Nevada Department of Education: Washoe County School District’s digital days are illegal
The Washoe County School District is searching for a solution to what the Nevada Department of Education says is a conflict with state law stemming from the district’s “digital school day” policy.
The Nevada Department of Education sent a memo to the district, which includes Incline Village schools, Jan. 4 stating the digital days policy in its current form is illegal.
“While we understand and appreciate the concerns of WCSD regarding the gaps in student’s education that can occur when unsafe conditions necessitate the closing of traditional school for a day, the challenge that NDE encounters is the law in its current form does not permit the plan as proposed,” said the state’s memo to the district.
The district responded Thursday with a statement that said the state accepted and approved the plan in a letter in 2017.
“Having reviewed WCSD’s proposed Distance Education Plan, including the provision with the District-wide Digital School Day plan, NDE confirmed in a letter dated June 13, 2017 that WCSD’s plan was acceptable and approved it for implementation through June 2020,” the statement read.
The district said a pilot program tested last year at its North Shore schools was successful, which led to the implementation of “Temporary Education Plans” for the 2018-19 school year.
The TEPs were renamed “Digital School Days” in the fall of 2018 for ease of public understanding, according to a school district statement.
The digital days replace snow days when weather and road conditions become too dangerous for kids to safely travel to school. When a digital day is called for, students complete assignments from home.
The program was intended to eliminate the need to add make up school days.
The district had state approval to operate a distance education and independent study program “based on the understanding that these programs would be applied on an individual, case by case basis and with an approved annual school calendar,” according to the state memo.
The state learned about the district implementing digital days on Sept. 28, through media reports and reached out to the district “in an effort to clarify intent and understanding.”
The sides met over the next few weeks that led to a formal meeting on Nov. 19, according to the memo. They agreed WCSD would submit an amended plan.
On Nov. 28, the state received an amended plan that it felt still didn’t work under the law.
“The letter from the NDE dated January 4, 2019, was in regards to an amendment to WCSD’s Alternative Education Plan, after the NDE met with WCSD officials and requested that WCSD’s alternative education plan be modified to include TEP Plans,” the district’s statement read. “WCSD made the requested amendment to incorporate TEP Plans (Digital School Days) to the alternative education plan, which was then denied by the NDE in the January 4, 2019 letter. However, WCSD continues to operate Digital School Days under the approved Distance Education Plan which remains in force until June 2020.”
Earlier today Nevada Department of Education officials met with the state Attorney General’s Office to discuss the matter. After the meeting, the department affirmed its position on the digital day policy.
The department is asking the district to come up with a mutually agreeable solution, a spokesperson for the department said Friday.