Petition wants Carson City schools to reopen | NevadaAppeal.com
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Petition wants Carson City schools to reopen

By Jessica Garcia jgarcia@nevadaappeal.com

A new online petition is available for parents and community members asking the Carson City School District to open schools full-time in the fall for the 2020-21 school year.

The petition is collecting signatures ahead of the school board’s meeting Tuesday during which trustees will hear the first draft of Superintendent Richard Stokes’ reopening instructional committee’s plan.

Carson City resident Nichole Valdez, a mother of four students who all have been or are currently enrolled in CCSD schools, expressed strong support to the Appeal for the local sites, teachers and administrators who have assisted. However, she said she and other parents were disappointed with distance learning as a result of COVID-19 this spring. Collectively, she said, they did not know where to start in their attempts to express their frustrations about any of its shortcomings or failures in helping their students at home between March and June.

“Parents want schools to reopen,” Valdez said. “The conversations I’m having say, ‘What do we do? Who do we contact to make an impact?’ We’ve asked the trustees … we need to contact the governor, and the governor is the holdup.”

County school districts currently are under a directive from Gov. Steve Sisolak to submit plans to be approved in a public meeting at least 20 days before the first day of the new school year. The school board will discuss its first draft Tuesday, then formalize by July 28 unless a special meeting is called before then. All district reopening plans are to be approved by the Nevada Department of Education.

In Carson City currently, the first day of school is scheduled for Aug. 17 for K-12 students and Aug. 24 for pre-kindergarteners.

Schools also must ensure occupancy will not surpass 50 percent of the fire code capacity of a single space within their site or 50 people in an appropriately sized space allowing for social distancing requirements. However, many of Carson City’s schools with smaller classrooms do not have enough space to meet this requirement.

Valdez said the petition is a means of placing pressure on CCSD and ensuring proper protocols will be followed.

“I would like to try to get this done before Tuesday’s meeting,” she said.

Washoe County School District approved a hybrid model giving high school students the ability to attend full-time distance learning if they wish with elementary students to go back to class full-time in August.

Valdez, who provided public comment at Carson City’s Board of Trustees’ June 23 meeting, said she hoped the board will open schools full-time.

“My expectation is they’re going to follow the medical advice of the experts,” she said.

She emphasized she began the petition due to concern for returning students back to the classroom and helping teachers to perform better. Ultimately, not having children physically in the classrooms is more harmful to their learning, she added, but added having the choice was important.

“This is causing irreparable damage to our students,” she said. “But let’s be safe about it. Let’s give the option to parents to do remote learning. … I’m an awful teacher. Nobody should have expected these teachers to do a good job (in distance learning). … But I think they did the best they could have under the circumstance.”

Valdez has had four children, ages 24, 21, 17 and 11, in the district. She said her 17-year-old son attending Carson High School this past semester received one assignment per week and never received any lessons or feedback from teachers through the Zoom platform. She said she and her husband were homeschooling while working.

She acknowledged alternative solutions, such as having teachers work in classrooms half full or getting younger children to wear their masks for a full school day, might present their challenges.

“I sympathize with the district,” she said. “I say this is an awful situation for them to be in. I know they’re trying to make everyone happy while they’re doing the best they can for the kids. I don’t know how you do this with 50 percent capacity and how you’re going to get kids to wear masks.”

The petition is available on http://www.change.org. The direct link is http://chng.it/5bbfDdvc.