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Jara to present school reopening plan to CCSD board next week

Updated June 16, 2020 - 2:22 pm

A much-anticipated plan for reopening doors at the Clark County School District will come before the board next week, according to Superintendent Jesus Jara, though final approval still rests with the Nevada Department of Education and the state’s chief health officer.

Jara said on a media call Tuesday that he’ll bring a few different reopening models to the Board of Trustees at the June 25 meeting, and if trustees accept those plans, they’ll be forwarded to the state for approval.

Under consideration are factors such as safety and continuity of instruction, Jara said, as well as the logistics of transportation under social distancing guidelines — how many buses will be needed, and whether the district will be able to acquire more.

The plans will probably have no room for autonomy for different schools to try different reopening strategies, Jara said.

“We’ve learned that we really have to provide a consistent message and a consistent approach,” he said.

The district is facing competing pressures in the timing of announcing its reopening plans, according to Jara. On one hand, Jara said, CCSD has yet to receive word on how much it will need to cut from its budget under a call for statewide reductions from Gov. Steve Sisolak.

The plans to be presented next week are modeled on the district’s adopted budget, which projects a $38 million cut in operating revenue based on the impact to schools during the 2008 recession.

“If the numbers have to go a lot higher than that, it becomes a problem for us in that we’ll have to make some decisions and make some changes in August or July,” Jara said.

The district has applied for its share of the CARES Act disbursement, or about $83 million, but has yet to receive it, according to Jara. The costs of providing personal protective equipment for students and staff are another financial consideration, he said.

On the other hand, if plans aren’t announced soon, administrators may have only a few weeks to implement them, Jara said. Elementary and middle school principals, for one, end their 11-month contracts Friday.

Parents, too, have expressed impatience with the lack of information about what this fall will look like for their students.

Colleen McCarty, an attorney and parent to two daughters at CCSD, said she started a petition and a Facebook group titled “Demand a Plan for the CCSD 2020-21 School Year” after growing frustrated with the last quarter of distance learning and hearing little from the district about the plans for next year.

“No one has ever had to deal with this, but you’re also never going to have the perfect plan,” McCarty said. “You just have to pick one, because when we start implementing it, there’s going to be all sorts of factors that come up that need to be addressed.”

McCarty added that she was glad Jara addressed the plans Tuesday, but she said her group would like to see an approved plan based on the information available, a timeline for implementing it and a mechanism for remote instruction in case returning to the classroom is not possible.

A working group formed by the district in May was tasked with considering eight different scenarios for reopening schools, district documents show.

The group weighed having students attend only certain days or certain weeks, half-day sessions, or having high schoolers take only online classes. Schedule changes such as moving to quarter-based or year-round classes or starting school after Labor Day were also on the table.

Results from a reopening survey sent to the broader community showed that parents and students overwhelmingly prefer a return to full-time, in-person learning this fall, with students and school staff indicating more willingness to consider changes such as a year-round school schedule, or blended learning with half-day sessions.

The survey results and working group feedback are expected to inform the reopening plan.

Jara said he could not share which option the district is currently leaning toward out of fairness.

“I would love to have all our kids back,” Jara said. “But obviously we have to look at class size. We have to look at social distancing.”

CCSD does not plan to change course on offering summer school via distance learning, Jara said, despite an order Sisolak signed last week allowing schools to reopen their buildings for summer activities. Summer school began at the district June 1.

But more information on whether CCSD athletes will be allowed to return to fields and facilities this summer will be communicated to principals and coaches this week, Jara said.

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

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