The Elko County School District launched a distance learning plan this fall that will be reviewed at the end of the quarter. What factors would you look at to determine when it is safe to reopen classrooms?
There are multiple factors to consider when addressing the shift to hybrid or in-person learning. A chief concern is the implication of having no liability protection through SB4. To protect staff and the district from lawsuits, we must be able to demonstrate adherence to all of the mandates and directives lined out by the state and CDC. We are working hard to develop models that will allow us to do that. We are challenged in our district because we utilize a large number of modular classrooms as well as older buildings with small classrooms and narrow hallways to accommodate a large number of students. The metrics outlined by the governor for testing, positivity, and active cases will also be a factor. We have to closely monitor community spread of the virus to know when it is low enough to make bringing kids back into the classrooms safe for everyone. Another factor is our ability to offer consistent, quality education. If a school is subject to frequent closures, the students are not receiving consistency.
More local schools are transitioning to four-day weeks. What do you think about this trend and would you approve having Elko or Spring Creek change to four days?
As more rural schools moved to the four day week schedule, there was a community interest in moving our larger schools to the same schedule. I was excited to learn more about how this move could impact our district and if there could be a benefit to it. At this point, it is too early for me to say if I would approve it. Prior to the pandemic, we were looking to form a committee to explore the pros and cons, as well as gauge community interest and financial feasibility. I know what my personal preference is, but it may not be what is in the best interest of the district. Without further research and gathering input from the public, I think it would be premature to say how I would vote on that issue.
School districts in Nevada were exempted from the Legislature’s bill to shield entities from liability related to COVID-19. How will you find ways to protect teachers and administrators from lawsuits filed by families if they contract the coronavirus from a child attending school?
The exclusion of school districts from SB4 has put many districts in a difficult position. The ECSD is closely following mandates and directives from the state and federal level to ensure the utmost compliance. Because of the language of SB4, our district will have to approach in-person learning very carefully to protect staff and students.
There was opposition from parents against the school district adopting a policy for transgender students to use any bathroom they preferred. How would you address parents’ wishes if the policy is brought back for another adjustment?
The Elko County School District adopted policy BF in 2008 that specified district policies “shall be consistent with the Nevada Revised Statutes, Nevada Administrative Codes and all federal laws and regulations.” In 2011, SB331 was passed and signed into law by Governor Sandoval, updating NRS 651.070. It prohibits discrimination based on gender identity. This law did not exempt school districts. The policy adopted in 2019 was not compliant with district policy or state law and that has now been corrected. The current policy should not need adjustment unless the law changes, at which time the board has expressed a willingness to revisit it. I encourage anyone who takes issue with the laws of their area to reach out to their state representatives and ask what can be done to change it.
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