According to Washoe County School District Superintendent Kristen McNeill, 12 schools in the district are closed for in-person learning and have temporarily moved to full-distance models as a result of COVID-19.
Some of these schools will remain on distance learning until Nov. 30. Students at others may return to classes sooner or later than that. The reasons for their closures vary from the number of exclusions of staff or students to the need to allow time for contact tracing—as is the case with Reed High School. That school’s closure came following a large Halloween party which several Reed students are known to have attended prior to coming down with the COVID-19 virus.
McNeill said she wanted students at schools on distance learning to understand that the district’s expectation is that they are remaining at home and only leaving their houses with the permission of their guardians and only for essential purposes. For families who may not be able to leave children unsupervised at home, McNeill said the district can help connect them to district partners like the Boys & Girls Club.
On Tuesday, Governor Steve Sisolak asked Nevadans to stay at home for two weeks and only leave their houses for essential reasons. Sisolak’s plea came as Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno was reopening a temporary structure to help meet the needs of patients as hospital beds across the region fill up.
The hope is that a widespread, two-week voluntary quarantine period might help high-spread areas, like Washoe County, get control over their soaring numbers. As of right now, the governor has chosen not to order the closing of schools, bars, restaurants, gyms or casinos.
The school district has repeatedly chosen to keep schools open. According to district officials, the social and emotional benefits of being in class appear to outweigh the risks of virus transmission. The district cites its safety measures taken on school grounds and school vehicles, also.
McNeill said Sisolak also sees the importance of having schools open for children to attend in person and that she’ll be participating in several conversations with him throughout the day Friday.
“I don’t know what the governor has in the future as far as possible different directives for our schools, but I can tell you he truly understands all of the work our school districts are doing to keep our students safe,” McNeill said.
Beginning next week, the school district will be hosting a series of virtual student town halls. The first town hall will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 17, and will focus on students’ successes and challenges with distance learning. The second will take place on Dec. 15 and center around students’ perceptions of equity and inclusion in schools. The third and final town hall on Jan. 19 will center around students’ social and emotional wellbeing.
“We’ve been continually stressing the importance of connection with our students,” McNeill said. “It’s one of the reasons why we’re having the virtual town halls—because it’s very important to listen to our students and understand where they’re struggling.”
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.