“This is not a spring break for our staff,” Pershing County Superintendent Russell Fecht told Chairman Walter Brinkerhoff, Joe Crim, Officer Mike Mancebo, James Evans and Cindy Plummer. The PCSD Board of Trustees held its regular monthly meeting on Monday, March 16, at the district office.

On Mar. 15, Governor Steve Sisolak announced the closure of K-12 schools across the state. They’ll stay closed until at least Apr. 6 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Within days of the shutdown, PCSD began distributing breakfasts and lunches to students at three distribution points. By Wednesday, teachers rolled out a district-wide distance learning program. 

Distance learning aims to bridge the gap

In the first week of the shutdown, teachers closed out old business and prepared for two weeks of distance learning.

“That will look different building to building and class to class,” said Fecht. It will be primarily packet-based. He estimated that about 23 percent of Pershing County students do not have adequate Internet access for a more online approach. Teachers will be available to the students through Email, phone calls and other means.

“Will students be allowed to come to the school for help on an individual basis?” asked Chairman Brinkerhoff.

“We’ve allowed staff to decide if they’re comfortable meeting at the school, or if it all needs to be remote or on the phone,” replied the superintendent. “The school is open for them to meet with a child or a couple of children to talk about assignments. Our offices will have some standard hours.”

“I’m hopeful the vast majority of the students will do the learning objectives,” he added. However, Fecht acknowledged that the shutdown is out of everyone’s control. “If a kid doesn’t do certain things, we won’t hold it against them. This can’t be punitive.”

On Wednesday, March. 18, both LES and PCMS reported that almost 100% of families picked up Learning from a Distance packets.

“Thanks for standing in the cold to make sure our kids are still learning during this time,” said a parent.

District preserves food security

PCSD submitted its food security plan to the Nevada Department of Agriculture for approval. By Tuesday, March 16, the district announced distribution points and times. Last Wednesday, they began distributing meals.

According to the Nevada Dept. of Agriculture, parents will not be able to pick up food without their child present. The district must follow the guidelines to receive reimbursement for each meal.

Classified staff is on call in case the district needs their help. “I know they’ll rally if we need them,” said Fecht.

The unknowns

By now, everyone has felt the impact of coronavirus on their lives. Students weather the loss of team sports, prom and, perhaps, a graduation ceremony. Many girls already bought their prom dresses for a Knight to Remember, scheduled for Mar 28. That date falls within the three-week shutdown.

“If we don’t have a relaxation of the virus or the restrictions being placed on us, graduation ceremonies are in jeopardy,” said Fecht. “It would be my hope things are relaxed to the point we’re able to hold some of these functions, but it’s out of our control. I hope we can hold graduation even if it’s at a reduced capacity.”

There was some discussion of what that might look like. Ideas included limiting the crowd size by issuing fewer invitations, yielding a high-school auditorium-sized group rather than a packed gymnasium.

The district initially scheduled spring break for the week of Apr 13.

“However, I have a hard time bringing kids back for four days just to send them out for a week to hold spring break,” said Fecht. “They’d just be getting back to a sense of normalcy.” Instead, he’s considering moving the break to the week of Apr 6. There is no food service or lesson planning during spring break. Under that scenario, students would, tentatively, return to school on Apr 13. 

It’s also possible the state chief medical officer will recommend an extension of the shutdown. Nobody knows how things will play out.

“The amount of work the school, teachers, paras, custodial staff, administration and district office are doing right now is astounding. We get things done,” said a longtime teacher.

Other business:

The board acknowledged the retirements of Martha Carlson, Patricia Harmon and Marian Nelson. Each gave decades of service to the district.

“We thank them for their devotion,” said Cindy Plummer.

For more information, visit the district website at pershing.k12.nv.us.

Governor extends school shutdown

On Mar. 21, Governor Steve Sisolak extended the school shutdown. Nevada schools will reopen no sooner than Apr. 16, 2020. 

“I just got this a few minutes ago,” said Superintendent Russell Fecht. “I will post our game plan when we have fully formulated how this will look district-wide. Stay tuned.”

“This is not an extended spring break. It needs to be taken seriously. I’m counting on you to step up and show the rest of Nevada what you’re made of,” from Governor Sisolak’s message to Nevada’s K-12 students regarding the March 16-April 6 school closure.

The next regular school board meeting is Apr 20 at 5:15 p.m. PCSD will hold a budget workshop for the 2020-21 school year on Apr 20 at noon.

Meal pick up times and locations

Lovelock students

• site: Pershing County Middle School

• time: 11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Rye Patch and Oreana students

• site: Rye Patch firehouse parking lot

• time: 10:30 – 11 a.m.

Imlay students

• site: Imlay Elementary School parking lot

• time: 11:30 a.m. - noon