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Jara talks CCSD reopening ahead of School Board meeting

Updated June 25, 2020 - 10:57 am

Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara on Wednesday answered questions about the plan to reopen schools ahead of a presentation to the School Board.

The plan, released on Tuesday, would see students attend school in person for two days a week and learn from home for three days a week, with a digital-only option for families who would prefer students stay home full time.

Thursday’s School Board meeting will be streamed at reviewjournal.com and on the district’s website. A vote on final recommendations is not expected until July 9.

Some of the most pressing concerns about the plan have been from working parents, including district employees, who say they will struggle to find child care for young students on days with no classes.

The district does not have plans to offer child care to teachers and staff, Jara said, but has been in discussion with community partners such as the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada about expanding those programs.

“This is not the ideal plan I want,” Jara said. “I want nothing more than to have our kids back, as a father, as a teacher and a superintendent.”

Two cohorts

Still, Jara said the Phase Two plan would allow the district to more easily pivot to Phase Three once the state guidelines are released, or shift back to distance learning if the state reverts to Phase One.

The plan divides students attending in-person classes into two cohorts, with Cohort A in school on Mondays and Tuesdays and Cohort B in school on Thursdays and Fridays. Jara said schools would consider parent preference as well as sibling groups in dividing students.

Students will take four in-person classes on a block schedule, with yearlong courses condensed into one semester, leading some parents to fear that fine arts and AP/IB courses would be dropped from the curriculum.

But Jara said schools across the country have block schedules that allow them to offer the same courses, and that the district was not planning to drop the programs.

The plan also requires masks in classrooms, whose capacity will be capped at 18 students. Asked about Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Wednesday order that did not require masks for children 9 or younger, Jara said the district would take it under advisement but ultimately make its own decision.

Budget cuts

Jara reiterated that the district had been waiting on guidance on reopening procedures and budget cuts from the state for weeks in order to hand down a plan to principals before they left at the end of their contracts.

The district no longer plans to use federal relief money from the CARES Act to minimize its projected budget shortfall of $38 million, Jara said.

With a special session of the Legislature looming, Jara said the district would be leaning on the state to make up the budget shortfall. If the state cannot make up the difference or makes further cuts, Jara said, the district would likely need to return to distance learning.

The district is expected to receive $83 million in CARES Act money, which Jara said is needed to ensure that each student has a Chromebook at a total cost of about $28 million, as well as to provide personal protective equipment to students and staff at a cost of $15 million, as well as other costs. Ensuring 1:1 access to Chromebooks and internet is critical to executing the reopening plan, Jara said.

The district had previously partnered with the Public Education Foundation to solicit donations for Chromebooks.

Jara said that while the foundation had received some money, it was not as much as the district needed. The foundation did not return a request for comment.

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at 702-382-0218 or aappleton@reviewjournal.com. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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