LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The return to CCSD is coming up on Monday, for hundreds of thousands of students and teachers. While this new year has promised a fresh start for so many, some challenges still linger for the district. 

8 News Now sat down with Superintendent Dr. Jesus Jara ahead of the first day of school, and no topic was off limits, from staffing shortages to school safety. 

“It’s exciting because it’s that time of year. The teachers came back last Thursday, new teachers and everyone is feeling the energy. I feel it. We are ready,” said Superintendent Jara. 

The question parents might be asking is about staffing and if the schools are ready with the number of teachers. 8 News Now asked Superintendent Jara about vacancies as well as the bus driver shortage. 

“Last night we had our bids for our bus drivers to bid for their routes – you will be the first to know – when we looked at our vacancies, we’re down from 250 when we opened to 84 right now today.” 

“I have to take care of the kids and that is what my principals, staff and my entire 42 thousand employees are going to do. We are deploying every educator in the central office to our schools,” continued Dr. Jara. “Administrators who have licenses. We want a certified educator licensed in the classroom with the kids. That is our priority.” 

In terms of violence and safety, 8 News asked Superintendent Jara what the game plan was moving forward for the school year. 

“We can’t tell you the details because of safety measures. We are keeping those close to us,” Jara explained. “We are addressing the single point of entry and other issues across our schools. We are updating cameras even though it’s a deterrent but gives the frame to catch the bad guys and the instant alert.” 

The superintendent did not release too many details about safety measures in our conversations, but he stressed that the district is working closely with CCSD police and Metro as usual. 

We asked the superintendent about incentives to get more teachers into the classrooms and other concerns many parents have. He said staffing is a big focus for the district but so is retaining the teachers year after year, and that there are incentives to get educators to stay and attract out-of-state teachers as well.  

“Right now we have to do whatever we need to do to get educators. It’s our job to not only onboard them, but also retain them here. These are things we must do long term,” Dr. Jara told 8 News Now crews. “We are partnering with the unions. We raised the salaries according to the board that voted for that for teachers making over 50 thousand a year. That was from 43 to 50 thousand.” 

8 News Now also asked Superintendent Jara about school zones and how that is working out, specifically about how the district is keeping track. 

“That is something we are learning. Coming back from Covid, I asked why we are allowing students to zone into an area to overcrowded schools,” Dr. Jara explained. “We are centralizing with the board policy. It’s tough. Change is hard, but we are working through these challenges.” 

This year is different because, with covid, so many things changed. We asked how the district learned what worked and what didn’t. 

“We did learn a lot,” Dr. Jara assured. “Seeing kids in school is like nothing else. I was mentioning how in my 5 years, I’ve opened schools 7 times because we opened twice in one year. That gives you energy when you see the kids.” 

Dr. Jara said the pandemic tested many things on how students learned. Many of those options are being evaluated. 

We also asked Dr. Jara about concerns over monkeypox for the next school year and what he hopes his legacy at CCSD will be. 

“As we move forward with COVID restrictions rolling back we have another threat on the horizon with monkeypox. We have two cases with kids in the U.S. The risk is low but I’m sure it’s a concern our chief of safety works close with me and the southern Nevada health district. When our educators came back this week we are going through all the mitigation strategies.. these are things that we are going to continue to monitor,” he added.

Another topic that Dr. Jara addressed was of the proposal to break up the school district.

“As a superintendent that is going to take years, but right now I’m going to worry about the students that are coming to school on Monday and the educators showing support. That is where I stand on it,” he told 8 News Now.

Dr. Jara also added that when his time comes to a close he hopes to leave behind a positive impact, but until then there is much work ahead.

“I want to leave this place better than how I found it – fully staffed, children are learning at high levels, third-grade reading scores to go up, graduation rates where my kids are graduating and they’re graduating going into high paying jobs and those that wanted to go to college. Their opportunities are limitless and that is what I want to see,” he said.

Dr. Jara said there are many challenges to overcome but his current focus is on the first day of school.