LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Distance learning continued Friday at three schools that lost power when utility poles were toppled during this week’s high winds.

Classes are expected to return to Roy Martin Middle School on Monday according to the school’s website, Sunrise Acres Elementary School is also expected to resume in-person classes on Monday. Information about the third school — Variety School — wasn’t immediately available. The schools have been communicating directly with families.

What went into the decision to switch to distance learning? The Clark County School District (CCSD) said Friday it was a choice between makeup days or continuing on with instruction.

“School districts in Nevada are required by state law to provide students with 180 instructional days per school year. Distance Education is an option for the District to continue providing students with instruction rather than closing schools and requiring staff and students to make up days at a later time,” a CCSD statement said early Friday evening.

“In this specific incident, it was not safe for students nor staff to be on campus as there was no power in the area, and live power lines were down at or near the schools due to inclement weather,” the district said.

“Having the ability to quickly transition to distance education is a benefit to staff, students, and families to provide uninterrupted instruction,” CCSD said.

It’s hard to say whether parents were prepared for the switch — and all the considerations that go with it, especially following the damaging storm. But attendance counted, the district said. “Students are marked present during distance education if they attended a live meet, had two-way communication with a teacher, or provided evidence of participation in coursework. “

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the community to master the distance learning routine, and many technical barriers were overcome as CCSD students completed the 2019-2020 school year online. Experiments with hybrid solutions in 2020-2021 refined the community’s skills.

But through it all, the challenge of connectivity exposed needs in the Las Vegas valley — and across the country. Reliable, affordable broadband internet access emerged as a nationwide priority, and now the government has embarked on a $42.5 billion program to solve some of the problems.

“If there’s a silver lining — and there might be a few of the past few years of the pandemic — one thing is that it really reinforced that broadband availability is no longer a luxury. It’s something that touches virtually every aspect of our lives whether we realize it or not,” said Tyler Cooper, editor in chief of BroadbandNow, a company that specializes in information about broadband providers.

Cooper called the federal Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program a “once in a generation” opportunity. Nevada has secured $5 million to get started in planning for the best use of the massive federal program.

Access and deployment are the infrastructure parts of the BEAD program. That will be important to rural parts of Nevada, which have lagged in developing broadband service.

The Digital Equity Act, part of President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, provides $2.75 billion through grants to open internet access to households that can’t afford it, or places where it simply isn’t available. Cooper said Nevada is expected to get $750,000 of that funding.

And that access is important — especially if distance learning becomes a frequent strategy for schools to get around power outages, air conditioning problems … or snow days in some parts of the country.

In a Wednesday interview with 8 News Now, Cooper said it’s about “ensuring that education is available to everyone in an equitable way — making sure that all students have access to the same online tools and programs that their classmates have.”

The BEAD program will take five years, and it’s only just beginning.

“Increasingly, we work online, we educate our young online, we pay bills online, we connect to others online. All of these things are things that many of us in areas that are well-connected just take for granted. This is just something we imagine that everyone has,” Cooper said.

“But it isn’t. There are millions of Americans that live every day without those things and without the benefits that they provide.”