Update from from Dr. Kristen McNeill 3/18/2020 4:00 p.m.

Dear WCSD Family,  


Thank you all for your patience, understanding, and flexibility as we navigate together plans for our District during this challenging and unprecedented time.  


I know there is much uncertainty around the District, especially following last night’s message from Governor Sisolak, which ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses.  I want to clarify that all school District staff are essential from this perspective and it’s still our goal to resume in-person classes on Monday, April 6. We will let you know immediately if that direction changes.  Emily Ellison, Chief Human Resource Officer, will be sending out a letter today to staff that provides additional clarity around essential staff, pay, and leave usage for our employees. 


Upon notification from Governor Sisolak that schools in the state would be closed, the existing COVID-19 Task Force subdivided into committees, each led by a Leadership Team member, to work on student nutrition, distance learning, special populations, and employee matters.  


We are currently in the final stages of developing plans for distance learning that best serve the District’s diverse population of 64,000 students. The plan is still fluid as we continue to receive additional clarification from the Nevada Department of Education, but developing details include:  


  • Under the leadership of Debra Biersdorff, Chief Academic Officer, and Jen Van Tress, Area Superintendent for Special Education and Area 5, as well as the support of many district departments, we are working on a comprehensive plan to meet the needs of ALL students while our school buildings are closed to the public.  
  • Our district-wide, distance learning plan will include online learning as well as paper/pencil opportunities for students provided by both the District and individual teachers. Learning will be focused on an overarching theme of strengthening skills for all subject areas and reinforcing past learning. Learning will also incorporate research-based strategies for meeting the needs of our entire student population including differentiated support for students receiving special education services, English learners, and our students who require a functional curriculum. 
  • We will begin to reach out to request leadership, collaboration, and input from our principals and teachers. Our principals and teachers are integral to the success of our distance learning plan, and I truly appreciate the work of those teachers and principals who have offered their assistance in building our plan.  
  • The distance learning plan will afford time for principals and teachers to become familiar with the plan and understand next steps beginning Monday, March 30 through Tuesday, March 31.  We plan for student learning to restart on Wednesday, April 1, 2020.  


  • Our goal is to find ways to keep learning relevant and positive as well as provide ideas to families that are complementary to specific lessons. 


  • Special education teachers and related service providers will collaborate with general education teachers to provide specifically designed instruction based upon the distance learning provided to all students. Special education teachers who provide students with alternative curricula will receive additional guidance and training based upon District plans.  


Additionally, food security is a priority for us as a District to ensure that our children who are in need of nutrition during this time, get fed nutritious meals. Tonight, we will be sending out a districtwide message giving families information on where to receive meals. Luckily, families in need will not need to bring any identification or information about their family to receive this food, and all meals are free of charge. I want to extend a huge “Thank You” to our Food Security Committee led by Pete Etchart, Lianka Soliz, and Mike Supple who are truly doing Super Hero work in putting these steps in place for our students and families.  


We are working in partnership with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada to bring meals to nine schools and the Evelyn Mount Community Center. A number of other agencies are also providing food to families in need.  


  • Each weekday, from 11 a.m. to noon, the following elementary schools will serve as meal distribution sites: Lois Allen, Alice Smith, Libby Booth, and Greenbrae.  
  • From 11 to 12:30pm, “grab and go” meals also will be available at Incline High School. 
  • And each weekday, from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15pm, the following schools will serve as meal distribution sites: Rita Cannan, Glenn Duncan, Echo Loder, Stead, and Sun Valley. 
  • addition, Boys & Girls Clubs of Truckee Meadows and Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada are also providing meals. Please visit the District website at www.washoeschools.net and click on the banner across the top for a link to meal services. 
  • We currently plan to provide meals at Natchez Elementary School on Monday. We are working through the staffing and logistics, but our hope is to distribute multi-day meals (2 or 3 days of meals at one time) at Natchez starting Monday. 


Additionally, you likely saw an email this morning from Robert Sidford, our Chief Information and Innovations Officer. The email addresses the fact that the District is experiencing a significant increase in cyber attacks as criminals attempt to take advantage of users who may be distracted. These emails can look very legitimate, but actually may direct you to sites that ask you to login with your District username and password. Please be extra cautious during this time.  

Please continue to check our COVID-19 website, which continues to be updated with new resources. This also includes information on an offer of free Wi-Fi for families for up to 60 days through vendors. We also have many frequently asked questions available on the website, including a section dedicated to employee questions that will continue to be updated. 

I will also be doing a districtwide Connect Ed message tomorrow meant for our students and providing reassurance to them that we are here for them, including our seniors who are most likely experiencing a level of anxiety around graduating. To this, I am serving on a state committee along with Debbie Biersdorff, Ben Hayes, and Jeana Curtis to address these issues in near and long term.  


I am very proud of the tremendous and dedicated efforts of all our employees during this time. From food assistance to our families, to cleaning and maintaining our buildings, to the security efforts of our School Police Officers, everywhere we see what it means to be a family. 


Thank you for your efforts, please take care, and stay safe,