Nevada Department of EducationNevada Department of Education

    The Nevada Department of Education Reflects and Celebrates the Successes of Educators and School Staff on the One-Year Anniversary of School Building Closures

    March 16, 2021

    CARSON CITY, Nev. – The Nevada Department of Education (NDE or Department) released a video message from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of COVID-19-related school building closures. Superintendent Ebert’s video message can be viewed via the Department’s YouTube stream:

    “COVID-19 has without a doubt been a turning point in education,” said Superintendent Ebert. “Reflecting on the past year inspires gratitude for the steadfast leadership of our district superintendents and school administrators, the determination and ingenuity of our educators and school staff, and the patience and dedication of our students and families.”

    “I also want to share my appreciation for the many philanthropic and business partners who reached out and asked what they could do to help,” Superintendent Ebert added. “Like us at the Nevada Department of Education, they were focused on making a positive difference in the lives of our students, without concern for receiving credit or accolades.”

    NDE has maintained high standards throughout its COVID-19 response and recovery efforts by staying grounded in its values of equity, access to quality, success, inclusivity, community, and transparency, as defined in the 2020 Statewide Plan for the Improvement of Pupils. Equity is always listed first among the values because it is cornerstone of the Department’s work to support students and educators, including its COVID-19 response. On March 3, 2021, Nevada’s Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights launched a web hearing series related to Distance Learning and Equity in Education. Superintendent Ebert was honored to be the first presenter in this series of hearings; her presentation can be viewed via the Nevada Department of Education’s YouTube stream:

    The State of Nevada Support of Education: COVID-19 Recovery and Response document released on February 26, 2021 provided an overview of efforts to ensure continuity of education during the pandemic. In her video remarks, Superintendent Ebert highlighted efforts aligned to the Department’s three COVID-19 priority areas:

    • Equitable access to devices and the internet for distance learning
    • Equitable access to high-quality professional learning for educators
    • Equitable access to high-quality instructional materials

    In each of the areas above, NDE partnered with districts, schools, educators, staff, and community partners to address the needs of students and families. In the past year, NDE has launched a number of new initiatives and reached milestones, including:

    • Connecting Kids ensured 100% of students participating in distance learning had access to the internet and devices as of January 5, 2021. This successful public-private partnership included the creation of a temporary Family Support Center staffed six days a week by bilingual operators. Connecting Kids was led by the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force, the Elaine P. Wynn & Family Foundation, Communities in Schools Nevada, and the Public Education Foundation.
    • In April 2020, NDE launched the Nevada Digital Learning Collaborative (NvDLC) website to ensure educators, students, and families had access to high-quality professional learning opportunities and instructional materials. The NvDLC content is maintained in coordination with the first-ever cohort of Nevada Digital Engineers – educators and administrators tasked with building capacity for distance learning among their colleagues and curating high-quality content. To date, has published over 200 resources and amassed over 45,000 views and 14,000 unique visitors. The NvDLC website has been accessed in over 50 countries worldwide.
    • Nevada’s Framework for a Safe, Efficient, and Equitable Return to School Buildings received national recognition. The Path Forward Plan was recognized by John Hopkins University with high marks for its holistic approach.
    • NDE partnered with Nevada Gold Mines to provide no-cost access to Discovery Education Experience for all districts and schools. Experience includes compelling content, ready-to-use digital lessons, unique collaboration tools, and professional learning resources that support educators in creating lasting educational impact. In addition, K-12 students receive access to dynamic career resources developed by Discovery Education in collaboration with Nevada Gold Mines, including hands-on experiences for students and their families that support the exploration of careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields. As of March 2021, over 15,000 educators and over 200,000 students are actively using Discovery Education resources.
    • NDE invited public schools and districts to join the Statewide Canvas Learning Management System, which enables educators to share high-quality resources, collaborate, and participate in professional learning. Currently, 551,506 users are active in Canvas across the State. This includes educators and students from Churchill, Clark, Elko, Eureka, Nye, and Storey County School Districts and 17 charter schools.
    • Nevada students reached the remarkable milestone of reading for over 44 million minutes on myON. In partnership with the Nevada State Library, Archives and Public Records and Renaissance, NDE provided students and families with timely digital access to age-appropriate reading materials to students and families through myON.
    • Nevada applied for and received nearly $13 million in federal grant funding to expand equitable access to mental health services and advanced coursework. The Department announced in October that Nevada was one of only five states awarded federal funding through the U.S. Department of Education’s School-Based Mental Health Services Grant Program. The $10.3 million award will be distributed over a five-year period. In addition, Nevada was one of only six states awarded federal funding through the Expanding Access to Well-Rounded Courses Demonstration Grants Program. The $2.6 million award will be distributed over a five-year period.
    • Ensuring safe and healthy learning environments has remained a Statewide priority. As of February 26, 2021, every educator in every county school district in the State has either received their first and/or second vaccination, is scheduled to get vaccinated, or has had the opportunity to access vaccination under this priority group. And, as of February 2021, the Nevada Division of Emergency Management has provided over 4.5 million items of PPE to public, private, charter, and tribal schools throughout Nevada.

