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Neither virus nor parents are welcome at some Las Vegas private schools

Updated August 12, 2020 - 9:35 pm

Many Las Vegas Valley private schools offering in-person learning are barring parents and other visitors from entering their buildings to keep the coronavirus out of the classroom.

Policies vary from school to school, with some allowing only students and employees inside school buildings and others letting in only those with appointments or who fill out a liability waiver form.

Administrators at many schools who spoke with the Review-Journal said they consulted the Southern Nevada Health District and other medical experts and reviewed state directives and information from groups such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but found no formal guidance on how to handle visitors.

One, Principal Raymond LeBoeuf of Mountain View Christian Schools, said he was hoping to receive school protocols from the health district so he could share the information in staff training before classes begin on Aug. 24 under a no-visitor policy.

A spokesperson for the health district did not respond Wednesday to an email seeking comment.

The void in guidance means that individual schools were left to create their own policies and prompted some to create no-visitor policies, though there was no mandate to do so.

School officials say the goal of keeping others out is to help reduce the risk of virus transmission and to give them plenty of room to keep kids in small, socially distanced groups by class or grade level.

The Dr. Miriam & Sheldon G. Adelson Educational Campus, a Jewish day school in west Las Vegas with about 480 students in preschool through 12th grade, held its first day of school Wednesday with a new policy in place prohibiting parents and visitors from entering the school.

“I think first and foremost, our guiding principle with all of the COVID safety protocols is what’s best for students,” said Alli Abrahamson, director of advancement and admissions. If the school is committing to five-day-a-week on-campus learning, she said, safety restrictions are needed.

‘Warm goodbye’ area

Parents are allowed on the school campus in their vehicles to drop off and pick up their children, Abrahamson said. Preschool parents, though, are allowed to park and get out of their cars to go to a designated spot outside of the building to give their child “a warm goodbye,” she said.

If a parent needs to drop something off for their child during the school day, a staff member will meet the parent outside to retrieve the item, officials said.

Prospective families aren’t able to come to the school campus, and tours are being offered through live video instead.

To the south at Faith Lutheran Middle and High School, about 2,000 students will receive a mix of in-person and remote instruction when school starts Monday.

Originally, the school’s reopening plan called for a full-time return to in-person classes, but the plan was rejected by the state, and the school found out a couple of days ago it lost an appeal.

Instead, half of the students will be on campus on any given day, while the rest tune in to their classes from home using Zoom. Videos of lectures will be posted online shortly after they occur.

In terms of the school’s visitor policy, “Parents are always welcome, but we’re not going to have an open campus,” CEO Steve Buuck said, meaning the school will limit visitors.

“We don’t like this,” Buuck said. “We love it when our parents are here, engaged in kids’ education.”

Any adult who has an appointment such as a meeting with an administrator or guidance counselor can still enter the school building. But they’re not allowed past the reception desk unless they sign a liability waiver — something that is already a requirement for school families.

No liability shield

A bill granting businesses limited liability protections from COVID-19 lawsuits signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday excluded schools.

Buuck said the school has developed a workaround for visitors who need to drop something off — whether a delivery person with a package or a parent with something for their child. Once school resumes, they will be directed to the back of the school building and will ring a doorbell.

The school has hired an employee who will take all of the mail, packages and student items and sort them. Items will be stored in shelving units in the back of the cafeteria or in a locked area if it’s a valuable item.

Mountain View Christian Schools

At Mountain View Christian Schools, which have about 160 students in preschool through 12th grades, parents or visitors won’t be allowed in school buildings when school starts Aug. 24 with five-day-a-week in-person instruction.

“The main thing is we’re making a concerted effort to stay in compliance with state guidelines and local guidelines,” LeBoeuf said.

Students will stay in grade-level cohorts throughout the day. Parents will drop off their student and a staff member will be within 15 feet away to escort the student to class, LeBoeuf said, noting the same procedure will be followed at pickup time.

If a student forgets homework or lunch, a parent can leave the item outside the school’s front door with the student’s name attached and hit a buzzer. The school secretary will disinfect the item and deliver it to the student’s classroom.

Any outside items that are delivered to the school, such as mail or packages, will go to the church office.

If non-emergency work needs to be done at the school building, it will be during off hours when students aren’t on campus, LeBoeuf said.

