Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020 | 2 a.m.
Editor’s note: As he does every August, Brian Greenspun is turning over his Where I Stand column to others. Today’s guest is Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara.
The Clark County School District will start its school year as it has never done before — with full-time distance education.
We are not alone, however. Nearly all major school districts in the nation are beginning the school year solely through distance education.
It is a choice that superintendents and school boards everywhere have agonized over, but the safety of our students and staff are paramount when weighing the risks that COVID-19 poses to them.
While our community is experiencing tough times, I am optimistic about our children’s educational future.
Our administrators, principals, teachers and support professionals have been preparing and are ready to begin the school year with full-time distance education.
Our goal is to implement a districtwide 1:1 student-to-device ratio this fall — and we will start with those who have the greatest need. Every device that CCSD owns will be in the hands of our students who need it most by the first day of classes.
Schools have been reaching out to parents/guardians to assess the need for devices and have begun distributing them. Parents/guardians should reach out to their school to express any needs as soon as possible.
If parents/guardians have not done so already, we are asking them to register for the 2020-2021 school year and to please make sure that the contact information in the parent portal, Infinite Campus, is accurate so we can effectively reach them and provide valuable updates.
We also have been working to ensure that students have access to internet service — a critical link — so all of our children can be fully engaged in learning. Schools are assessing the need of their students to properly respond and ensure our students can access distance education.
This is more than just getting technology into the hands of students — it also is about instruction.
We know the No. 1 variable for impacting student success is a high-quality teacher. CCSD’s talent pool includes the best teachers. They are innovative, dedicated and more than ready for this challenge.
Teachers will receive two weeks of professional learning before students return to classes Monday. Teachers have adapted well to distance education since spring and they will increase their skills with even more support.
CCSD will implement the learning management system Canvas for all students. Canvas is available for students anywhere at any time and offers a wide variety of pre-developed content in Grades 6-12. This allows a jump-start on providing curriculum from Day One.
With this structure in place, teaching will be robust, and grading and assessments will resume.
Another variable for impacting student success is having an effective principal. Our principals are experts in their field. I guarantee you they have been digging in all summer to create a plan that fits their school’s unique needs. Principals will effectively lead their staff and school communities through this educational model and will be prepared to pivot and adapt to new scenarios when the time is right.
Our support professionals also have done a remarkable job in ensuring that all of our operations — including ensuring that students are fed, continuing the upkeep of our facilities, and getting us ready for the new school year — have run smoothly during this difficult time. Indeed, our administrators and support professionals will continue their dedication to providing essential assistance to the education our students receive.
A key predictor of student success is family engagement. It goes without saying that a child’s first teacher is his or her parent/guardian, so student success this year will again require family engagement.
Since we are starting the school year on Aug. 24 instead of Aug. 10, parents/guardians can use this extension to help them prepare as well. We have provided a family guide and other information at reconnect.ccsd.net, and a variety of training materials and resources is available at faces.ccsd.net.
Parents/guardians will help their child with a planned schedule of learning that is both synchronous (learning happens in real time for students) and asynchronous (individual learning that can include recorded content and other activities).
Parents/guardians, along with teachers and counselors at their child’s school, can help meet the social-emotional needs of students too. Positivity is critical and so is listening.
Whenever possible, parents/guardians should try to have children engage in group sessions for social interaction with the teacher and other students.
It is especially important to ensure fond memories of this time for students. In addition to school lessons, this is a time every one of us will be learning important life lessons such as self-discipline, how to deal with change, etc.
By working together — students, parents/guardians, educators, and community partners — we will be a unified team with the same goal in mind: putting our children first to prepare them for a successful future.
We all want our children back in schools. So, please, listen to our public health officials and be a good neighbor — wear a mask and practice social distancing. Once our entire community follows this common sense advice, the faster the COVID infection rate will go down, and the sooner that students can return to the classroom!