District reports pandemic’s toll on students’ mental health
THE Clark County School District, the nation’s fifth largest district, will begin hybrid instruction for younger students starting in March.
Earlier this month, the CCSD Board of Trustees voted to bring students back for in-person learning, with prekindergarten to third grade students in the greater Las Vegas area among the first to partially return on March 1 on a voluntary basis.
The school district, which has over 326,000 students enrolled, moved to remote instruction last March as the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The current push to reopen comes as the CCSD has reported a rise in mental health issues among its students. Since March, 19 students died by suicide, with one reported earlier this January.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be very challenging for education,” said CCSD Superintendent Dr. Jesus F. Jara. “We will continue to make the health and safety of students and staff a top priority. As we continue to look at the academic and health crisis that the pandemic has caused, I believe that the plan proposed provides the first steps in returning our students and educators to the classroom.”
A timeline for when other grades can return to the schools has yet to be announced. But during the Jan. 14 meeting, the district also approved a plan for the voluntary return of small groups of students across grade levels.
For Anthony Garciano, a Filipino American fifth grade teacher at a North Las Vegas school, he has used different online platforms to deliver lessons interactively.
However, he acknowledged that it has been difficult to ensure his “students are receiving an equitable education” due to technological challenges or personal circumstances.
With the CCSD’s latest announcement, he hopes that teachers will be prioritized for vaccinations to allay health and safety concerns.
“The pandemic is a major health crisis and has only highlighted other important issues in our educational system. I support the district’s push to address the very real mental health concerns affecting our students currently. I hope the district is able to help expedite vaccinations for teachers, especially those most vulnerable, and set and enforce thoughtful social distancing guidelines in schools and classrooms. If health concerns of teachers are properly addressed, educators across the district may feel less ambivalence to teaching in person,” Garciano told the Asian Journal.
Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) this week reintroduced the Virtual Peer Support Act that would provide $50 million in grants through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration for uninterrupted virtual services to vulnerable populations.
“For everyone struggling with mental health concerns, from first responders carrying the trauma they see at a crime scene to the heavy burden our students face during the pandemic, peer support can be the key difference that saves someone’s life. The tragic string of student suicides in the Clark County School District adds even more urgency to the need to address this crisis and to prioritize improving mental health services for Nevadans,” Cortez Masto said in a statement.