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Las Vegas private school’s pandemic perk: On-site COVID-19 testing

A Las Vegas private school that reopened last week for in-person classes is aiming to provide some added assurance for students and parents by providing regular on-campus COVID-19 testing for students and employees.

The Meadows School in Summerlin, which has about 880 students in preschool through 12th grades, is partnering with University Medical Center to provide the testing two days a week.

Each week, about 10 percent of the school’s population is tested. Employees are tested every two weeks, and students are randomly selected for testing.

Other Las Vegas Valley private schools also have done some testing of staff, but The Meadows School appears to be the only one offering regular testing of both employees and students.

The school, which began its school year Aug. 17, has a 90-day agreement with UMC through October, and the arrangement could be extended.

“The assumption is that we will keep testing as long as we need to in order to keep confident that we can operate safely,” Head of School Jeremy Gregersen said, noting that the health of the larger community is affected too.

Informed decision-making

Gregerson said having good information about who is sick allows for informed decision-making about quarantining individual families, classrooms, grade levels or school divisions.

Some local schools with in-person classes recently have reported COVID-19 cases.

Bishop Gorman High School, a private Catholic campus in Las Vegas, on Monday reported its second case within a week.

UNLV also reported two cases among students who visited the campus last week, the first since fall instruction resumed Monday. The university, though, reported more than 60 cases from mid-June through mid-August among people who had been on campus this summer.

Before reopening, The Meadows School provided COVID-19 testing for its approximately 150 faculty members and staff. Two tested positive and were quarantined at home.

“They were never around students,” Gregersen said. The two employees later tested negative, via two tests more than 24 hours apart, before returning to work, he said.

The Meadows School is one of many private schools in the Las Vegas Valley offering full-time in-person instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic, while providing distance learning options for families who want them. Tuition at the school ranges from $10,900 for half-day preschool to $28,360 for high school, and financial aid is available.

By comparison, the Clark County School District and many public charter schools are beginning the school year exclusively with distance education.

‘We’re in a different position’

Gregersen said he is extremely sensitive to the fact private schools have reopened for in-person classes and have many more resources than public schools.

“We definitely understand that we’re in a different position than others,” he said.

UMC is on site Tuesday and Thursday afternoons at The Meadows School. Testing runs from 3-4 p.m. in the school’s gymnasium. The hours allow employees and students to be tested right after the school day ends.

In any given week, 50 people are tested on Tuesday and 50 on Thursday. That’s about 10 percent of the approximately 1,000 people who are on campus.

“Our idea is if we can continually test staff members and a sampling of students… then we can have a pretty good finger on the health of our organization,” Gregersen said.

COVID-19 testing is just for students and employees. As a precaution, no parents or visitors are allowed inside the school building amid the pandemic.

The regular schedule of testing for employees and students is for those who aren’t showing COVID-19 symptoms. “If someone is showing symptoms, they’re not at school,” Gregersen said.

But if someone is symptomatic and quarantined at home — or if their family member is — the school will arrange for them to be tested.

Test results are coming back quickly — typically, in less than 24 hours, Gregersen said.

The Meadows School is paying UMC to provide testing, Gregersen said. He declined to share the cost but noted the rate typically ranges from $100 to $200 per test. The school’s board agreed to cover the cost by using rainy day funds, he said.

“We’re trying to be a model for how this can be done,” Gregersen said about how to keep schools open. “It is expensive, but it is about the health and safety of our kids.”

Thermal cameras too

With COVID-19 testing, the school this month announced a partnership with Las Vegas-based Remark Holdings to install thermal imaging cameras at entrances to the school’s four divisions. Remark AI Thermal Kits were installed about 1½ weeks before school began, Gregersen said.

The Meadows School is the first U.S. school to install the Remark AI system, which allows for touch-free temperature scanning of up to 120 people per minute, the school said in an Aug. 10 news release.

“The system instantly and discreetly alerts faculty and staff of any person with a skin temperature that suggests a higher-than-normal body temperature, allowing onsite personnel to conduct a secondary temperature check,” it said.

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

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