Churchill school district, county address delayed opening of school | NevadaAppeal.com
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Churchill school district, county address delayed opening of school

By Steve Ranson Nevada News Group
Summer Stephens, superintendent of Churchill County schools, and Pete Olsen, chairman of the Churchill County Commission.

The Churchill County School District and the county conducted an hour-long Facebook conference on Tuesday in the commission chambers to discuss the latest developments affecting the delayed opening of school.

CCSD schools were scheduled to open on Tuesday, but because of several situations that arose late Monday, the opening day was pushed back to Monday, Aug. 31.

Summer Stephens, CCSD superintendent, and County Manager Jim Barbee fielded most of the questions. Shannon Ernst, the county’s social services director and coronavirus coordinator, answered questions on the COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

Barbee said the county learned Monday two students in the SumFum program who were transitioning into the CARES program tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. The initial test had occurred Aug. 18, but the county is determining how many students in the CARES program may have been exposed. The CARES Act passed by Congress allocates money to local and state governments, and in Churchill County, some of that funding is being used for programs to supervise children during the school day.

Barbee said two other youth not enrolled in the CARES program also tested positive.

Ernst said the county reached out to the families quickly.

“It does go back to the families and where they could’ve contracted the actual infection,” she said.

Barbee said it took seven days from initial testing to receive the results. He said the state lab in Reno is under pressure to turn around results in a timely manner.

After receiving the information from the county and consulting with various stakeholders within the school district, Stephens decided to postpone the opening of schools for a week until logistics could be worked out. Stephens said the school district must follow guidelines issued by the Nevada Department of Education in reopening schools safely.

“There are varied feelings about the virus, and people are changing their minds,” she said.

Stephens said a number of staff members also have their children in the CARES program and are impacted by the recent news. She said the district is supporting those parents whose children may have been exposed.

Because of late transportation requests from parents living in the county, Stephens said the district didn’t have enough buses ready to transport students on Tuesday, especially for the afternoon session. Each bus can only hold 50 percent fewer students than during normal situations, and she said social distancing of 3-feet apart and facial coverings are required.

Stephens said each bus can transport no more than 40 to 45 students.

“Sometimes, routes cannot take on more students,” she said. “We’re almost to capacity.”

She said if people have concerns and questions about transportation, they can call 775-423-7135. Callers need to leave their names, their children’s name, address and phone number.

“It could take up to a week to do anything with a route,” she added.

Stephens said she hopes within a week, though, the school district will have a more accurate count of students riding on each route.

Even with all the different avenues of disseminating information to parents in Churchill County, she said some families indicated they were not receiving any communication. They are encouraged to call the school district at 775-423-5184.

The third-year superintendent also answered a question on classroom accommodations. One person asked why classrooms can’t accommodate every student assigned to the teacher like Washoe County. Stephens, though, said rooms must be 50% of capacity because of guidelines and social distancing. Her goal is for CCSD, however, is to provide good, quality instruction with the students in the allotted classroom space.

Once school begins, Stephens said the district intends to begin surveillance testing with its students for COVID-19. Stephens said the process will be a random sampling with all parents able to opt out their children. Parents will be notified a week ahead of the scheduled testing.

“The goal is 10%, but may be less due to staffing and available hours at the school sites,” she said. “Also, the testing allows us to keep ahead of possible infections/clusters, and helps keep our schools open if we can mitigate the infection issues.”

Stephens wants to re-emphasize parents may opt out their children.

Barbee and Stephens also addressed other concerns:

• If any classroom has a positive case, Stephens said the person, teacher or student will be isolated, and the county will determine the contacts. The superintendent said the district will close the room, which will allow for deep cleaning, and then proceed with the best way to continue instruction.

• If a parent or family member tests positive, then the student may remain in quarantine for 14 days depending on the situation. Other steps are in place to address this.

• Because of the adjustment of the school calendar, Stephens said students will make up four days. She is working on a revision to the calendar and will present it to trustees.

• Because of COVID-19 guidelines and the traditionally hectic first day of school, Stephens is asking parents not to accompany their children to class because of accountability issues. She said staff and volunteers will be there to help.

• The county is still doing COVID-9 testing at the fairgrounds. Call 775-423-6695, option 2. Leave a message, and a person from Social Services will return the call usually within 24 hours.