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How the pandemic is shaping public education in Clark County

The Clark County School District Headquarters at Sahara and Decatur in Las Vegas as seen in July 2020
Posted at 5:24 PM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 22:11:10-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The pandemic has put a spotlight on how education plays a big role in Clark County affecting the academic growth and the mental health of our children. As we look to the future, educators say lessons learned during this pandemic will affect how we teach our kids, from online learning to school funding.

There will be a day when nearly all Clark County School District students will be back in the classroom, but distance learning could become a more robust option for kids. Rebecca Garcia, a CCSD parent and head of the Nevada Parent Teacher Association says while online learning has not been ideal for many, some kids are thriving.

“There is the desire to have that option available," she said. "It was already available in a limited form in Clark County, but looking forward to seeing how the district will address that need."

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Kenneth Retzl, director of education policy at the Guinn Center believes online learning will be a big benefit for students who function independently and with strong family connections.

“It’s truly a family affair when you have a student at home," said Retzl. "With people monitoring just to make sure everything is happening and that their questions are getting answered.”

Distance learning however did present academic challenges. During the fall 2020 semester, CCSD says 90% of schools assigned more F grades than they did in the fall of 2019.

However, Retzl says the lack of recent standardized testing makes it difficult to truly measure learning loss.

“Without that data, you can’t see how much learning was lost during the pandemic or during the 2021 school year,” he said.

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Kristan Nigro, a kindergarten teacher at Schorr Elementary School, knows she and her fellow teachers will need to do some catching up with new students.

“At the beginning of the year, they always do a spiral review of the previous year’s standard to help kind of refresh," she said. "But I do think it’s going to be a little bit longer."

Retzl believes there will continue to be a push for more funding in public schools with the surge in relief funds from the latest federal stimulus package.

“There have been decades of studies that have said education funding is vital on both how we distribute it and the amount that we do distribute,” he said.

Everyone interviewed believes whether CCSD shuts down again or not will be based on public health, how well we’re curbing the spread of the virus and getting vaccinated. CCSD says it’s focused on continuing to reopen classrooms to more kids.