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Clark County School Board to consider reopening campuses in January

Updated November 9, 2020 - 7:25 pm

The Clark County School Board will consider Thursday night whether to reopen school campuses under a hybrid model — a change that would take effect in January.

The board will meet virtually at 5 p.m. to consider the proposal.

The Clark County School District, which has about 307,000 students and 40,000 employees, kicked off a new school year in late August with distance learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, with an exception for seven rural schools operating with some in-person classes.

The recommendation — posted Monday night along with School Board meeting materials — calls for a hybrid model in which students would attend classes in person two days a week and via distance education three days a week. Parents would also have the option of having their child continue with only distance education.

In a Monday night statement, the district emphasized that return dates to campuses and work sites “may be adjusted and could change based on evolving health conditions and forthcoming information.”

The approximately 200-page plan includes a timeline for reopening, information on topics such as cleaning and school bus transportation protocols, and how parents and employees would be notified about COVID-19 cases.

In the statement, Superintendent Jesus Jara said: “This plan follows the health and safety guidelines provided for schools but also gives our children the opportunity to address academic gaps and engage with their peers and adult educators. We must embrace this work with a relentless sense of urgency. Our children are depending on us.”

School Board President Lola Brooks said in the statement: “The well being of our students is one of our highest priorities. The Board of School Trustees will consider multiple factors as we review the transition plan being proposed by staff.”

Staff would return sooner

The hybrid model would be implemented on a staggered schedule over two weeks in January to allow schools to adjust protocols and procedures, according to the recommendation.

The school district is also proposing that rural schools — and small urban schools recommended by school district officials — that can accommodate social distancing and meet all health and safety guidelines could reopen with full-time in-person classes.

In mid-October, several Moapa Valley schools operating under a hybrid model reported COVID-19 cases, and Bowler Elementary School transitioned to full-time distance learning as a result.

Evening programs at three high schools — Morris Sunset East, Cowan Sunset and Burk Sunset — would continue with distance education.

If the School Board approves the plan, school district employees would be expected to return to their work locations Dec. 1, essentially ending telecommuting. The recommendation, though, states: “Locations that cannot support social distancing may implement rotational telecommuting assignments,” and employees can seek accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Schools would be allowed to invite individual students or small groups back to school campuses beginning Dec. 1 to participate in mental health services, academic screenings or interventions and campus orientations for students new to a specific school.

If the plan is approved, the first group of students — preschool through second-graders, sixth-graders, 11th- and 12th-graders, and self-contained programs in all grade levels — would head back to classrooms Jan. 4 for hybrid instruction.

Full-time, in-person instruction would also begin Jan. 4 at rural schools and small urban schools approved to operate under that model.

All remaining students would return to hybrid instruction Jan. 11.

Students participating in the hybrid model would be divided evenly into two cohorts. Students in Cohort A would attend in-person classes Mondays and Tuesdays, and via distance education the rest of the week. Students in Cohort B would come to campuses Thursdays and Fridays.

All students would attend classes remotely on Wednesdays, allowing time for planning and training for teachers, the district said.

Cohort C, students who are attending via fully distance education, may be required to continue for the rest of the school year, depending on available classroom space, according to the recommendation. “This cohort is for those students who may be part of a vulnerable population or whose families are uncomfortable with the child attending school face-to-face.”

The school district asked parents to fill out a survey — which was sent out by schools last week — whether they’d send their child back to in-person classes under a hybrid model or stick with distance learning.

Resurgence of COVID-19 cases

The board’s decision will come as COVID-19 case rates are rising. The state reported 960 new cases Monday and one death. Since the pandemic began, Nevada has reported 1,852 deaths and 110,982 cases.

The Nevada Hospital Association said Monday that it’s concerned about a “resurgence in hospitalizations” and number of cases where patients receive intensive care. As of Monday, there were 891 hospitalized patients due to the virus — 754 confirmed cases and 137 suspected.

During a School Board meeting last month, Dr. Fermin Leguen, the Southern Nevada Health District’s acting chief health officer, shared numbers that would mean the lowest risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools: five new cases per 100,000 residents and a 3 percent test positivity rate over 14 days.

Clark County isn’t likely to reach those levels, he said, but noted the health district would support the school board decision’s if they decided to reopen schools.

The school district has reported 203 COVID-19 cases among students and 370 among employees since March, according to a weekly report on its website. Numbers as of Friday were up 31 student cases and 38 adult cases compared with Oct. 29.

The district said Monday night that it will launch a COVID-19 case dashboard, which will break down positive cases by schools and work locations.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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