Teachers at Lahontan Elementary School receive information dealing with their students and coronavirus.
With teachers coming back to campus ahead to welcome students for the first time since March, Matt Hyde was pleased with what he saw last week.
Like the rest of the country in the spring, Churchill County School District devised a new learning plan in short time as it watched all its schools and their students and faculty forced to continue education remotely for the final two months of the school year.
For Hyde, the county school district’s board president, he was impressed with the positive outlook teachers displayed as schools look to welcome back students on Tuesday.
"We’re all learning on the fly and we hope to go through it with a positive attitude and our heads up,” Hyde said during last week’s school board meeting. “What I saw at the high school was a bunch of people doing just that. They were all there. I’m proud of this district and how this district has handled the situation.”
To say this school year will be different is possibly the understatement of the century in education.
Students will not be coming to class in person for the entire day. A growing number of students is opting to begin the year with full-distance learning. Sports and extracurricular activities have been postponed with the athletics season set to start in January.
With Churchill County having one of the lowest positive rates in the Silver State, Hyde and the school board acknowledged that it is inevitable issues will arise. In Washoe County, positive cases were reported at several schools before students returned to campus.
“I would be totally naive if we started school and we will not have issues,” he said. “We’re going to address those issues as they come up. We can’t see into the future. We like to be prepared as possible."
The school district, though, has done everything it can to ensure all safety precautions are in place. CCSD Superintendent Summer Stephens did not rule out delaying the school start date.
“We are literally knocking stuff off the to-do list. I do believe we can do it,” said Stephens, who said an announcement will be made at the end of the week if school cannot start on time. “It may take some additional modifications. The opening day is just the beginning.”
Schools are operating with two instruction models: hybrid learning with groups of students attending two to three days a week either in the morning or afternoon, and full-distance learning. All students and staff in K-12 and staff in PK will wear masks and it will be strictly enforced. Students in the lower grades are required to maintain 3 feet for social distancing while adults will maintain 6 feet unless variance is needed to assist with the most vulnerable learners’ needs, according to Stephens.
In addition to following the directives from the Centers of Disease Control and government, Stephens said the schools will be ready to accommodate for social distancing in between classes, and the daily schedules at the middle and high schools have been shortened. Students are asked not to arrive too early before class to avoid creating large gatherings in waiting spaces. Stephens added that no mass recesses will be held.
“Principals and teachers have been working on creating walking patterns to ensure that transitions can be done well,” Stephens said. “In addition, with the shortened daily schedule and the middle school and high school, students in those buildings only have to transition one time, reducing the exposure throughout the day.”
Extensive cleaning protocols will be in place, including cleaning thoroughly between each group of students. Stephens said the district worked with classified and licensed staff associations. Cleaning won’t be limited to just the custodian staff.
“Our classroom teachers and other support staff will also be cleaning in the classrooms between groups of students with a safe and effective product similar to the solution used in pools or hot tubs,” Stephens said. “It is safe to the touch and will keep high-touch spaces sanitized.”
The district plans to be proactive as much as possible to prevent infected students and staff from coming to campus. Information on the district’s protocol for reported cases was not available at press time.
A health screening will be conducted each day for students and staff members. When a parent calls in a student sick or if a teacher calls in sick, Stephens said the school staff will ask detailed questions to help the county with contact tracing if there are positive cases.
“It is our goal to have as much data collected as we can that helps health care professionals keep our schools safe and avoid future closures,” said Stephens, who added that data will not be shared, including specific information with anyone per the FERPA and HIPPA laws. “We understand everyone's feelings leading up to the reopening and know that we are going to make choices and decisions that are in the best interest of our community.”