    Throughout the response to and recovery from COVID-19, the Nevada Department of Education has worked closely with Governor Sisolak, State agency partners, community organizations, and education stakeholders to identify and respond to emerging needs. We are pleased to include the following statements from our partners in commemoration of the one-year anniversary of school building closures:

    “Closing Nevada’s school buildings was an immensely difficult decision, but looking back, I know it was the right decision at the time,” said Governor Steve Sisolak. "Together with the State Superintendent and local leaders, we made the best decision with the information that we had, but I assure you we did not reach this decision lightly. It was always our goal to bring students and educators back into buildings as safely as possible, and we continue to work toward that goal by providing additional support and resources - including making the early decision to prioritize all of Nevada's educators for the COVID-19 vaccine. As of today, I'm proud to say that all school districts throughout the State have students back to in-person learning in some fashion, and we will do all we can to continue to expand. It's been a difficult year, but I am so proud of the way our educators from all corners of the State have stepped up to continue to provide for our students in the last year."

    “As we reflect on the devastating and pervasive effects the pandemic continues to have on our community, let us remember the courage, cooperation, and perseverance exemplified by all Nevadans,” said Senator Mo Denis, Chair of the Senate Education Committee. “Today, I take this opportunity to especially recognize and praise our educational personnel—including educators and administrators, school districts, and Nevada’s Department of Education—and all the students and families who have navigated through these tough and unprecedented times. Many lives have been turned upside-down, but we will continue to confront these challenges and rise even stronger than before.”

    “It’s been one year since we made the previously unthinkable decision to keep Nevada’s children at home,” said Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, Chair of the Assembly Education Committee. “That decision was not made lightly, the safety and wellbeing of Nevada’s children came first and foremost during hugely uncertain times. I thank every teacher and parents (who became teachers) for their unwavering dedication to Nevada’s kids.”

    “This last year has challenged us beyond belief,” said Russell Fecht, President of the Nevada Association of School Superintendents and Superintendent of Pershing County School District. “Our staffs have worked tirelessly over the last year and should be commended for the work they have done and continue to do. The pandemic has pushed us to our limits and beyond in many cases, however, it has also taught us that with great leadership and teamwork we can tackle almost anything and stay focused on the mission at hand – meeting the needs of every student.”

    “In 2020, school moved into our homes and demonstrated clearly how critical strong home-school partnerships are to student success and wellbeing,” said Rebecca Garcia, President of the Nevada Parent Teacher Association. “Nevada PTA appreciates the hard work and dedication of Superintendent Ebert, the Nevada Department of Education, and districts in collaborating to meet students’ needs during this complex time. In 2021 and beyond, we look forward to creating educational opportunities that meet the unique and diverse needs of all students in every area of our State.”

    "Our response to COVID-19 demonstrated that we can rally as a community to meet the needs of our students when we are united around a singular purpose,” said Elaine Wynn, former President of the Nevada State Board of Education and the co-chair of Connecting Kids Nevada. "Leaders from throughout Nevada, from the public and private sectors, came together to support the Connecting Kids initiative. In just four months, we ensured that every single student utilizing digital learning had access to reliable internet and a device at home.”
    “This past year has truly been about adaptability and how to best support our students through these challenging times,” said Kendall Inskip, Executive Director of Education Alliance of Washoe County. “Education Alliance mobilized quickly last April to launch the Distance Learning Laptop Drive raising more than $650,000 for students without access to technology at home. It is a testament to how caring and supportive our community is, all coming together to help our children continue their learning.”

    "We knew that our most vulnerable students would be left out of school without access to the internet and a device for virtual learning," said Tami Hance-Lehr, Chief Executive Officer of Communities in Schools Nevada, which led the effort along with The Public Education Foundation and The Elaine P. Wynn Family Foundation. "More than 230 organizations statewide participated in the Connecting Kids initiative. It was an unprecedented public-private partnership, and we intend to continue the momentum to support our students through this crisis."

    Per Governor Sisolak’s Emergency Directive 001, school buildings across Nevada were closed effective March 16, 2020 to ensure the health and safety of students, staff, and communities. Additional Directives extended the building closures through the end of the 2019-20 school year. Prior to the start of the 2020-21 school year, authority regarding school reopening and instructional models was returned to district superintendents and charter school leaders and their respective governing bodies. Five school districts began the 2020-21 school year providing in-person learning opportunities for all students; ten districts offered some combination of in-person and distance learning – or hybrid instruction – for students, and two districts began the school year fully online. As of March 1, 2021, buildings in every school district are open for in-person learning for some or all students.