The school will try to limit them to the exact places on campus where they need to go, he said.

The school is also holding off on bringing guest speakers to campus and isn’t offering after-school activities at this point.

CornerStone Christian Academy

There will be changes at CornerStone Christian Academy & Tykes Preschool, which has about 300 kindergarten through eighth-grade students, when it reopens Monday.

“We’re not going to say no visitors on campus, but it’s definitely limited,” Principal Debbie Kaye said.

It’s an extremely difficult step for CornerStone Christian Academy to restrict visitors because it’s a family-friendly school and it typically has an open-door policy, allowing parents to come into classrooms and eat lunch with their children, Kaye said.

There will be a curbside drop-off when children arrive at school. “That’s obviously going to eliminate a lot of foot traffic,” Kaye said.

Visitors who come to campus must have an appointment and a specific reason, such as meeting with an administrator or teacher, Kaye said, and must wear a face mask and go through a temperature check and sanitation protocol.

No parents or visitors will be allowed in classrooms after Friday, when one-on-one meetings are scheduled with students, their parents and their teacher in order to feel comfortable with the classroom environment.

“After that, we’re going to ask they not visit,” Kaye said.

If a parent needs to drop something off during the school day, they can bring it to the front office and an employee will take it to their child’s classroom.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas

Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas — which includes seven elementary/middle schools and one high school, Bishop Gorman High School — is asking visitors not to come inside school buildings.

All of the diocese’s schools are offering five-day-a-week instruction on campus, although families also have a virtual-only option. All of the elementary/middle schools start Aug. 17. At Bishop Gorman, new students and incoming ninth-graders start Aug. 17, followed by all students Aug. 18.

Diocese elementary schools are on a trimester schedule and the diocese will revisit its visitor policy after the first trimester ends in November, Superintendent Catherine Thompson said.

Though parents aren’t allowed inside schools, they will be able to drop off and pick up their child by walking right up to their classroom door via outdoor courtyard areas. Schools have markings on the ground to ensure people are distanced at least 6 feet apart.

Parents will also be allowed to drop off items at the school’s office and an employee will deliver it to the child’s classroom.

Alexander Dawson School

The Alexander Dawson School — which has about 500 students in preschool through eighth grade — plans to hold in-person classes, with a virtual option for families who want it. The first day of school is Friday.

“We are minimizing the number of visitors to our campus, across the board,” spokeswoman Megan Gray said.

Parents will be allowed only to drop off their children and will be discouraged from walking with them to the school entrance, and they won’t be allowed inside the building.

The school will have a space indoors set up for small meetings with parents — ensuring social distancing — when necessary, Gray said.

The Clark County School District will start its new school year on Aug. 24 with full distance learning, meaning the public will not be able to access school facilities for the most part.

SAT takers are already being affected by the campus closures. The four CCSD high schools that serve as test centers in Southern Nevada are still listed as closed on the College Board website, which states that the company “cannot directly control capacity and test center availability.”

CCSD said in a Wednesday statement to the Review-Journal that it will strictly limit who enters district facilities.

“Visitors are limited to individuals who are essential to school functions or who have made an appointment to conduct school business (such as registering their student for school if their situation does not allow them to do it online),” it said.

Visitors must complete a symptom self-check form and sign a form saying that they’ve been symptom-free for the past 14 days and that they haven’t been recently exposed to anyone known to have tested positive for COVID-19, the district said.

Third parties won’t be allowed to use school facilities at this time, CCSD said, and SAT testing won’t be held on CCSD campuses through Oct. 3.

“When appropriate, this will be re-evaluated with health and wellness updates in mind,” the district said.

Individual students have reported receiving cancellation notices for the Aug. 29 test date, according to Mike Obstgarten, president of test prep company MostPrep.

While many colleges are going test-optional for the next school year, Obstgarten said students who miss out on the SAT are missing out on the scholarship opportunities tied to those scores.

Limiting available dates for test-takers also puts a strain on students who expect to sit for the test multiple times. The incoming senior class likely did not have a chance to take the SAT during their junior years after the March date was cancelled, Obstgarten said.

“Students who have put in the work want to see the results of their efforts,” he said.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, founders of the Adelson Educational Campus.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter. Reporter Aleksandra Appleton contributed to this report.

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