The fifth-largest district in the United States is expediting its plan to bring students back for in-person learning after a rise in student suicides.
Nevada’s Clark County School District, which has more than 326,000 students enrolled, has been fully remote since March 2020 — when the Covid-19 pandemic began. In the nine months since March, there have been 19 student suicides in the district, a school official confirmed to CNN. In the year before, there were only nine.
The district did not give evidence of a direct link between the deaths and remote learning. However, six students died by suicide between March 16 and June 30, and 12 students died between July 1 and December 31. There was one more death earlier this month, a district official confirmed to CNN on Monday.
Citing in part social and emotional wellness, the Clark County Board of Trustees voted unanimously to start bringing students back for in-person learning at a meeting on January 14.
“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be very challenging for education,” said Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara. “We will continue to make the health and safety of students and staff a top priority. As we continue to look at the academic and health crisis that the pandemic has caused, I believe that the plan proposed provides the first steps in returning our students and educators to the classroom.”
The district has an early warning system put in place to help monitor student’s mental health and well-being. With the help of that system, students have received more than 4,300 virtual wellness checks and more than 1,400 in-person wellness checks. Suicide protocols were initiated 30 times since March 2020, according to a report put out by the district.
The district’s report also outlined the strain long-term remote learning is having on students academically, stating that 90.4% of schools have given more Fs this year than the previous year, and 77.2% of schools gave more Ds than last year. Among those who got an F during the Fall semester, 11.2% of them earned all As and Bs in the Fall of 2019.
As Covid-19 cases climb across the country, school districts are faced with an impossible dilemma of protecting student mental health by returning to the classroom or physical health by keeping them home.
In October, a group of researchers warned about the mental health consequences of Covid-19, predicting a second wave of issues like increased deaths from suicide and drug overdoses.
However, some teachers in the US have died from the virus — which has led to a push from some educators to move to all-virtual classes.
In a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Tuesday, researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the kind of spread seen in crowded offices and long-term care facilities has not been reported in schools.
In-school transmission has occurred, but the researchers said there is little evidence that it contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission.