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A family picks up food at the Clark High School distribution site on Monday, March 16, 2020. Clark County School District set up 15 sites throughout the valley to provide food packages for students enrolled in the free and reduced-price food program. (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

State Superintendent Jhone Ebert sent an email to school district leaders Monday, outlining some preliminary ways learning could proceed amid the statewide school closures.

The email informs district superintendents that “learning at home” should begin March 23, except for any students on their regularly scheduled spring break. 

“I know each of you are working with your teams to determine how to deliver ‘learning at home’ to your students during the upcoming weeks,” Ebert wrote. “Options for delivering education may include online and virtual learning that you determine appropriate for your students.”

Ebert also clarified that the closure isn’t a break for teachers, principals, support staff and district office employees, many of whom are preparing “learn at home” materials for students.

“They will spend the following weeks in regular communication with students and their families, providing as much instruction and feedback as humanly possible,” she wrote. “It’s not ideal, but we’re up for the challenge.”

As for whether the school year will be extended, Ebert said it’s too soon for any decision.

“There are numerous fiscal and educational concerns related to this decision that will need (to) be evaluated in the weeks to come as the situation evolves,” she wrote.

The Clark County School District has started providing some materials dubbed “student learning extension opportunities,” such as pencil-and-paper activities that allow students to practice concepts and skills they’ve learned during the year. The materials for kindergarten through eighth-grade students can be picked up at food distribution sites or downloaded online. 

District officials also are encouraging students in all grades to use online resources provided by Khan Academy, a nonprofit that features K-12 education content. And students taking Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses can continue accessing learning resources through virtual platforms they’re already using, officials said.

Washoe County School District, officials, meanwhile, said they’re in the final stages of developing distance-learning plans. They’re also considering students’ social-emotional and special-education needs, describing the unprecedented school closure as a “complex issue.”’

 “We realize that distance learning cannot fully replace the quality of face-to-face instruction, and we are prepared to provide our students with creative opportunities to continue their education while schools are closed,” Kristen McNeill, Washoe County’s interim superintendent, said in a statement.

But not all students have internet access at home — a situation state education leaders acknowledge as they work through this unexpected learning disruption. 

“I think districts will work to accommodate all children regardless of what their circumstances are,” said Greg Bortolin, interim spokesperson for the Nevada Department of Education. “Everybody is just going to work really hard to deal with what we’re dealing with.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak announced on Sunday that all K-12 schools across the state would be closed through April 6, at least, to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

This story was updated at 4:02 p.m. to include information from the Washoe County School District.

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