LAS VEGAS – It’s not the start she was expecting to her freshman year of high school, but Alia Novi is just glad to be in the classroom.

“I would go back to school full-time with a mask if we had to, I just want to go back to school,” Novi said.

School is now in session, and Nevada, like the rest of the county, has started welcoming students back to both virtual and in-person classes.

In the Silver State, each school district is laying out its own reopening plan. Larger, urban areas like Las Vegas have opted for fully remote learning. In smaller cities like Winnemucca, students will head back to the classroom.


“For Winnemucca, it's two days a week and it'll be three days of distance learning,” Humboldt County School District Superintendent Dr. David Jensen told Fox News. “Our students will attend Monday through Thursday, either in an AM or PM [block] and for our junior high school and high school, they will be every other day.”

While she’s happy to be back on campus with her friends, Alia expects the new school year to be a little “chaotic.”

Alia Novi is heading into her freshman year and is excited to be back in the classroom as schools reopen in Nevada.

Alia Novi is heading into her freshman year and is excited to be back in the classroom as schools reopen in Nevada. (Alia Novi)

“There are desks in the middle of the hallways and like the right side would like us to go this way and then the left side wants us to go back," she said. "You have to wear masks every time except when you're eating."

Students and faculty will indeed have to wear masks throughout the school day and maintain social distancing while robust cleanings are conducted.

“We do have our largest school district opening up [with] fully-blown distance learning," said state Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert. "We have a Washoe County school district which is face-to-face for the elementary students, five days a week and then hybrid, [with] an A and B schedule for middle and high school.

“In our state, we have all three models opening up.”


Debates over whether to send students back to the classroom or maintain remote learning have been a polarizing and politically charged subject. President Trump has advocated for schools to fully re-open across the board, while Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has pushed for a more cautious approach that takes into account local infection rates.

Coronavirus hospitalizations in Nevada have continued to drop and the daily positivity rate has decreased to 9.1%, according to data from the Southern Nevada Health District released last Friday.

For Ricarda Braatz, sending her two kids back to school was a no-brainer.

“Does the risk of sending them to school outweigh the risk of keeping them at home? I think very much so," Braatz said. "I think that we're doing a disservice by not sending them back."

Each school district in Nevada is creating its own reopening plan, ranging from in-person to full remote to hybrid models. 

Each school district in Nevada is creating its own reopening plan, ranging from in-person to full remote to hybrid models. (Ben Brown / Fox News)

While the pandemic has caused disruption for students and teachers and spurred debate about the best way to educate students, it also highlighted the inequalities in the education system.

“If anything, we've learned is that equity and equal accessibility to technology and the curriculum has to be a focus,” Jensen said.  “We can no longer say that our responsibility only resides within the physical school building. We've got to do better.”

In an effort to do better, the state has launched the Connecting Kids Nevada initiative to ensure every student has reliable internet and devices for access to quality education. Teams have been sent to to canvass neighborhoods across the state and share information about the program.


“We want to make sure that every child, each child has a device, that each child is connected to the Internet and they have the support that they need to be able to launch and engage in education,” Ebert told Fox News.

Back in March, Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara said roughly 120,000 students would be left behind in the transition to full remote learning, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The paper reported, citing data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, that about 1 in 15 households in the state’s largest school district do not have a computer while 1 in 7 are without Internet access.

Clark County, Nevada's largest school district, opted for fully remote learning. 

Clark County, Nevada’s largest school district, opted for fully remote learning. (Ben Brown / Fox News)

The abrupt transition to fully remote learning at the end of the 2019-2020 school year was an especially difficult challenge in rural parts of northern Nevada, especially on Indian reservations, where Internet connectivity is virtually nonexistent.

“In situations such as [Fort] McDermitt [Indian Reservation], [or] out in some of our remote rural locations like Denio and Kings River, they don't even have access to a cell tower,” Jensen said.

The school district is exploring  different options including wireless mesh, hot spots, and microwave connections so they’re prepared for if COVID-19 forces schools to shut down once again.


“Our staff did the best they could. Our students did the best they could. However, it wasn't a meaningful and equitable education," Jensen said. "We cannot simply continue to do what we did in that fourth quarter [of last school year]. And every school district in the state of Nevada is saying the same thing."

Although “back to school” might have a different meaning this fall, there is a silver lining: The pandemic has forced local and state leaders to make much-needed improvements to the digital infrastructure to ensure learning is available to every student, regardless of their economic standing.

“We're actually building a structure that will close those equity gaps as far as access," Ebert said. "Once we have that connectivity, it's not going away. We need to make sure that we sustain that, that the children have up to date devices, that we're communicating with our parents and families in a meaningful way. This is a structure out into the future. And I'm very optimistic about the future.”

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