Updated November 13, 2020 - 4:41 pm
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara told reporters Friday the goal is to bring a hybrid transition plan back to the school board in December, but he can’t provide a specific date for when students would return to classrooms.
On Thursday night, the school board didn’t take action on a plan to bring students back to campuses in January and employees back to worksites Dec. 1. They cited concerns such as a fall spike in COVID-19 case numbers.
Jara said he hopes the district can bring children back to campuses “when health data allows it” and district officials are still looking at January. The school board has a regular meeting scheduled for Dec. 10.
Jara said the recent increase in the COVID-19 positivity rate gave him pause and that Gov. Steve Sisolak’s “Stay at Home 2.0” recommendation this week was the right thing to do.
The school district — which has about 307,000 students and 40,000 employees — has operated under fully distance learning since late August, with the exception of seven rural schools. The district released a 205-page hybrid learning transition plan this week.
The hybrid model calls for students to attend classes in person two days a week and via distance education three days a week. Rural schools and small urban schools that could accommodate social distancing and abide by all health measures could get permission to provide full-time in-person classes. And families would have the option of continuing with fully distance education.
As for the hybrid transition plan, Jara said Friday it’s “a very solid plan” that has all of the necessary safety measures. Jara said the hybrid model itself won’t change much given Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, and the need to ensure social distancing in school buildings.
In a Friday statement to the Review-Journal, Clark County Education Association Executive Director John Vellardita said the teachers union isn’t surprised the board decided to hold off on voting since “it’s a complex issue with many factors in play.”
“Our position continues to remain the same: before getting back into the classrooms there needs to first be a robust, mandatory safety program in place with testing, contact tracing, access to proper PPE and adequate social distancing,” he said. “Second, a choice for educators to continue working remotely or going into the classrooms once they are safe. And third, the hybrid model has to be able to work.”
Vellardita sad Friday: “We are continuing to negotiate with CCSD on these issues and others to make sure our educators are safe and that their voice is heard.”
Jara said Friday he can’t provide details of an agreement the school district is working on with CCEA.
The Education Support Employees Association is grateful the board postponed the vote on reopening, President Jan Giles said in a Friday statement, adding that it was the safest decision that could have been made for students and staff.
“The re-opening plan still needs a lot of work and I hope the District will allow for input from bargaining units, like ESEA, to add what we feel is needed for additional safety,” she said.
Giles said the union is concerned by a few comments Jara made that he could call employees back full-time to worksites without a school board vote.
School board trustees voted 4-3 on Thursday night on a memorandum of agreement between the school district and THT Health for the Task Force Initiative for Educators Safety and Screening (T.I.E.S.) to provide voluntary free COVID-19 testing and health monitoring for employees.
In September, the Nevada Department of Education announced it’s partnering with the school district’s self-administered teacher health plan to launch a program for public school employees statewide. It’s a being funded by a $13.2 million state allocation of federal CARES Act money.
Jara said Friday that based on feedback from school board trustees, “we have to improve the distance education program.” He said standardizing some expectations across the entire school district is something he heard “loud and clear” during the school board meeting.
Jara also addressed questions about student mental health concerns and said there have been 11 suicides among school district students this school year.
Jara said the mental health of students and employees is a priority for the district, noting the goal is to increase access to resources and provide support across all schools.