WCSD Trustees Vote to Have Temporary Full Distance Learning at Secondary Schools; Elementary Students Will Continue In-Person Learning
WCSD Trustees Vote to Have
Temporary Full Distance Learning at Secondary Schools;
Elementary Students Will Continue In-Person Learning
In making decisions, Trustees cite lack of community resources to support schools
Reno, NV (November 25, 2020) – At its regular public meeting on November 24, the Washoe County School District (WCSD) Board of Trustees voted to place middle- and high school (secondary) students on Distance Learning due to a critical lack of community resources – including contact tracers, testing and guest teachers – to support schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Secondary students are scheduled to begin Distance Learning on December 2 and are tentatively scheduled to return to the in-person hybrid learning model on Monday, January 4. Trustees will make a final decision regarding the return date at their next meeting on December 8. Secondary students will attend school on their regular hybrid days for Monday, November 30 and Tuesday, December 1 in order for students and staff to prepare for the move to full Distance Learning on a temporary basis.
Elementary school students will continue to attend classes in person five days a week and will continue to have the option to participate in Distance Learning.
Secondary students enrolled in self-contained special education programs will continue to attend school each weekday, as will students at Picollo School, Turning Point, and Inspire. More specific information will be provided to individual families regarding schedules and transportation for special education students as soon as possible.
Families of middle- and high school students will receive additional information and guidance from their children’s schools regarding meals, tech devices, and attendance during this period of temporary Distance Learning. WCSD is working to make Distance Learning more effective by setting clear expectations for the length of the school day at the secondary level. Principals will be provided with this guidance document today in order to provide clear guidance to teachers and staff members. Secondary school staff members will also be expected to report to school buildings each day in order to provide instruction to students, as connectivity, supplies, materials, and curriculum at the school site will help support Distance Learning.
During the meeting, State Superintendent of Schools Jhone Ebert thanked the District community for its support of students and families and praised its “perseverance [and] persistence” in dealing with the COVID pandemic. She said the state will issue licensing waivers for guest teachers, which will help school districts across Nevada cover teacher absences. A shortage of guest teachers has posed serious challenges for WCSD as teachers have been excluded from classrooms due to exposure to COVID.
During the meeting, Washoe County Board Chairman Bob Lucey and County Manager Eric Brown promised to provide increased contact tracing efforts at the county level. State COVID-19 Response Director Caleb Cage said that Gov. Sisolak is “ready to support prioritization of… keeping or getting our students back in the classroom,” and pledged support for schools at the state level.
“This was such a difficult decision for our Trustees,” said Board President Malena Raymond. “We recognize that the best place for our students to learn is in our buildings, but the surge in COVID cases is straining our system’s ability to continue providing those services. The temporary shift to a Distance Learning model for our secondary students will allow our District to work with community partners to secure the supports needed to get them back to in-person learning in January. While Distance Learning is a challenge for many of our students, it is particularly hard on our elementary students and their families. The Board recognized these concerns and challenges and worked with staff to find a way to increase supports to our elementary schools in order to keep them safe for in-person learning.”
“We know that our students belong at school, learning with their teachers and peers,” said Superintendent Dr. McNeill. “Our entire district has worked tirelessly these past several months and have done everything possible to ensure our schools are safe places for students to learn and staff members to work, and they have succeeded: our schools are safe. We are thankful for the additional information and support provided by Washoe County and the Nevada Department of Education at the Tuesday meeting. The emphasis on our entire community coming together for the benefit of our schools, students and families cannot be stressed enough. We will continue to work with our partners to secure the additional resources necessary to continue with the models of in-person, hybrid and distance education in order to provide the needed supports and services for our students, families and dedicated employees.
The District is following all guidelines from local, state, and federal health and education professionals to keep schools safe. Staff members, students, and families have worked together to carry out mandates surrounding face coverings, sanitizing, handwashing, and self-isolating, which has helped create safe places for students to learn and staff to work. As discussed at the Tuesday meeting by the Trustees and Superintendent McNeill, it will be critical for the community to follow the enhanced safety protocols put into place by Governor Sisolak over the Thanksgiving Holiday.
WCSD has worked to ensure the safety of students, staff members, and school buildings through the entire reopening process with comprehensive planning that began in the spring and summer months of 2020. Some of these comprehensive efforts include:
- Writing an Outbreak Response Plan
- Setting up the Reopening Task Force
- Organizing the Teaching and Learning Committees
- Hiring two Employee Health Nurses, securing a partnership with Renown Health Care for employee testing, and receiving a donation from Sierra Nevada Corporation toward this effort
- Developing the state’s first COVID dashboard to provide meaningful data to the public, families, and staff
- Acquiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), using grant funding, donations, and CARES Act funding
- Acquiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in tech devices through grants and donations, and arranging for their distribution
- Acquiring thousands of “Hot Spots” to provide reliable connectivity for students
- Partnering with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada to provide more than 500,000 free meals and snacks for students
What: Board President Malena Raymond, Board Vice President Dr. Angie Taylor, and Superintendent Dr. Kristen McNeill will be available for media interviews via Zoom to discuss the Board’s decisions.
When: Wednesday, November 25
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