Carson City schools: Response to possible return to classes 'overwhelming'

Carson High School senior Bryar Fancher has struggled somewhat with her Advanced Placement Calculus class this year, but it hasn’t been too far beyond what she could handle in the hybrid model with her teacher’s approach, she says.
“It is rigorous, but my teacher has been helpful sending videos out,” she said Sunday.
Even so, the preparations, the exams and any of her other responsibilities aren’t what weigh on her mind as much as what would come after she’s done.
“Whenever we need help and when we go back, it’s already after my AP testing, and it’s not like we’re going to be doing anything to prepare for the test,” she said.
For Fancher, whose post-graduation plans include leaving for the University of Idaho on a Navy scholarship, going back to Carson High on campus full-time only would have made sense for her Reserved Officers Training Course activities with her battalion, according to her and her mother, Heather Fancher.
“She was able to attend her Navy Ball,” Heather Fancher said. “She was allowed to have that big dance last week, so that was exciting for them. … I do think it would be a waste of time. … (The seniors) have learned to manage their time differently … but I think they’ve adapted well. It’s given them a unique experience.”
This past Monday night, the Carson City School Board elected to maintain the district’s current hybrid model most schools have been operating under since the beginning of the school year. Six trustees voted to keep this year’s model intact after considering a proposal that might have brought high school students and all students of all levels back to the classroom full-time four or five days a week. Trustee Don Carine abstained.
While pre-kindergarteners to eighth graders were welcomed back in March to an in-person schedule Tuesdays through Fridays, high school students stayed in their cohorts with some hoping directives would change in time to bring them back to four or five days a week on campus as well. But Gov. Steve Sisolak’s April 13 announcement eliminating the social distancing mandate and providing mitigation measures from state government control to county school districts did not arrive on time and in a manner that made sense to families to justify the return of their older students to school.
The possibility raised an “overwhelming” response from students, families, staff members and associations for a number of reasons submitted through public comment e-mailed to the district, Superintendent Richard Stokes said Monday. A sampling of these comments were read during the meeting and some were held for time constraints. Board President Joe Cacioppo estimated it would have taken approximately four and a half hours to read through all 91 comments, assuming it would take the full three minutes per comment, received on the record alone.
Some parents argue their high school students have found jobs or activities outside of school by now that have kept them gainfully employed or settled in ways that would challenge them from returning to the classroom for a month’s time, or what would essentially amount to a few added days’ of full, in-class experience to the remainder of the 2020-21 year, some said in public comment read aloud during Monday’s meeting.
Comments provided by Mr. and Mrs. Darrin Sloan, parents of a freshman son attending Carson High School, said they had established learning at home.
“For now, stay on this schedule we have fought so hard to establish these last eight months,” they wrote. “The experience with our teachers has been nothing short of exceptional and I know all of you have done an amazing job in this most unpredictable year. You are all owed our gratitude...”
Heidi Remick, who supported moving students back to school full-time and has two students at Mark Twain Elementary School, said the one month could have been “the difference between keeping a job and losing one.”
“Now that more people are fully vaccinated and businesses are reopening, workplaces are eager to get things back to normal and out of patience with parents who need to stay home because schools are not open,” Remick wrote. “Life was very sympathetic to the concerns of teachers returning to work in the fall with no vaccines and only a wing and a prayer to enforce social distancing … opening schools five days a week is not more dangerous than only opening four.”
Angila Golik, an American government teacher at Carson High who said she teaches 170 seniors and has a senior daughter of her own, said this year’s senior class has missed out on its own normal activities, then referred to the announcement of Bishop Manogue High School’s closure on April 21 due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
“If we get into a situation like Bishop Manogue had … I’m going to be very, very upset as a teacher to see these students’ hearts broken one more time,” she said.
The trustees debated the merits of returning students for the month starting Monday, saying everything within reason should be considered, including bringing students back full-time in person for four days a week and leaving Mondays as a remote learning day.
Trustee Lupe Ramirez said it was important that seniors graduate and finish the year strong, while Trustee Mike Walker said the district should maintain a level of sensitivity toward those students who might have come to rely on their jobs at this point to help their families or for their own financial needs.
Cacioppo after the meeting said in spite of the unfortunate year for everyone, the social, emotional and academic learning for students has been exacerbated and district staff members are keen on finishing this year strong.
Trustee Laurel Crossman asked about any high school students who might be struggling currently in the hybrid model, to which Stokes reminded the board that staff members brought back approximately 200 students considered in academic distress to campus from the remote system at the beginning of the semester for extra assistance.
Asked what impact any changes would have on teachers at this point as well, Tasha Fuson, associate superintendent of educational services, also added staff members have placed a significant amount of time “retooling their curriculum” and examining the standards and adapting their methods for the remote and hybrid environments as necessary, so to readapt for in-class instruction for the last four weeks would challenge the instructors, she said.
After the vote, Cacioppo thanked everyone for providing input into the process.
“Everybody’s pretty on board that we want to come back to school, that we understand the value of coming back to school, we understand the value of getting these kids back to school but we have challenges in getting them back to school that are serious and real challenges and not excuses,” he said.
He added the board looks forward to reestablishing a normal schedule for 2021-22.
“Next is a little bit of hope that we continue to track in a positive direction because we’re all advocates for getting school back to normal in August for the fall semester and just doing our part this semester getting kids ready for their next grade, for graduation and the next step,” he said. “I hope tonight showed those that maybe lost a little faith in the system in general that their voice in the Carson City School District matters.”
Stokes also shared afterward that the district recognizes this year’s extraordinary circumstances for its families during these challenges.
“Our students’ education is really our prime objective, and while I recognize the importance of work, in a typical school year, that really wouldn’t be an issue,” he said. “This year it is, and we acknowledge that.”

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