By Kayla Anderson
In the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees meeting preceding Thanksgiving, the trustees voted to move middle and high school students to a full distance learning plan citing lack of community resources to help mitigate the spread of Covid-19. School officials are saying that lack of contact tracers, testing process, and substitute teachers is simply putting too much of a strain on schools to try to stay open.
The WCSD decided last week that middle school and high school students will begin full distance learning on Wednesday, December 2. Secondary students are tentatively scheduled to return to the hybrid model with in-person classroom instruction on January 4, however, the trustees will make a final decision on that return date at the District’s next meeting on December 8.
Elementary school students and secondary students enrolled in special education programs will continue to go to school like normal within the in-person learning track unless they opt into the Distance Learning model.
“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,” says WCSD President Malena Raymond.
The WCSD’s November 25 press release states that secondary school staff members are still expected to go to their respective school buildings every day to provide instruction since it is where the connectivity, educational materials, and curriculum are located that can support its Distance Learning model.
At the November 24 WCSD Board meeting, State Superintendent of Schools Jhone Ebert praised the district’s perseverance in dealing with the pandemic and said that it will issue licensing waivers for guest teachers to help cover teacher absences. However, there is a shortage of guest teachers across Nevada as well.
“This was such a difficult decision for our Trustees. 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,” Raymond says.
“We know that our students belong at school, learning with their teachers and peers,” says Superintendent Dr. Kristen 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.
“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,” Dr. McNeill adds.
As of November 28, there have been 183 students and 125 WCSD staff members who’ve tested positive for Covid-19 impacting operations at 86 schools. To view the school-by-school Covid-19 case status, visit https://www.washoeschools.net/.