Senator Catherine Cortez Masto is back in northern Nevada, just in time for the first day of school. She stopped by North Valleys High School to get a first-hand look at some of the classrooms. She also got a chance to talk to students and faculty about the school's Agricultural Engineering and Natural Resource Management Signature Academy, which gives students an opportunity to earn college credits or certifications in various industries. The senator says visiting schools is a good way to learn about needs and classroom conditions.

"Their environment that they're being taught in is key," Cortez Masto, D-Nevada said. "You get to talk to the staff and the teachers, talk about the needs, what works, what doesn't work, and the principals. The principal, here, is phenomenal at North Valleys High."

Cortez Masto joined Washoe County School District Traci Davis on the school visit. Both say it is important that Nevada's high schools prepare students for the workforce.

"We want to ensure that all 64,000 students that walk through our door, go down a road so they have a pathway, so they can have a college, a high school career or the military," Davis said.

Cortez Masto credits Davis for some of the work force training in Washoe County.

"She's really reaching out to the businesses around the community and saying 'What do you need? What skill sets do you need and how do we bring that into our local schools to start teaching the kids?'" Cortez Masto said.

A new hotline is available for every school in Nevada, in time for the first day of school. SafeVoice is a reporting system that allows students, parents and teachers to report issues, anonymously. The idea is to keep students safe and prevent violence in schools. Students can use the website, app, or make a phone call to report a wide range of issues like school threats, bullying, suicide or drug abuse.

"We have an opportunity to find out what those things are early, so if we can resolve an issues that may happen, we can get that information investigated and keep our children as safe as possible," Davis said.

SafeVoice is the result of SB 338 in 2015. The late Sen. Debbie Smith sponsored the bill, known as "Safe-to-Tell" which required the Attorney General's Office to provide an anonymous reporting system for dangerous, violent, or illegal activities including threats. The legislature expanded the program in 2017, establishing SafeVoice. It is a partnership between the Nevada Department of Education and the Department of Public Safety to keep students safe.

"Sometimes they're not comfortable just walking up to a teacher or staff in their high schools," Cortez Masto said. "They may feel more comfortable making a call to somebody. It's important that we have somebody on the other end of that call."

The senator says another key component for education is broadband in rural areas. Last week, the USDA allocated $97 million for broadband infrastructure in 11 states, including Nevada. 

"We want to make sure we open the doors to our students by bringing broadband into their communities and they can be taught through the internet," Cortez Masto said. "It opens the doors to e-learning and so much more opportunity for our students. So my fight has been to make sure we are getting that federal funding for rural broadband here in Nevada."

Cortez Masto says the next step is getting the funding to the areas that need it most.