I always have believed that being a parent is one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs you’ll experience in your life. Keeping a child safe, happy, and healthy is at the center of everything you do. In my job as superintendent of the Clark County School District (CCSD), I am keenly aware of the responsibility of caring for the educational needs and safety of over 300,000 children entrusted to me by thousands of parents and guardians.
CCSD has seen its share of struggles and has historically been under-resourced, adversely affecting the education our children receive. There have been gains in recent years because of steps taken by the Governor and Legislature, but when COVID-19 hit our nation, it not only wreaked havoc with our economy: COVID-19 also illuminated, even more, the inequities in public education here in Clark County, notably the digital divide manifested during distance education. But our employees, working with community partners, have made significant strides in getting devices and connectivity for our students. The Nevada COVID-19 Response, Relief, and Recovery Task Force, in coordination with other partners, launched a statewide initiative to connect students with internet service and devices as the District initiated full-time distance education.
But our employees, working with community partners, have made significant strides in getting devices and connectivity for our students. The Nevada COVID-19 Response, Relief, and Recovery Task Force, in coordination with other partners, launched a statewide initiative to connect students with internet service and devices as the District initiated full-time distance education.
CCSD appreciates and is indebted to the tremendous work of the statewide task force, led by Chairman Jim Murren, Nevada State Board of Education President Elaine Wynn and the Elaine P. Wynn & Family Foundation, The Public Education Foundation, Communities in Schools, and all of the other vital partners of the Connecting Kids Nevada initiative. Local governments, including Clark County and the cities of North Las Vegas and Las Vegas, have also contributed by providing staff to knock on the doors of students who might not have reliable connectivity.
I also want to take the opportunity to echo Governor Steve Sisolak and other top elected officials and public health experts in urging everybody to wear a mask, use social distancing, and wash their hands. If we want the economy to get back on track, and if we want children back at school and to continue to receive their education in a classroom, then we must take these basic steps to lower the transmission of COVID-19 and protect the safety of all of our fellow Nevadans.
The Board of School Trustees reviewed our staff’s provisional plan to Transition to the Hybrid Instructional Model on Nov. 12. Following the recommendation of the Board President and myself, with consideration given to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s Stay at Home 2.0 order and the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases, the Board did not take action on this item.
I am pleased that CCSD and the Clark County Education Association announced on Dec. 16 that we have reached a tentative memorandum of agreement (MOA) that will be an important step for students in grades pre-kindergarten through third grade to return to a potential face-to-face instructional model in 2021 at the appropriate time, while maintaining health and safety guidelines.
The intent of the MOA is to attempt to eliminate, or at least minimize, the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the social-emotional and physical well-being of CCSD students. We will present elements of the MOA and a proposal for a phased transition to potential face-to-face instruction to the Board of School Trustees at a meeting on Jan. 14, 2021.
For the time being, we have issued a directive for CCSD employees to telecommute, when the position permits, through at least Jan. 15, 2021. We are doing our part to curb the spread of this disease and will remain in distance education, but continue working towards safely transitioning into face-to-face instruction when the time is appropriate. Preparation for this transition is key and our teams have been working diligently to address potential and real logistical challenges that come with such transition.
We are in the midst of a mental health crisis, health crisis, and academic crisis that will have lasting implications for decades to come. COVID-19 destabilized our educational structure and highlighted the inequities that have existed in urban education for years. Please make no mistake about it – we are suffering here in Clark County, and as we enter into the winter months, our challenges will increase exponentially. The future of our youth is on the line.
Whether it is distance education or the traditional in-person education found in our schools, the fact is that it will take the entire community to demand that we properly invest in our children and the quality education they deserve – in any model of learning that we offer.
Dr. Jesus F. Jara is Superintendent of Schools for the Clark County School District