weather icon Clear

CCSD teachers face another month of distance learning challenges

Updated April 23, 2020 - 8:11 am

Before school began last year, first-grade teacher Fernanda Lima Gibson enlisted her family to clean and decorate her classroom to make sure it was a welcoming environment for students. Seven months later, she misses that vibrant space as she leads lessons through a computer screen.

“I never thought I’d miss the loudness of the classroom,” she said Wednesday. “Teaching virtually is so quiet, and I don’t get a real grasp if they understand the concepts. I don’t get to witness the lightbulb moment when their face lights up because all their hard work paid off and they know how to solve a problem that was challenging before.”

The challenges of keeping students engaged and on a par their classmates will be with all Nevada teachers for another month or more after Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday extended his emergency closure of the state’s schools through the end of the school year.

Reacting to the move, many teachers and parents say they’re aware that keeping kids on track with learning will be difficult. But many are first mourning what they’ve lost this year, including graduation and promotion ceremonies, classroom time and a chance to say goodbye.

“I never would’ve imagined the school year would be done and all assignments would be virtual,” said Gibson, who teaches at Herron Elementary School in North Las Vegas. “… I just can’t help feeling there was always more I could’ve shown them.”

District to update on its plan

The Clark County School District’s plan for the rest of the school year, which ends on May 20, is expected to be unveiled at Thursday night’s School Board meeting, district officials said late Wednesday. The district is expected to continue food distribution per the governor’s order and maintain its current distance learning strategy, which relies in part on distributing Chromebooks to students who otherwise are unable to reach online lessons.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert said in an interview Wednesday that her chief concerns are the same as they were when schools closed on March 15: First, students who rely on school meals must be able to access them. Next comes students’ socio-emotional well-being.

“Kindergartners are used to coming to the classroom and getting a big hug from their teacher. That has completely shifted,” she said.

Curriculum and distance learning are largely in the hands of local school districts, she said, with the Department of Education acting as an outside set of eyes when issues of equity arise. To that end, she said it’s essential for districts to be transparent about the access gaps that COVID-19 has exposed to receive help.

But Ebert said she is open to ideas about shaping future learning to alleviate some of the impacts the school closures have had. Ebert said some educators have raised the possibility of “looping” — a practice wherein students stay with one teacher for two years, instead of one — to help ease the transition back to the classroom in the fall.

Teachers also might need to conduct assessments at the beginning of the year to gauge what students know after the disruption to their classroom time this spring. Ebert said. For some 60,000 to 95,000 Clark County students who haven’t been in contact with their teachers since schools closed, these disruptions might deepen existing inequities.

“As we look at what has transpired, we need to more than ever meet children where they’re at,” Ebert said. “When we go back, we need to understand that learning is a continuum. The skills and knowledge our students have, we assess that and move forward from there.”

Ebert also noted that online learning does not necessarily mean an inferior education, saying there are examples of Nevada schools that have done it well for years.

Down in the education trenches, some teachers have other concerns.

Shana Hyatt Stott, who works with credit-deficient high school juniors and seniors at Eldorado High School, said that even though much of their curriculum was already online, her students have struggled with technology issues like broken cameras and temperamental internet connections that have added to their anxieties about school. Some are also battling personal and family troubles at home, she said.

Her classroom was a family-like environment where students helped each other, she added. Without that kind of support, she said she worries some of her students will lose motivation.

‘So close to graduation’

“My biggest fear is losing kids who are so close to graduation,” Stott said.

Her seniors have been particularly disrupted, she said. Some have missed out on sports scholarships because of closures. But others may end up benefiting from changing college admissions criteria that have dropped the ACT and SAT requirements.

For juniors returning to high school, Stott said, there is some concern about learning loss, though she said it’s not insurmountable if parents keep them reading through the summer.

“In the grand scheme of things, they’ve lost about four weeks of instruction,” she said, referring to the fact that the final two weeks of the year are devoted to final exams. “They’re going to have to teach some concepts before they can get into new ones next year, but I don’t think it’s going to put us super far behind.”

At Odyssey Charter School, a blended learning school where students are only on campus for one day per week, the transition to a completely online curriculum has still had its challenges, teacher Tracy Edwards said.

One has been the lack of opportunity for students to work on group projects that develop socio-emotional skills. As an alternative, she said she’s planning activities that rely on parents and siblings for connections instead.

Still, she said she is worried about the possibility of learning loss as the number of kids engaging with distance-learning materials drops. With schedules upended and many parents laid off, some of her students are finding themselves in turmoil at home, possibly becoming the caretakers of their younger siblings, she said.

Her fifth graders probably won’t have a promotion ceremony, she said, though she hopes to honor them virtually or provide some other kind of closure that’s important to parents and teachers too.

“We’re used to having a beginning, middle and end of the school year,” Edwards said. “Kids grow not only academically, but socially. We see where they started and where they end up.”


