Citizen input varied Tuesday night during the Carson City School District’s workshop on its safe school reopening plan, ranging from concerns about the use of masks and cleaning processes to anticipations about resources once emergency relief funds provided by Congress have been depleted. The district’s document proposes full, in-person instruction five days a week for the 2021-22 school year after the district operated on a hybrid schedule this past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Superintendent Richard Stokes reviewed specific information with the district’s Board of Trustees and the public during the meeting regarding programs and services to be made available to students, families and the community as well as policies and aspects of operations including schedules, communications, health conditions, nutrition services, transportation, human resources and emergency management. The district is following the U.S. Department of Education’s guidance for Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services through Emergency Directive 022 to update or replace its 2020-21 reopening plans to meet the statutory requirements of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. CCSD also must submit its final recommendations to the Nevada Department of Education and the federal government by July 14. The intent is to emphasize health and safety for students, staff and community members who enter CCSD’s schools, continuity of services, the revision of the plan no less than six months at a time and to make it available to families in their preferred language. The workshop on Tuesday was held to receive input from community members about the plan, the upcoming reopening and their potential impact on families given the past year’s experience largely operating in a hybrid model. One of the major concerns raised was about the use of facemasks, which Stokes addressed. “As of today, no facemasks will be required at school unless mandated by governmental health agencies,” Stokes said. “People are not wearing them. The CDC is still a recognized health authority. They will be providing guidance to us. In this particular aspect of a plan, they may be worn voluntarily by a student or staff without stigma. They should have a right to wear a mask.” Stokes said they are mandated to be worn on buses but not in classrooms. The latest guidance remains intact from Gov. Steve Sisolak as of approximately April 28, Stokes said, and has not changed, although he said he anticipated a statement to come as additional data is examined ahead of the new school year. But local residents, including Bepsy Strasburg, expressed disagreement about students being instructed to wear masks at all and what they represent if they continue to be used on or around campuses. “Masks have not proven to be very useful,” Strasburg said. “Masks are a symbol. We don’t want to create fear in our young generation. … We don’t want to create this artificial fear or environment. I don’t think psychologically it’s the right thing to do.” Resident Robert Harris asked whether the district would use medical-grade masks for students and staff. “This is an airborne virus; a cloth mask is basically a fashion accessory … after about five cycles, five uses, a cloth mask, depending on how many layers, is garbage, it doesn’t work, ” he said. Stokes also answered questions about the district’s cleaning system and the use of its fogger system to sanitize desks and surfaces when students are not in classrooms or within school facilities. Public comment also addressed concerns about potential changes to Carson City’s nutrition services and helping to improve kids’ immune systems by modifying their diets in their breakfast and lunch provisions or introducing wellness programs. Trustee Laurel Crossman also asked whether state or federal officials are connecting any of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding to this reopening plan, which Stokes reaffirmed. “Obviously, we want to have a school that is meeting the needs of our community, but we are also being asked to be accountable for the funds that are being offered to us by the fed government,” he said. “The state government is really the agency that writes the check, but both agencies are requiring that an exercise be done like this in all the school districts.” The final plan will be presented to the board at its July 13 meeting for action before submission to the NDE on July 14.
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