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KUNR Today: WCSD to work with families hurt by bus cuts, Federal bill to address K-12 mental health

A stack of red school textbooks on a desk in a classroom
Alexa Ard
KUNR Public Radio

Read or listen to the morning news headlines for Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.

WCSD says it will work with families impacted by scaled-back bussing
By Kaleb Roedel

The Washoe County School District says that more than 28% of its bus driver positions are currently vacant. As a result, district officials recently announced it will be canceling bus routes to certain schools on a weekly rotation.

District superintendent Kristen McNeill says school officials will work with the families of students who are not able to make it to class due to the scaled-back bus routes. She says that could include providing distance learning packets.

"And the one thing that I've told my team is: I do not want our students to be penalized for this in any way, shape, or form,” McNeill said.

McNeill said the district is working with the state to explore options for increased funding so it can pay its bus drivers more. Find the latest WCSD transportation updates here.

Bill introduced to address mental health crisis in K-12 students
By Nick Stewart

U.S. Senators Jacky Rosen of Nevada and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have introduced a new bill that would address mental health challenges seen in K-12 students throughout the country. The Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Act was also introduced in the House last year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an increase in issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicide among K-12 students, and the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling the situation a “National State of Emergency in Children’s Health.” The new bill would allow the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to provide funding to school districts wanting to promote student mental health and suicide prevention.

Currently, this type of funding assistance is only available for colleges and universities, but the goal of the bill is to include K-12 schools as well.

As of 2020, youth mental health in Nevada ranked as worst in the nation, according to Mental Health America. This ranking was determined by several factors, including the number of youth who had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is help available at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

California delays decision on lifting school mask mandate
By The Associated Press

Gov. Gavin Newsom delayed a closely watched decision on lifting California’s school mask mandate Monday, even as other Democratic governors around the country have dropped them in recent weeks. While many Californians will be able to remove masks in most indoor settings starting Tuesday, schoolchildren and teachers will have to wait.

Newsom had flagged Monday as the day to watch for a revision regarding schools, then sent the state’s top health official to deliver the message of a delay. Dr. Mark Ghaly told reporters: “Today a change isn't being made.” He said the state will reassess on Feb. 28 what to do with its mask policy for schools.

Poll: Cortez Masto leads Laxalt in Senate race, but Biden disapproval rating foreboding
By Humberto Sanchez, The Nevada Independent

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto has a 9-point lead over her likely Senate race challenger, former Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt, but President Joe Biden's sizable disapproval rating may play a major role in the race as November draws nearer.

Cortez Masto’s lead over Laxalt was determined by a recent poll conducted by the Nevada Independent and OH Predictive Insights; however, Cortez Masto will face headwinds with 52% of registered Nevada voters disapproving of the job Biden has done so far. Just 41% of Nevadans approve of the president’s performance.

The online poll included roughly 750 registered Nevada voters in late January and it has a 3.5% margin of error.

The results come after Cortez Masto was deemed this election cycle’s most vulnerable Senate Democrat by National Journal. Other recent polls have shown a closer race.

Read the full story at thenevadaindependent.com.

California sets home, community standards to lower fire risk
By The Associated Press

A fire-resistant roof, at least 5 feet of defensible space around a home, a clearly defined evacuation route in a neighborhood and the removal of vegetation overgrowth in a community are some of the new statewide insurance standards to reduce the wildfire risk of older homes.

Dubbed “Safer from Wildfires,” the new standards announced Monday outline actions to harden homes, their immediate surroundings and the communities they are in, measures that insurance companies should consider for homes and businesses. The new standards would prompt insurance companies to offer discounts, providing incentives for retrofitting older homes.

Wild horse and burro online auction opened this week
By Madelyn Beck, Mountain West News Bureau

The Bureau of Land Management’s “Online Corral” will stay open through February 22. It’s a bit different from past auctions, though. That’s because the agency recently changed its Adoption Incentive Program to try and make sure the animals make it to good homes instead of a slaughterhouse.

A recent ad highlighted those changes.

“Each participating adopter will pay the full $125 adoption fee. Secondly, the BLM will complete compliance inspections of animals within 6 months of the adoption date to ensure that they are receiving good care,” the ad stated.

The adopter will also need a clean bill of health from a veterinarian or another authorized officer to get up to $1,000 in incentives. That’s to cover vet costs, feed and training. Some are still concerned about the agency’s handling of the animals and adoption procedures, and the agency’s plans to remove thousands more horses from the wilderness.

To view the BLM’s online auction, go to wildhorsesonline.blm.gov.

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