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Sisolak says Nevada schools can reopen facilities immediately

Updated June 9, 2020 - 6:23 pm

Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday signed a directive allowing Nevada schools to reopen buildings and athletic facilities immediately, ending a nearly three-month closure triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The directive, signed “just in time for summer school,” according to a news release from the Nevada Department of Education, allows school districts, as well as charter and private schools, to choose whether to reopen their sites effective at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday for activities such as in-person instruction, individualized tutoring, professional development and locker clean-out.

Any facilities that do reopen must not exceed the lesser of either 50 percent capacity or 50 persons in an “appropriately-sized space that enables all social distancing requirements to be satisfied,” according to the release.

“In the interest of the health and safety of local communities, districts and schools may continue to keep school facilities closed to students, staff, parents, guardians, and/or the public at their discretion,” the release states.

In a statement, representatives of the Clark County School District said the governor’s order is being reviewed and “feedback will be provided to the CCSD Board of School Trustees for further action if needed.”

“CCSD has already begun offering summer school courses for credit retrieval, as well as summer enrichment via our platform CCSD Summer Connections to ensure there is no delay in delivering education support and opportunities to our students,” the statement said. “High school principals have worked to develop unique plans to move forward with graduation ceremonies for their communities by following current Phase 2 restrictions. There are currently no plans to change already approved graduation ceremony arrangements.”

Some CCSD employees returned to school buildings at the beginning of Phase Two of the district’s reopening plan Monday.

Careful approach

Speaking at a meeting of the Washoe County School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday, Superintendent Kristen McNeill acknowledged Sisolak’s order but said the district would need to take the week to consult with its reopening committee before making any decisions.

“I just want our community to know that the reopening of our fields and school facilities for the use of summer care and athletics, we know how important that is,” she said. “We do want to take the time to review these directives.”

Rebecca Feiden, executive director of the State Public Charter School Authority, said she did not know of any charter schools planning to reopen for the summer, as most had put into place plans for virtual summer school.

Sisolak’s directive also allows school districts to reopen their athletic facilities for training, practices and competition in accordance to guidelines from the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association. That guidance calls for screening athletes and coaches prior to workouts and limiting the number of participants per session, among other precautions.

Spectators will not be allowed at school sporting events during Phase Two, according to the NIAA.

Schools may also reopen their athletic facilities to the public under Sisolak’s directive.

“For the last three months, our students, families and educators demonstrated tremendous flexibility and resiliency when asked to stay at home and switch to distance learning to flatten the COVID-19 infection rate curve. I know this hasn’t been easy, but I’m proud Nevadans took this seriously,” Sisolak said in a statement. “This directive will allow schools to return to a sense of normalcy while keeping the health and safety of students and staff at the forefront.”

Additional guidelines

Accompanying Sisolak’s order was a Q&A document from the Nevada Department of Education with additional guidelines for reopening for the summer. For one, all instruction must be held in spaces that allow students to to remain at least 6 feet apart, according to the department.

Employees interacting with students, parents or other members of the public must wear face coverings, according to the state education department’s guidance.

Schools should also reduce the number of students per bus, work with local health authorities to implement screening protocols and, when possible, designate supplies for individual students, the department said.

The department also states schools may host graduation ceremonies with 50 or fewer people following strict social distancing protocols, or host drive-up ceremonies or celebrations. However, CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara has said he will not approve drive-thru graduation plans out of equity concerns.

Summer school aside, all school districts also will still need to develop plans for reopening schools for the 2020-21 school year, the news release states.

Districts and schools must present plans to their governing body for approval in a public meeting at least 20 days before the first day of the 2020-21 school year, according to the directive.

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at 702-383-0218 or aappleton@reviewjournal.com. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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