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Nevada charter schools can relax mask mandate for younger students

Updated May 21, 2021 - 5:04 pm

Nevada’s public charter schools have the option of relaxing face mask requirements for children 9 and younger.

The topic came up during the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority’s board meeting Friday.

Even though individual schools have the option of changing their mask policies, the charter authority — which oversees 67 campuses serving more than 50,000 students — “recommends that schools continue to require all students to wear masks,” Executive Director Rebecca Feiden told the Review-Journal via email this week.

In addition to hearing a mask update, the board voted unanimously to continue requiring social distancing — at least three feet for students and six feet for adults — on school campuses for summer school programming.

This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced people who have been fully vaccinated no longer need to wear a face mask in most indoor and outdoor settings.

The CDC, though, is recommending schools continue with current mask requirements and other COVID-19 guidelines through the end of this school year.

The Review-Journal reached out to a handful of charter schools in the Las Vegas Valley to see if they’ve relaxed mask requirements. Girls Athletic Leadership School Las Vegas, Doral Academy of Nevada, Pinecrest Academy and Legacy Traditional School said they haven’t made any changes.

Last week, the Clark County School District said it intended to keep its face mask requirement for now but noted it could revisit the topic.

On Thursday, the Nevada System of Higher Education announced students, employees and others who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to wear a mask on college and university campuses.

In a Sunday email to school district and charter school leaders, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert said a state directive already in place allows districts and charter schools the authority to relax mask requirements for children 9 and younger, but they can also choose to maintain stricter standards.

“We recognize that age limits do not cleanly align to grade levels, and we encourage you to work closely with local health officials if you intend to update your face covering policies in the short time remaining this school year,” she wrote.

The CDC recommends face masks for all students and employees and “continued social distancing,” Ebert wrote. “This is due to the fact that not all school staff have opted to be vaccinated, students who are newly eligible for vaccine (ages 12 and above) will not be fully vaccinated by the end of the school year, and children under 12 do not yet have access to vaccines.”

The board also heard a request Friday to defer opening for Las Vegas Collegiate Charter School to the 2022-23 school year. It’s the second time the opening date will be pushed back.

In a split vote, with Don Soifer and Mallory Cyr opposing, the board voted to require the school to submit a deferral plan by June 10.

School founder and executive director Biante’ Gainous said the school has exhausted every available option for securing a facility in time to open this fall. “Enrollment was definitely not a challenge for us.”

The school was approved by the authority’s board in December 2019 to open in fall 2020. The school deferred its opening to this fall due to challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Las Vegas Collegiate then got an amendment request approved in January due to challenges finding a facility. The amendment allowed the school to expand its search within one-and-a-half miles beyond its approved 89106 zip code in central Las Vegas.

It’s unprecedented for the charter school authority to do a second deferral, Feiden said, noting she thinks it warrants having the school bring back a deferral plan.

Board chairwoman Melissa Mackedon said the only reason the board is considering a second deferral is because it relates specifically to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting it’s not the board’s practice to approve two deferrals.

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

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