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Washoe County School Board votes to stay with same reopening plan despite health officer’s input

Washoe Health Officer Kevin Dick does not recommend reopening Washoe County schools in the Fall, but trustees voted to continue with its original plan
Published: Jul. 28, 2020 at 12:01 AM PDT|Updated: Jul. 29, 2020 at 12:42 AM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The Washoe County School District’s Board of Trustees have voted to stay with their initial reopening plan of schools, going against recommendations from the county’s health officer as concerns around COVID-19 remain high in the area.

On Tuesday, after a marathon 9+ hour meeting, the seven-person board voted to reaffirm its plans formed on July 7th, calling for elementary students to return for in-person learning, with middle and high schoolers on a hybrid plan - mixing in-person and distance learning. Families also have the option to do full distance learning.

Last week, Washoe County health officer Kevin Dick recommended to the Washoe County District Board of Health to not reopen schools in the Fall. Dick said, “I can’t recommend reopening schools physically in Washoe County due to the high potential for increased spread of disease that exists.”

“Due to the risk of infection, the upward trend in new cases since July 12 and criteria set at the state and federal level, distance learning is the safest path forward at this time. Due to the elevated level of disease transmission currently occurring in Washoe County, our fear is the high potential of the virus spreading to students and faculty, and eventually to our vulnerable populations, where the fatality rate is much higher.”

Dick reaffirmed that recommendation during Tuesday’s meeting with the school district’s board of trustees.

“I know a lot of people don’t agree with my recommendation. I know a lot of people also do,” Dick said. “I’m making it from a public health perspective.”

Earlier this month, The Nevada Department of Education approved all three learning models presented by the county, which includes in-person, hybrid and distance learning.

Students in middle and high school will be on opposite ‘A-B’ schedules. The Board also stressed how detailed and “rigorous” distance learning will be, saying it will be much different than the version quickly formed in March.

All students and staff will be required to wear face coverings. Medical exceptions will be made only with proper doctor’s documentation. The Board said Washoe County had acquired 50,000 masks and could soon be doubling their stockpile.

Washoe’s Board of Trustees also acknowledged the fluidity of the situation as the virus continues to keep the country on high alert.

“We’ve heard the phrase ‘Be Nimble’ a lot tonight,” said District Vice President Dr. Angie Taylor.

School will begin August 17th, with Kindergarten starting on August 24th.

Teachers will have training the week of August 10-14.

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