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School board trustees approve $2.3 million for online tutoring

By Kelsey Penrose
Published: Last Updated on

The Washoe County School District Board of Trustees Tuesday approved a service agreement with Paper Education Company (Paper) to purchase 40,000 online tutoring licenses using the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds. The cost: $2.3 million. 

Tutoring extends in everything from basic subjects all the way through high school AP and even help with practice ACT exams. 

The license agreement will last 2 years, expiring on July 31, 2024, and breaks down to $28 per student, multiplied by 40,000 licenses. 

That amount is an estimate, however; if not all 40,000 licenses are used, funds will be returned to the district. 

“If we don’t use all 40,000 licenses, there is a prorated reimbursement back as well,” said WCSD’s Randy Drake, assistant director of grants. “This is all being funded by ESSER III funds. The funding is approved.” 

According to the trustee meeting agenda, students receive “Unlimited 24/7 one-on-one tutoring for all subjects, delivered by a live educator through Paper’s Classroom in both English and Spanish.”

Paper also “provides students with Essay Review, where students can upload any piece of written work and receive an annotated version of their work within 24 hours.”

Trustees questioned staff on why the contract was written as a contract between Paper and the Reynoldsburg City School District in Ohio. 

Staff said WCSD would be using their contract to avoid having to go the route alone, which would necessitate a Request for Proposal, or RFP,  which would take much longer. 

“We’re utilizing their contract as a method to do business with the vendor,” said WCSD’s Andrea Sullivan. “We wanted to get services to students as quickly as possible with these funds, and this was the best way we could find to do it.” 

Trustee Diane Nicolet raised several questions to staff. She asked why the contract included a provision that the “District could act as the parent’s agent, and can consent to the collection of student’s personal information on the parent’s behalf.” 

“That’s always a red flag to me,” she said. “Is that standard, that we don’t go to the parent?” 

Sullivan responded that it was standard, and that the district is allowed to act on behalf of students in a school setting. 

“All of this language around student data and privacy has been drafted by our office of general counsel,” Sullivan added.

However, the contract also states that all data will be deleted by the end of the program period. 

Nicolet also asked why, while the contract states that “the Platform and Educators are available on a 24 hours / 7 days per week basis,” it also indicates there are limitations and that some students may find themselves “out of luck” while trying to seek assistance past midnight. 

“I’m surprised to see that language in there, frankly,” said AACT Principal Mike Gifford in response to Nicolet. “Anytime any student has gone on at that time of night they’ve been connected within 15 seconds. All I could think of is maybe an educator that has the background in that subject level possibly? But my understanding is there’s a guarantee of an automatic connection with a tutor in under a minute.” 

“That language might be, ‘No one can offer 100% fool-proof guarantee,’” said Superintendent Susan Enfield. “It’s unlikely, but the chance is there.” 

Trustee Adam Mayberry praised the contract.

“This online tutoring is exactly what we need,” he said. “I’m ecstatic that we are doing this. It’s the right thing to do. Our mantra should be, ‘Whatever it takes,’ and this is whatever it takes to improve the academic performance of our students.” 

The contract was unanimously approved. 

As of Sept. 20, the Washoe County School District is short almost 50 drivers and drivers began making double runs to make up for the shortage.
As of Sept. 20, the Washoe County School District is short almost 50 drivers and drivers began making double runs to make up for the shortage. Image: Richard Bednarski / This Is Reno

Bus schedules back on track after new hires

Retention and new hiring have increased since pay increases came into effect in July, said district staff. 

More than 240 driver positions have been filled, with a current projection of 220-230 daily drivers available by the week of Oct. 10, 2022. 

“While we have reversed the trend, we remain in deficit, and have more work to do,” said Chief Operating Officer Adam Searcy. 

According to Searcy, there are 260 driver allocations, with a minimum of 230 drivers needed to operate a Daily Hub System, and 185 to 190 drivers needed for the current Area Rotation Plan. 

The district will return to full bus coverage by the end of fall break, said Searcy. 

“It’s been a team effort and a lot of hard work, with more hard work to be done,” said Searcy following a round of applause from the trustees and staff present. 

Incline High School dedications 

Trustees voted to approve the naming of the to-be-renovated athletic field at Incline High School “Ridgeline Stadium,” and the building expansion “The Duffield Student Center” in honor of the Dave and Cheryl Duffield Foundation, whose donations were used for both projects. 

In 2021, the district was approached by the foundation about a potential donation to Incline High School to make improvements to replace the athletic fields and equipment and  a new student center. 

During the June 14, 2022 meeting, trustees approved the designs for both the improvements and expansion for a cost of $2.9 million, with the total amount around $38 million donated entirely by the Foundation. 

“We are today to honor the Dave and Cheryl Duffield Foundation for their continued generosity in all of the work that they do in Incline and elsewhere in our community,” said Mike Paul, area superintendent. “We know they are entirely funding this project in Incline to the tune of approximately $38 million for this work they are doing for us.”

The board was also requested to allow for a provision giving the Foundation the ability to change any signage or names of the associated facilities until 2030 at the expense of the foundation. 

“They’ve been very generous,” said Board President Angela Taylor. 

The board’s student representative and a senior with Incline High School, Ivy Batmale, staid she was extremely grateful to the foundation for their contributions.

“70% of the students at Incline are athletes,” Batmale said. “And the student center is already being prepared for huge projects. Everybody is very excited about it.” 

The vote was unanimous from trustees. 

“I’m so excited for the Highlanders,” said Taylor. “They’ve wanted this new stadium for a long, long time.”

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