Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a directive on Tuesday, which will allow K-12 schools and facilities to reopen, with restrictions, for summer activities, effective immediately; however, those facilities are not required to reopen. KUNR’s Michelle Billman talked to our reporter Lucia Starbuck to break down what we know at this point.
Michelle Billman: The Nevada Department of Education released general reopening guidelines for schools across Nevada. What will school look like this summer?
Lucia Starbuck: School districts, along with charter and private schools, now have some guidance on how to start reopening, but it'll vary across those districts and other facilities. They don't have to reopen their physical spaces at all, and if they do, their operations will look quite different than before the pandemic. Specifically, under these guidelines, each area within a school facility must operate at 50 percent capacity. There can also be no more than 50 people in a confined space, that includes classrooms, gyms, and office spaces.
Billman: How will students and staff practice social distancing?
Starbuck: The Department of Education said students and staff should be six feet apart and activities that would bring people in closer than that should be avoided. This means students should avoid activities that could spread COVID-19 through the air, through singing, playing an instrument and even dancing should be avoided. In the classroom, desks should be spaced six feet apart, and working in pairs or groups should also be avoided, but the guidelines recognize that might not always be possible for younger children or some children with disabilities. Schools should also provide signage and put tape on the floors to maintain that social distancing. The Department also suggested activities should occur outside as much as possible, and once inside, educators should keep windows and doors open for better air circulation.
Billman: Is it possible to practice social distancing in the hallway areas?
Starbuck: Actually, the Department of Education recommends that students remain in one room during the day, and teachers and staff members rotate among the rooms instead. This will minimize congestion in the hallways. There should also be some kind of plan for when students need to enter or exit into the hallways. It should be staggered so areas don't become crowded where students can't maintain social distancing. The Department of Education even stated students should eat lunch in the classroom or assigned seats in the cafeteria. On top of that, the Department says there should be consistent groups of students and staff. Students should avoid intermingling with students of another classroom to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.
Billman: What hygiene procedures should be put in place at schools? What's required?
Starbuck: School districts should work with local health officials to implement a plan for screening staff before they start returning, also for students when they come to school every day, and even for visitors. Schools should have hand sanitation at the entrance and require people entering the building to use it. There should also be some available in the classrooms. School supplies shouldn't be shared either. If materials are being shared between students, they should be sanitized between each use.
Billman: Will students and staff be required to wear masks at the schools?
Starbuck: Staff are required to wear masks. If possible, students over the age of five should wear face coverings as well, but it's not required for the students or visitors.
Billman: What will transportation look like?
Starbuck: At bus stops students should stand six feet apart. The Department of Education even said school districts should consider changing bus routes to pick up students who are already grouped together in a class. Once on the bus, students should sit six feet apart, and that would look like: one student per row on opposite sides of the bus. School districts should also recommend that parents and guardians drop their kids off at school to limit the congestion on school buses, but carpools with people outside of one's household should be avoided. Hand sanitation should also be available and used before getting on the bus. Buses should be cleaned after each trip.
Billman: What can we expect to see in the near future?
Starbuck: School facilities aren't required to open just yet. In fact, if schools have in-person academic activities, they must be optional. Schools can continue distance learning, they can have students return to the school with the restrictions I mentioned or a little bit of both.