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KUNR Today: Poulakidas Elementary closed through Friday, Washoe schools using charter buses

An image of the exterior of Poulakidas Elementary School in Reno
Washoe Schools

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022.

Poulakidas Elementary School closed due to potential hazmat situation
By KUNR Staff

All classes are canceled at Poulakidas Elementary School in south Reno Thursday and Friday. That includes all before and after school programs.

The school was placed on a code yellow lockdown Wednesday afternoon for a possible hazmat situation. KRNV reports that 13 students and adults were showing symptoms of a skin rash, which is what closed the school.

It's unclear what caused the rash, but a Reno Fire Department chief said it looks like it was something environmental like a cleaning product.

WCSD looks to charter buses to alleviate driver vacancy
By Lucia Starbuck

Charter buses have started taking some middle and high schoolers in the Washoe County School District to class in order to alleviate the bus driver shortage.

Amador Stage Lines buses are picking students up from identified hubs. Those are centralized locations, commonly at area schools, where students wait for transportation in an effort to limit the number of bus stops. The Washoe County School District currently has 85 bus driver vacancies.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project.

Senate reviewing law that's supposed to help tribes repatriate ancestral items
By Nate Hegyi, Mountain West News Bureau

The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing Wednesday, with lawmakers focused on whether a 30-year-old law helping tribes repatriate lost ancestral items is working.

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act became law in 1990. It created a process for tribes to reclaim artifacts and human remains from museums and institutions across the country, but data from the Interior Department shows only one-fifth of these places have followed through and given these remains and artifacts back.

Tribal leaders and government officials who testified at the hearing said it can be tough to prove cultural affiliation for certain items, especially because many tribes were forcibly removed from their homelands.

Joy Beasley is with the National Park Service. Her agency is working on new regulations to fix this problem, including reducing red tape and allowing museums to consider both cultural and geographic affiliation in a claim.

“Within a few years of finalizing the regulations, we would expect that 90 to 95 percent of collections could complete the process and that would be a much better statistic,” Beasley said.

Lawmakers are considering amendments to the law as well. They include increasing financial penalties on those institutions who aren’t following the law.

UNR terminates contract with Northshore Clinical Labs over COVID-19 testing
By Lucia Starbuck

The University of Nevada, Reno has terminated its contract with Northshore Clinical Labs. The Chicago-based company was conducting COVID-19 testing for people on campus. In a statement, the university said it’s dissatisfied with the company’s service.

Northshore has come under fire in recent weeks over its operations at four clinics throughout Washoe County. Some people say they didn’t get their results for weeks, others not at all. The state is also investigating the company.

At UNR, the Student Health Center will continue to provide free COVID-19 testing for students and staff.

COVID-19 cases decrease in Washoe Co., but health officials not relaxed yet
By Lucia Starbuck

COVID-19 cases are decreasing in Washoe County. There’s been an average of about 650 daily cases over the last week. That average was around 1,000 a week ago.

“We haven’t seen anything like omicron before, the speed with which it hit our community, the incredibly rapid increase in cases that that we saw, and now we’re seeing a significant downward trend,” Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick said.

Dick said there’s also been a steep drop in the demand for testing and offered some explanations to why.

“I’m hopeful it’s tied to the decrease in the cases that are being identified, but I don’t know, I suspect there may be some testing fatigue as well,” Dick said.

Dick said the health district is discussing scaling back their recently expanded operations at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center. He’s urging community members to get tested and remain vigilant.

52 Washoe County residents have lost their lives due to the virus so far this year.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccinations in Nevada or view the state COVID-19 dashboard.

Prosecutor asks Nevada high court to revisit trial bias case
By The Associated Press

A Nevada prosecutor is asking the state Supreme Court to reconsider its decision to throw out the 2019 conviction of a Black man due to "harmful racial stereotypes” expressed to prospective jurors by the defendant’s attorney.

Elko County District Attorney Tyler Ingram filed the request Monday in the case of Sean Maurice Dean. Ingram says comments by Dean's trial attorney were reprehensible, but that evidence Dean stabbed two people was overwhelming and jurors would have convicted him anyway.

Dean is serving 12 to 31 years in prison. The high court granted him a new trial with its Jan. 13 ruling. Ingram says a new trial is still a possibility.

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