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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Local Videos
Flamingo rollover crash
Las Vegas police investigate a rollover crash at the intersection of West Flamingo Road and Edmond Street on Monday, Aug. 10, 2020. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Health district alleviates COVID-19 testing demands - Video
The Southern Nevada Health District is helping to alleviate COVID-19 testing demands by setting up smaller, pop-up neighborhood testing sites. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Neighborhood COVID-19 Testing Sites - Video
The Southern Nevada Health District is helping to alleviate COVID-19 testing demands buy setting up smaller, pop-up neighborhood testing sites. They are taking the weight off of the larger testing facilities, and providing more community based testing, especially in minority and senior communities hit hardest by the pandemic. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Goodwill provides ways for Las Vegas Valley families to save money - VIDEO
Goodwill is becoming the surprising place for families and job seekers to save money during the COVID-19 pandemic. We look at its safety measures and price out outfits for a family of four. (Angus Kelly and Carrie Roper/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fungus creating 'zombie' cicadas - Video
A “mind-control” fungus found in cicadas manipulates the insects into “zombies” that spread fungal spores, according to a researcher. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wells Fargo teams up with Three Square food bank - Video
Wells Fargo and Three Square food bank team up to help out those in need during the coronavirus pandemic. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coronavirus cases triple at Henderson nursing home - VIDEO
The number of residents with COVID-19 at Lake Mead Health & Rehabilitation in Henderson tripled overnight, according to state data. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
National Nurses United organized the picket at St. Rose Dominican, Siena campus - Video
National Nurses United organized the picket outside of St. Rose Dominican in Henderson calling for more nurses to improve the ratio of nurses to patients. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Reveiw-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Opponents to Floyd Lamb Park barn conversion sue - VIDEO
Opponents of a plan to convert a historic hay barn at Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs into an event center are suing the city of Las Vegas and Councilwoman Michele Fiore to halt the project. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Doubling down with the Derricos - Video
North Las Vegas couple Deon and Karen Derrico and their 14 children will be featured on a TLC reality show "Doubling Down With the Derricos." The Derrico family and their children includes quintuplets, triplets, twins and singletons. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police give details on fatal crash near Las Vegas Strip - Video
A 16-year-old girl died and two other people were injured in a one-vehicle crash on Sands Avenue near Las Vegas Boulevard South on Monday morning, Aug. 3. (Glenn Puitt/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
ICU nurse talks about staffing shortages with COVID-19 patients increasing - Video
A 92 percent occupancy rate might suggest that a hospital still has room for more patients. But the number, according to Las Vegas Valley ICU nurse Geoconda Hughes does not tell the whole story. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police investigate homicide.
Detectives were investigating a homicide in southwest Las Vegas on Friday morning. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Buffalo Soldiers Day in Nevada - Video
Secretary of Buffalo Soldiers Horse Cavalry Anne Monterio attends a service honoring Nevada’s African American veterans for the Second Annual Buffalo Soldiers Day in Nevada, at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Mob Museum makes hand sanitizer out of moonshine - Video
The Mob Museum's moonshine distillery has been making hand sanitizer in their underground facility for the past few months. Senior Educator Jim Zlomke shows how the FDA approved formula is made. (Cassie Soto/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
100 Dinners distribution in Las Vegas - Video
Food writer and lead organizer of Please Send Noodles, Kim Foster ,discusses preparing and distributing 100 meals for individuals of the community, at Foster’s home in Las Vegas on Saturday, July 25, 2020. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Eyewitness recounts man's drowning at Bellagio fountains - Video
Kayla Eklund said she called 911 Friday morning after she and her friend witnessed a man jump into the water at the Bellagio fountains. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pedestrian killed when struck by a vehicle in south Las Vegas - Video
A man was struck and killed by a vehicle when he ran onto Las Vegas Boulevard South near Windmill Lane in south Las Vegas early Wednesday, July 22. (Glenn Puit/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lead investigator of local COVID-19 vaccine trial talks about hopeful outcomes - Video
Dr. Michael Levin, investigator for the phase three trial of the first COVID-19 vaccine developed in the U.S. by the National Institute of Health and Moderna Inc., talks about what health experts hope to learn from the trial. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Activists, union: Support only Black-owned businesses Monday - VIDEO
Social justice activists and a major labor union banded together Monday to keep attention on the Black Lives Matter movement. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No Mask Nevada protests governor's mask mandate in Henderson - VIDEO
About 200 people gathered in Henderson on Saturday morning to protest Gov. Steve Sisolak’s mask mandate.The demonstration was organized by No Mask Nevada, a political action committee. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police: Mom Arrested in Fatal Crash Drove 121 MPH - VIDEO
A 23-year-old woman arrested Sunday night after a crash that killed her 1-year-old son was driving 121 mph at the time of the collision, according to a Las Vegas police report. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Owner of Mario’s West Side Market talks about his role in community - Video
Mario Berlanga, owner of Mario’s West Side Market, talks about his role in the community and his thoughts on the recent Black Lives Matter protests. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trustees approve CCSD fall school reopening plan with caveat - VIDEO
In a marathon meeting Thursday night, Clark County School District trustees approved a plan to reopen schools this fall with the caveat that additional details about how to do so would come back before the board. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jara says time for debate is over on CCSD reopening plan - VIDEO
With pressure growing for the Clark County School District to modify its school reopening plan, Superintendent Jesus Jara said Tuesday that the time has come to move forward on the existing blueprint. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
RTC considers route changes as pandemic affects ridership, revenue - Video
Stung by a drop in public bus ridership because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada is considering systemwide service changes. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)v
Fireworks light up Las Vegas - Video
Las Vegas celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks lighting up the entire valley. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fireworks in the Moapa sky - Video
Fireworks explode near Moapa Paiute Travel Plaza during Fourth of July festivities in Moapa, northwest of Las Vegas, on Saturday, July 4, 2020. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Fourth of July fireworks at Plaza in downtown Las Vegas - Video
Fourth of July fireworks at the Plaza casino lit up the night sky in downtown Las Vegas on Saturday. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas teen shares COVID-19 story on social media - Video
Kaydee Asher speaks with the RJ about what it's like having COVID-19, how she may have contracted the virus, and how she's using her platform to tell other young people to be safe. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Train carrying decommissioned nuclear reactor passes through Las Vegas - VIDEO
The train carrying a decommissioned nuclear reactor vessel from Southern California is passing through Las Vegas on Thursday afternoon. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)