Learning Academy at CCSD, is seeing exponential enrollment growth, according to a Tuesday message from Principal Michael Martin on the school’s website.

The school’s enrollment has grown each day since the beginning of July, Martin said.

“We are working extremely hard to work through over 2,500 new enrollment requests over the last 10 days,” he said.

In the message, he said not all enrollment requests will be processed by the time school starts Monday.

Unlike in past years, the school isn’t using an application process and is open to all school district students, Martin said.

The school doesn’t have a waiting list, and enrollment requests will continue to be accepted throughout the school year.

In all, about 1.5 percent of district students — 3,742 — are registered for distance education, the district said.

New campuses

A new school year will also bring new buildings. Two campuses — Gunderson Middle School in the Mountain’s Edge community and Brown Elementary School in Henderson — will open Monday.

Several replacement school projects are also finished, meaning aging school buildings were replaced with new facilities on existing campuses. Those include Hoggard, Tate, Harris, Ferron and Sandy Valley elementary schools.

Social distancing

Under the district’s reopening plan, capacity limits in school buildings are reverting to the maximum allowed under fire code. But district officials have said social distancing will continue.

The district’s reopening plan says it recommends, when possible, 6 feet of social distancing in cafeterias, multipurpose rooms, auditoriums and “other large common areas.”

When students can only practice 3 feet of distancing, they’ll be seated with peers they’ll be with throughout the instructional day “to limit additional student exposure,” the plan says.

Sick rooms

Like in the spring, schools will have sick rooms — which are supposed to be away from the school’s main health office — for students who are exhibiting possible COVID-19 symptoms, according to the district’s reopening plan.

Technology

All students in the district will be issued a mobile computing device. Assistance with subsidized internet access will be available for families who meet eligibility requirements.

School meals

All students can receive free breakfast and lunch this school year because of a waiver from the Agriculture Department.

There will be about 10 sites where students participating in distance learning can pick up meals shortly after school lets out on Wednesdays and Fridays.

The district hasn’t publicly announced sites yet, but more information will be available at ccsd.nutrislice.com.

Teaching vacancies

As of July 21, the district had 612 classroom teaching jobs that hadn’t been filled, according to information obtained by the Review-Journal through a public records request.

Of those positions, the largest number of vacancies — 240 — was for elementary school, followed by 173 for special education and 77 for math.

The number of vacancies was down slightly compared with the same week during the previous two years. The district had 662 classroom teaching vacancies on July 20, 2020, and 626 on July 22, 2019.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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