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Clark County School District teachers discuss their reopening challenges

Equity concerns at schools across district remain
Goolsby Elementary
Posted at 6:15 PM, Feb 23, 2021

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Clark County School District is now less than a week away from pre-K through third graders coming back into the classroom and we’re getting an inside look at how it will all work.

Expect spread-out desks, no jungle gyms and constant reminders to stay six feet apart.

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That's the pandemic reality at Goolsby Elementary School on Desert Inn Road near the 215, though the restrictions aren’t dampening the positive feelings of teachers there.

“I would start tomorrow if we could truthfully," said first-grade teacher Jennifer Shenkberger, "but I’m just thrilled to have children back in the room.”

Many of her students are expected to come back and are eager to see their teacher, she says.

“More than half of the families have messaged me that their backpacks are packed," said Shenkberger. "They just cannot wait to get back to school."

The biggest challenge for her is figuring out how to teach students in-person and virtually at the same time. Her classroom will be fitted with microphones and cameras so all students will be able to see their teacher.

“That was a little bit of a challenge, but we’ve worked that out by talking to our colleagues, talking to our parents, and even the children,” she said.

CCSD Supt. Dr. Jesus Jara says some of the more than $80 million of CARES Act funding includes providing PPE, cleaning supplies and items to promote social distancing. He sees this as a way to push forward.

“This is the first step to get our kids back in front of our teachers," said Jara. "There’s nothing more important than to have an educator in front of the kids. This is the first of a multi-step process to getting our schools open."

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Shenkberger hopes this is the start of getting some sense of normal at school.

“There’s truly no apprehension. Just joy," she said. "Just joy that we’re hopefully coming to the end of this and schools can fully reopen soon."

That’s not the case for Vicki Kreidel. She teaches second grade at Heard Elementary School on the east side and chose to stay remote due to health concerns.

While her building is relatively new, she’s afraid older schools in impoverished areas may not be safe enough for reopening.

“I’m concerned that they haven’t upgraded ventilation because quite frankly we may not have the time or the money to do it,” said Kreidel.

She says schools in areas like Summerlin have an easier time getting the resources they need with parent involvement playing a big part. Kreidel says that’s not easy when a school is in an area with parents working blue-collar jobs where the pandemic has created financial anxieties.

“I’ve seen a lot of struggling families doing their very best with very little resources so those families can’t help,” she said.

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Supt. Jara says he’s visiting schools all across the district and says the safety guidelines and standards should be uniform no matter the school.

“We are not shying away and giving school leaders the autonomy to do different things," he said. "Just like every school district and every other school.”

Kreidel says she hopes that’s the case and says despite the concerns, she knows educators at all the schools will do the best they can for their kids.

“It’s a pandemic and you can’t control when things will improve," she said. "And you’ll see educators step up, just like we did in August, and get the job done. Because that’s what we always do."

Teachers will have the rest of the week to prepare. Pre-K to third graders return to campus this coming Monday.