Las Vegas Schools Mull Extra Tech Funding Amid Reopening

The Clark County School Board is considering a proposal that calls for $84.6 million in additional funding for transportation, technology, protective gear and more, as new budget challenges stem from COVID-19.

(TNS) — Clark County Schools Superintendent Jesus Jara said coming up with a plan to safely reopen campuses following coronavirus closures will be challenging on many fronts, especially because of the unknowns with the budget.

A proposal, which calls for $84.6 million in additional funding for transportation, technology, personal protective gear and more, will be discussed today during a Clark County School Board meeting.

The plan is on track to be approved July 9, although a special session of the Nevada Legislature to address a statewide budget shortfall of $1.27 billion could impact funding.

“When you really look at the time my principals need to be able to open schools, it’s late,” Jara said.

The proposal for elementary-school students includes in-person learning for half of a school’s students on Monday and Tuesday, and the other half on Thursday and Friday. Wednesdays would be reserved for deep cleaning.

Once the plan is approved, families will work directly with the school to select the block that best suits their schedules. Remote learning would occur on the other three days of the week. A third cohort of students could avoid campus altogether, opting for virtual instruction only.

Jara said the district will provide Chromebooks for students without devices through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which provided $31 billion in emergency funding for schools across the country.

When schools suddenly closed in March out of virus concerns, many Las Vegas children faced connectivity issues and were left behind.

“Am I confident that we’ll have the CARES Act dollars? Absolutely. Will we be able to get them here? That’s supply and demand,” he said.

The Nevada Department of Education on Wednesday gave guidance on how to reopen safely and efficiently, including plans to identify children who can’t get online, required check-ins with an instructor and criteria for attendance. Each district’s plan has to the approved by the department.

“Our top priority is to promote high-quality and accessible learning opportunities for all students — without regard to means, ability, or at-home support — while ensuring the health and safety of students, staff and communities,” said Jhone Ebert, superintendent of public instruction, in a statement.

Receiving guidance one day before the school board meeting, and when the CCSD proposal was already published, didn’t sit well with Jara, he said. They’ve been busy for months coming up with a plan and needed earlier guidance, he said.

“My elementary school principals and my middle school principals are not on contract and they’re out for the summer. And now we have to go and retool our schools, without any answers from the executive branch,” Jara said.

The plan would push the start of the school year to Aug. 24. Teachers would report back 10 days earlier before students return to receive training. Of course, this is if the state stays in its current reopen phase, as the infections have spiked over the past week and Gov. Steve Sisolak could tighten restrictions to return to exclusively remote learning.

John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, said the school district will probably have to alter reopening plans after budget cuts, which won’t be known until a special session of the Nevada Legislature in July.

“The district is in a catch-22. The governor has ordered schools to be reopened. We’re less than eight weeks away from the start of a new school year. We don’t know what the revenue will be coming into the school district,” Vellardita said.

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