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Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara discusses the school budget during a news conference on Thursday, May 9, 2019. (Jeff Scheid/Nevada Independent)

Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara said the nation’s fifth-largest school district is eyeing a possible return to in-person instruction for the second semester, but the decision will hinge on local health metrics.

His comments came Wednesday afternoon during a virtual town hall put on by the Henderson Chamber of Commerce. The Clark County School District began the new academic year with online instruction last month because of the region’s elevated risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Jara said the district will be giving the Clark County School Board of Trustees an update about learning models and health considerations during a Sept. 24 meeting. While no decisions have been made, the superintendent said planning is underway for the eventual transition back to in-person schooling.

“If we see miraculously (a) drop, then, you know, we look at and try to pivot back to where we need to be,” Jara said, referring to COVID-19 cases and reopening plans. “Right now, you know, unfortunately, it may just be in January.”

In the meantime, Jara credited federal coronavirus relief funding with helping equip the district’s students with Chromebooks. He said the district has whittled the number of students needing a device from 64,000 last week to about 25,000 as of Wednesday. 

Jara urged families to contact the school district if their child needs a Chromebook. The district recently received another shipment, he said, and has plenty to distribute. If Congress authorizes additional relief funding for schools, Jara said the money would support professional development for online education as well as mental health initiatives.

The superintendent also touched on some challenges that have surfaced with online education — one being controlling the virtual class environment. Jara said the district has been communicating with Google about obstacles educators are facing when using the company’s video-conferencing platform.

“These kids are smarter than we are, and they’re finding ways to jump into other classrooms,” Jara said as an example.

While proud of the efforts made by community members, educators and students to make distance education a success, Jara didn’t gloss over the ongoing difficulties.

“Is it perfect?” he said. “I can tell you it's not. That's why when we opened school the first day, I said to the press, ‘patience, flexibility and grace.’”

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