By Kayla Anderson
The Mineral County School District finally got through the end of the 2020-21 school year amidst the coronavirus pandemic, but their work is not over yet.
On April 29, the Nevada Department of Education released a directive that requires schools to follow the guidelines listed in Nevada’s Path Forward plan if they wish to reopen, and have their proposals completed and approved at least 20 days prior to the first day of school.
Therefore, Nevada school districts are spending this summer gathering community and parent feedback and scrambling to get a solid plan in place to be able to adequately continue to provide the level of education that Mineral County students need.
“We have a reopening committee that meets every Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. in the elementary school gymnasium that’s made up of parents, teachers and school administrators,” says MCSD Superintendent Karen Watson.
“We just received new directives from the state and Dr. Ebert (Nevada Department of Education superintendent of public instruction) regarding plans to reopen,” Watson adds about the directive regarding face coverings that Governor Steve Sisolak released on June 24.
Therefore, the reopening committee and MCSD has been busy behind the scenes taking the community’s suggestions and ever-changing health situation and trying to come up with a tangible actionable process by early August.
“The committee is planning on meeting again on July 14, but they may call a special meeting before then to talk about the plan before the August 4 deadline,” she says.
Per the recent directives, the state is asking schools to provide three plans: one that focuses on a full online distance learning model; one that shows a hybrid of distance learning and in-person teaching; and one that implements a full in-person classroom setting plan integrating the newest safety guidelines.
“We have to follow all of the CDC guidelines and social distancing protocol- including buses- so we’re trying to work that out right now,” says Watson. Governor Sisolak noted that kids ages 2-9 will not have to wear face coverings, making it a little easier for the District to figure out the transportation side for the younger students first.
The MSCD is also looking at other options what the new school setting will look like, perhaps separating students out into groups and having them do a week of classroom learning and then the following week at-home online learning to comply with social distancing.
When asked what would happen if a plan weren’t ready by August 4, Watson chuckles, “That would be really bad. But fortunately, we have a great team working to get information out to the parents while being realistic about costs, the fiscal and emotional impact. This has caused a lot of anxiety and we want to make sure that our kids are taken care of academically and emotionally.”
“Right now it’s all over the place, but we want to have as much in-person contact with the students as possible while also giving parents and those who are concerned about coronavirus the option to participate in online learning,” she adds.
Many members of the school reopening committee are in favor of a full in-person program because they believe that’s an environment that allows teachers to be most effective at doing their jobs.
The School District will be sending out information soon on Facebook and its other communication outlets with the plan, contacts, and its parent training component.
“We don’t want to send out a partial plan that may cause confusion, we want to make sure that it’s complete and ready to go,” Watson says.