WCSD wants to keep hybrid schedule through school year; cuts to gifted program back on agenda

Washoe County School District Superintendent Kristen McNeill is recommending no change for middle and high schools despite a loosening of  COVID-19 restrictions by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak last month. 

The board will vote on the recommendation at its meeting that starts at 4 p.m. at Hug High School.

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School Board President Angie Taylor said it is not as easy “as flipping a switch” now that more students are allowed in classrooms and on school buses.

“It’s transportation. It’s nutrition services. It’s allocations. It’s 75 percent max in each classroom, and getting students in. It’s substitutes. It’s all of that,” Taylor said about the difficulty in changing school models with three months left in the school year. 

Taylor said while the district has rolled out plans for how athletics will work, staff will have more information about how academics could change under a loosening of restrictions.

At last month’s school board meeting, trustees did ask district staff to work toward doing as much as possible for seniors, including looking at options to have them back in classrooms five days a week.

At the meeting, the district went over in detail how difficult it would be to change from its current structure.

On a call Friday with reporters, McNeill didn’t share specifics on what could be proposed but again talked about the complexity of changing schedules for thousands of students. 

“It’s going to be a very lengthy presentation,” McNeill said.

“Obviously we want as many students back as possible for all the reasons we have talked about,” she said about course failures and mental health concerns but said principals will be making presentations about some of the new options. 

“It may seem easy to just take away the hybrid model, but it is little more complex than that.” 

The first day back at school is seen at Greenbrae Elementary school in Sparks on Aug. 18, 2020.

Cuts to gifted programs up for possible vote

The school board will again have the option to vote on plans to revamp and cut gifted and talented programs. This agenda item is coming back to the board after it was first discussed in January after the district recommended cuts to programs for gifted students at Hug High, Clayton Middle School and at Caughlin, Hunsberger and Gomm elementary schools.

The board asked McNeill to involve more people in the plans after saying people were “blindsided” by the district’s plans to make cuts. 

ELL programs, graduation plans, logos for new schools

  • Also up for a possible vote by the school board is to change how the district educates students still learning English. The district has pushed to remove segregated classrooms for students still learning English including refugee students just arriving in the U.S. and will integrate children in classrooms with supports.  The district said it is a cost saving measure but also students in other districts are more successful when exposed to the same curriculum as peers. 
  • District staff will go over plans for graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2021. Plans for some high schools already include socially distanced, drive by ceremonies.
  • Presentation on the logos and mascots for the new Hug High, O’Brien Middle and Inskeep Elementary

Siobhan McAndrew tells stories about the people of Northern Nevada and covers education in Washoe County. Read her journalism right here. Consider supporting her work by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal