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School district short on substitute teachers

By Jeri Chadwell

As of Dec. 3, the Washoe County School District is reporting 68 active COVID-19 cases at 44 schools.

The school district’s middle and high school students moved to temporary full distance learning on Wednesday, with a few exceptions at schools where both elementary and secondary students are enrolled.

Nonetheless, the school district has said that it is still in need of substitute teachers. Thanks to an emergency regulation enacted by Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak, larger districts—including both Washoe and Clark counties—can now disregard regulations that require substitute teachers to have both a license and at least 60 college credits. The emergency provision is expected to be in place through Feb. 24.

Dr. Kristen McNeill
Dr. Kristen McNeill

During her Friday media briefing, WCSD Superintendent Kristen McNeill thanked Sisolak and Superintendent of Public Instruction for the Nevada Department of Education Jhone Ebert for making this option available to Washoe County. Previously, it was only available to school districts in smaller counties.

The provision widens the field of potential candidates for substitute teaching, and McNeill said WCSD is actively engaged in “intense recruiting efforts,” including reaching out to former students and volunteers. The school district is advertising substitute teacher opportunities online and via billboards in the region.

Interested individuals will still need to apply for licensing through the Nevada Department of Education and with the school district. Both applications can be done online and can be accessed through the WCSD and Nevada DOE websites.

Fees for a teaching license cost around $180; however, WCSD has worked with the Redfield Foundation to obtain a grant to help cover those costs for prospective substitutes. A high school diploma or transcript needs to be sent in with the licensing application, and fingerprinting is still a requirement.

In response to a question concerning the qualifications of would-be substitutes with only a high school diploma, McNeill said they will go through classroom management training and will be vetted by the school district’s human resources department prior to beginning teaching.

Free COVID-19 testing, meal distribution  

Last weekend, the school district partnered with Washoe County and the City of Reno to provide free COVID-19 testing at Wooster High School. McNeill said turnout for this was good.

This weekend, the school district will be hosting free COVID-19 testing at Sparks High School on Sunday, Dec. 6, between 9 a.m. and noon. McNeill said 250 tests will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis to the community but that the district is hoping these tests will be taken mostly by families with children who either attend or will attend Sparks High School upon completing elementary and middle school.

McNeill also stressed that families of current full distance learners should be aware that the district has additional meal distribution sites from which families can pick up free meals for any child up to 18 years old. The meal sites are North Valleys High School, Wooster High School, Sparks High School, Pine Middle School, Clayton Middle School, Traner Middle School, Desert Skies Middle School, Sun Valley Elementary School and Stead Elementary School.

On Tuesday, the WCSD Board of Trustees will have it’s next regular meeting. According to McNeill, the board will receive an update concerning COVID-19 and will discuss testing, contact tracing and guest teachers (a newer term the district is using for substitute teachers) as well as athletics and special education programming for distance and in person and staffing levels.

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