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NLV unveils plan to get students back in classroom amid pandemic

Updated August 11, 2020 - 4:36 pm

The city of North Las Vegas on Tuesday announced an educational plan to help teach students whose schools have closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Southern Nevada Urban Micro Academy will be able to accommodate 340 students from kindergarten through eighth grade, and parents can enroll their children at NLVCares.com. Officials will evaluate each application and prioritize students whose parents are first responders and essential workers, according to City Manager Ryann Juden.

Officials are also working with principals to identify and prioritize students who are having a difficult time with distance learning.

“This simple and innovative approach to education will reverse the harmful learning block our community has experienced as a result of the pandemic,” said Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown. “The academy offers our children a micro-schooling experience tailored to their specific educational needs along with support for (Clark County School District) distant learning and educational faith or home school groups.”

Three options for kids

The academy opens on Aug. 24, and the city is offering three options.

The first is for parents who need their child watched while they do distance learning with an in-person instructor. This costs $20 a day per student, according to officials.

The second option will operate like a school day with 18 students in a room with a teacher. The program is available to students in grades 1-8, and they would have to withdraw from the school district for the “microschool” option. This costs $2 a day per students and will be partly run by Nevada Action for School Options.

The third option provides meeting spaces in libraries for children who are home-schooled or part of educational faith groups.

The program will use six buildings in North Las Vegas. In July, the City Council approved $320,000 to go toward child care, and funding for the programs will come from that pot of money, according to city officials. Of that amount, $179,000 will go to Nevada Action for School Options.

Need-based scholarships are available for the first two options. The programs may be expanded according to demand, according to officials.

Vice President of the Clark County School Board Linda Cavazos said the plan caught her by surprise and she still has many questions, including how such a plan got through without being presented to the board.

“I think it’s well-intentioned. I’m waiting to see more information,” she said. “I’m wondering why there weren’t any conversations with the Board of Trustees. I would have like to have known about this.”

Her concerns include school funding if students were to withdraw from CCSD and the safety of the students and staff from the coronavirus.

“I’m hoping this won’t be something where we have spikes in the virus,” she said.

CCSD did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

Computers, breakfast and lunch provided

As part of the program, there will be programming before and after school and computers will be made available for those who can’t bring their own, according to Juden. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided.

“Everyone’s trying to figure out what to do and we hope a lot of this stuff is temporary. We just want to accommodate as much as we can,” Juden said. “The coronavirus is a problem that’s causing a lot of problems.”

Face masks will be required, classes will be socially distant and there will be frequent cleaning and sanitizing of classrooms and facilities, according to a news release.

“We have police and fire who don’t know what to do with their kids. It just became a nightmare on how they were going to make sure their kids were going to receive an education,” Juden said. “For families left behind in the traditional education system — the coronavirus pandemic is devastating to them and we knew we had to provide a lifeline to as many people as we could.”

Nevada Action for School Options is hiring teachers for the program, said Don Soifer, founder and president of the organization. The team is tentatively set at 12 educators.

The program has been designed to promote social distancing.

“Kids are going to be so excited to get out of the house and see each other and we’re all going to make sure that everything happens according to the rules and probably changing rules moving forward,” Soifer said.

Contact Alex Chhith at achhith@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0290. Follow @alexchhith on Twitter.

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