Ostash looks to K–5 in classrooms by month’s end

Ostash looks to K–5 in classrooms by month’s endBY LAURA QUEZADA

Staff Writer The News Review

In last week’s edition. The News Review published public comments from the Feburary 18 Sierra Sands School District’s (SSUSD) Board Meeting. The sometimes harsh criticism implored the board to get children back into the classroom. Earlier this week, Dr. Dave Ostash, Superintendent of SSUSD, responded, “I absolutely listened with an empathetic ear and completely respect and regard their perspective. And I believe that their perspectives are shared by many community members and parents. And all I can say that for my part and the district, we are working extremely hard to meet the needs of all of our students and get the students back to in-person learning as soon as possible.” When asked what would happen if schools were to reopen before all of the requirements were fulfilled? Ostash replies, “We have to be sure that, at the core, we are doing everything we possibly can to serve our students. Surrounding that core focus, we must adhere to procedural, legal, and safety measures in order to protect our district from issues related to liability and funding loss.”

In response to the wish for schools to reopen, Ostash was enthusiastic to share recent news from Governor Newsom, “Yesterday (March 1) the governor and the legislature unveiled a plan that everyone anticipates will be voted on and approved on this Thursday. It is the glue that districts like ours need to put all of the pieces back together.” Ostash went on to summarize, “Governor Newsom announced that they reached 6.6 billion dollar deal with the legislature; it is called Assembly Bill 86 and Senate Bill 86 (SB-86 and AB-86). It is separated into two. Two billion dollars is for in-person grants. For Sierra Sands that would be about $1.6 million, and six billion dollars statewide is for learning loss mitigation. There are three overarching pieces: 1) the provisions and financing for COVID-19 safety, including reporting and vaccines, 2) the incentive grants to assist and encourage schools to reopen, and 3) the learning recovery grant to provide extra assistance to students to mitigate learning loss.” He continues, “We are working with our associations and we are confident that we will be able to offer in-person instruction to all transitional kindergarten through 5th grade by the end of this month. And we also have a goal of implementing an opportunity for our seniors at Burroughs and Mesquite to help close any gaps that they might have.”

Locally, “negotiations are going productively. We have been meeting twice a week into the evening hours. The district and associations are working very productively and urgently. The nice thing is, it is clear that we all have a mutual interest in serving kids, getting them back in-person. What we are doing is working through the positional differences in a productive way. I am confident that our district will be able to serve our students in-person starting with the full elementary age range, T-K through 5, this month. That is the intention of the legislation and that is our intention as well.”

“For the first time in several months I am very optimistic and confident that we are on the cusp of being able to marshal our resources. This has been a very trying time for Sierra Sands. We made a promise from the very beginning to make sure that our distance learning program is robust and is a full academic day every day. It doesn’t mean that it is easy and it doesn’t mean that it is successful for every student. We feel very confident that our efforts and our intentions have been superb and we have not relinquished any of our responsibility, our pledge, our commitment to our community. Everybody has been working so hard and I have so much respect for our faculty and staff.”

“For some this has been an interesting or even invigorating experiment. For some it hasn’t been. For some it has just been challenging. And for those individuals, whether it is staff or student, I am profoundly empathetic and concerned and interested in resolving that as quickly as possible. It has been a very, very challenging experience for many people.”

Ostash speaks for most of us when he says, “I am so looking forward to getting back to in-person instruction.”

Story First Published: 2021-03-05