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EDITORIAL: Ensuring that distance learning doesn’t harm the vulnerable

Difficult times require unique solutions. Congratulations to Connecting Kids and the city of North Las Vegas for thinking creatively when it comes to addressing the needs of parents and students during coronavirus school closures.

The Clark County School District has announced it will start the 2020-21 school calendar this month using remote learning only. That has created hardships for working parents and led to legitimate concerns that many students — particularly those in the early grades — will fall behind absent the traditional classroom experience.

Given the district’s already substandard test scores, that’s a sobering and disturbing thought.

Enter Connecting Kids, a coalition of groups backed by the Elaine P. Wynn and Family Foundation. The group — formed by Elaine Wynn, who chairs the state Board of Education, former MGM honcho Jim Murren, who chairs the state’s pandemic task force, and a number of community organizations — seeks to bridge the digital divide for families that lack the necessary equipment to ensure their children succeed in remote learning environments.

Among other things, the group will help district families without the technology to gain access to internet connections and the like. A district survey revealed that as many as 30 percent of students don’t have the devices necessary to fully participate in remote lessons.

“Every child deserves access to virtual learning,” a statement from Elaine Wynn noted, “and as a state it is crucial that we all band together to eliminate the technology gap among students.”

Similarly, North Las Vegas officials on Tuesday announced that they plan to offer alternatives for students who may struggle with distance learning. A city-sponsored academy will offer options that include distance learning with an in-person instructor for working families; an on-site learning environment for younger children, complete with teachers hired by Nevada Action for School Options; and meeting spaces for home-schooled children or those in educational faith groups.

“This simple and innovative approach to education will reverse the harmful learning block our community has experienced as a result of the pandemic,” City Councilwoman Pamela Goynes-Brown said.

Not surprisingly, Clark County School Board Vice President Linda Cavazos complained that North Las Vegas hadn’t had “any conversations with the Board of Trustees.” But this isn’t about paying tribute to a board that time and again has shown it elevates internal power squabbles above student achievement. This is about offering unique alternatives intended to help at-risk students.

And in that regard, both North Las Vegas and Connecting Kids deserve applause.

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