Many Las Vegas Valley private schools are continuing with in-person classes despite a community-wide fall spike in COVID-19 case numbers, though some have recently modified their operations.
Private schools are operating with full-time in-person classes or under a hybrid model where students alternate which days they come to campus. There’s also a distance learning option for families who want it and for students who are ordered to quarantine.
Campuses such as Faith Lutheran Middle School & High School, Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas schools, The Alexander Dawson School and Mountain View Christian Schools say they plan to continue with their current operations at this point.
The Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus, a Jewish day school in Las Vegas with about 480 students in preschool through 12th grades, has activated a “post-break re-entry plan,” spokesman Matt Boland said.
That means students and faculty will transition to remote learning for two days directly following a long holiday break, including Thanksgiving and winter breaks.
The Meadows School in Las Vegas transitioned its Upper School — high school grades — to a hybrid model earlier this month. Students attend in-person classes on alternating days, with 50 percent of students on campus at a time. The school also suspended optional after-school sports practices, and singing and wind instrument rehearsals.
The change was announced Nov. 11 — the day after Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a “Stay at Home 2.0” recommendation — and took effect the following day, school spokeswoman Lauren Walker said. Sisolak announced additional restrictions Sunday due to a surge in COVID-19 case numbers, but the reduced gathering size doesn’t apply to schools.
The Meadows School, which has about 880 students in preschool through 12th grades, began a new school year in August with full-time in-person classes. And that format remains in place for its younger students.
Less than 1.5 percent of the school population has tested positive for COVID-19, Walker said. The school decided to pursue the hybrid model for high schoolers to stay on the forefront of risk mitigation with case numbers rising in the valley and nationwide, she said, and to follow the governor’s directives.
Faith Lutheran Middle School & High School in Las Vegas, which has about 1,900 students, plans to continue with a hybrid model where students rotate which days they come to campus in-person. On other days, they tune into their classes live remotely using video conferencing.
The school — which is in its 15th week of the school year — has seen only 16 COVID-19 cases among students and employees, CEO Steve Buuck said Monday.
In an email to the Review-Journal, he said that school officials are “supremely confident” that mitigation strategies are working. “We will continue to be vigilant and monitor all that we do, but we do not foresee any changes at this point.”
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas — which has about 3,500 students at seven elementary/middle schools and Bishop Gorman High School — also has “no plans to change course” based on Sisolak’s Sunday announcements, spokeswoman Rachel Wilkinson said. Schools are operating with full-time in-person classes.
The Alexander Dawson School in Las Vegas, which has about 500 students in preschool through eighth grade, also isn’t planning any changes at this point, spokeswoman Megan Gray said.
The school — which has full-time in-person classes — has seen fewer than 10 cases among students and teachers this school year, Gray said, and cases have come from outside the campus.
“We are 100 percent committed to remaining open,” she said, as long as school officials feel measures taken can continue to successfully mitigate the risk. “We feel very confident in what we’ve been doing.”
The heads of four private Las Vegas schools — The Alexander Dawson School, The Meadows School, the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus and 9th Bridge School — have been in communication “about policies and procedures related to COVID risk mitigation, community concerns, and other potential on-campus challenges,” they said in a joint statement Wednesday to the Review-Journal.
“This collaboration has been vital to fostering the highest levels of community care, as expected of accredited independent schools, and we are committed to doing everything we can to keep our campuses safe and open for in-person learning,” they wrote.
Three of the schools are accredited by the Northwest Association of Independent Schools; 9th Bridge School is seeking accreditation through the organization.
Mountain View Christian Schools in Las Vegas, which have about 160 students in preschool through 12th grades, also plans to continue with its current operations.
“I am pleased to say that our mitigation strategies have resulted in our campus remaining open to students to learn full time, five days a week at school,” Principal Raymond LeBoeuf said in an email. “Although we have seen cases develop off-campus that have required students to stay home, we haven’t had any on-campus.”
While private schools are offering in-person classes, the Clark County School District has operated under distance education since school began in late August and that format will remain in place the rest of the semester.
Some public charter schools in the Las Vegas area are operating with in-person classes under a hybrid model, with up to 40 percent of students on campus at any given time. But some are switching back to distance learning.
The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, founders of the Adelson Educational Campus.
Meadows School providing testing
The Meadows School announced Tuesday it’s partnering with New York-based Mirimus to provide weekly “non-invasive, saliva-based, pooled COVID-19 testing” to its employees and students.
The school previously piloted the program with its student athletes. And earlier this year, it had an agreement with University Medical Center to provide testing to about 10 percent of the school’s population each week. Employees were tested every two weeks.
Now, there’s a month-to-month contract with Mirimus and pool testing is less expensive than individual testing, school spokeswoman Lauren Walker said. In total, at least 15 percent of the campus is being tested weekly, including nearly all employees and a portion of students.
Each person provides a self-collected saliva sample that the school ships to Mirimus, which combines samples into small pools to be tested and returns results within 24 hours.
If a positive result comes back in a pool test, the lab identifies two possible sources and each of them will undergo an individual test, Walker said.
— Julie Wootton-Greener