Updated April 20, 2021 - 7:59 am
Students in the Clark County School District will return to full-time, face-to-face instruction for the 2021-22 school year, the district announced Monday, with a distance learning option available to families that choose it.
An email from the district said registration for the school year beginning Aug. 9 is now open, and that students who prefer distance education will need to opt in by May 21 to allow schools to make staffing plans.
All schools will offer both in-person and online instruction, according to the district’s registration materials, though “unique situations” may require a student to register for virtual learning through the Nevada Learning Academy instead.
It will be the first time that full-time, in-person instruction will be available to all district students since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when school buildings were shuttered in mid-March 2020 under an emergency order by Gov. Steve Sisolak.
Clark County schools provided virtual learning for nearly a year before reopening in waves beginning March 1. Full-time in-person instruction has been available to elementary school students since April 6, but secondary students have remained in either remote or hybrid learning.
Monday’s announcement indicates that in-person instruction will be the default choice for all students, with distance learning requests subject to approval by school principals.
Students who opt in for virtual learning will need to meet certain requirements, such as good attendance and grades, and must agree to keep their cameras on for the “full duration of real-time sessions.”
They may also be required to participate in in-person activities and tests, for which transportation will not be provided, according to the email. Distance education students who qualify for free and reduced price meals must eat at the school during designated mealtimes.
Elementary school students also must have an adult available at home “to support their learning,” the email said.
“If a full-time distance education student begins to struggle, intervention meetings may be conducted with the student and parent/guardian, and the student may be required to attend school for face-to-face instruction,” the email said.
Online students may be required to remain in full-time distance education for the entire academic school year, and late requests for virtual learning will be subject to availability at each school, according to the email.
For some parents, the finality of the decision and the looming deadline to make it add even more pressure to the race to offer a COVID-19 vaccine to kids.
COVID-19 vaccines are currently not authorized for anyone under 16, but trials have been underway to expand access to younger ages.
“Of course I want her back on Aug. 9, but how can I possibly in the next 30 days make that decision for the next 14 to 16 months?” said Jennifer Hanna, referring to her 14-year-old daughter. “Neither answer is going to be great for her.”
Her daughter spent her freshman year of high school online, she said, and was eager to return for socialization and in-person classes. But after a year of pandemic, she also fears the risks of the disease, Hanna said.
With vaccine availability changing quickly, Hanna said she’d appreciate more flexibility.
Rebecca Garcia, moderator of the CCSD Parents Facebook group, said district families have long expressed an interest in having both in-person and distance learning options.
While Monday’s news was too fresh to immediately gauge reaction, she said, parents’ opinions on the possibility of returning to in-person learning have run the gamut.
Among those who would prefer distance learning are some families waiting for a vaccine to become available, others who believe in-person COVID-19 requirements are too restrictive and still more whose children have done well with virtual learning.
The new guidelines for distance learning — which describe what a student must know and do in order to be successful — suggest it will differ from the way it is being practiced now, she said.
“For many people, the new requirements just make sense,” Garcia said. “We know distance education works well for some kids, but not all, and we know there needs to be good definition of what’s expected on both sides.”
Garcia said she hopes the district will dedicate teachers exclusively to online and in-person options, thereby ending the overlap of the two models.
In response to a Review-Journal request for information on how schools would determine this staffing, district representatives only reiterated the deadline for parents to opt in to distance education in order to “allow schools time to plan staffing for the upcoming school year.”
Asked if in-person students would still be expected to wear masks and maintain social distancing next year, district representatives said, “CCSD will continue to follow local, state and CDC health guidelines.”
Currently enrolled students can complete their registration on Infinite Campus at campusportal.ccsd.net. Families new to the district can register at register.ccsd.net.