School Board approves hybrid start to school year

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Robert Perea, The Fernley Reporter

Lyon County students are going back to school Sept. 1

The Lyon County School District Board of Trustees Tuesday night approved its Reopening Committee’s proposal for a hybrid model of in-person and distance learning model, in which students in grades 3-12 will attend school on alternating weeks, with students who aren’t in school working online. Students in kindergarten, first and second grades will attend school in-person full time.

The plan also includes provisions for full-time distance learning for those students and families who opt out of in-person instruction, as well as full-time in persons instruction for students with special requirements such as Individual Education Plans, students in transition or living in foster homes, and English Language Learners.

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The motion to approve the reopening plan passed by a 6-1 vote, with Trustee Sherry Parsons opposed. A second motion to approve the proposed changes to the school year calendar, which includes the first day of school on Sept. 1 and an attendance schedule passed by a 7-0 vote.

The return to school will be regulated by directives from Governor Steve Sisolak. Superintendent Wayne Workman said the District received one such updated directive about a half hour before Tuesday’s meeting, which reduced social distancing guidelines for students, but which expanded regulations on the wearing of masks. Workman said the new directive changes social distancing requirements for students from three feet to six feet, although it remains six feet for adults, including teachers and staff.

In addition, students will be required to wear masks in all school facilities, including buses. Students who have medical conditions preventing them from wearing masks must provide the district with written documentation from a doctor, and he said provisions for those students could include plastic face shields. Deputy Superintendent Tim Logan said at least two reusable cloth face masks will be provided to each student, but students are also free to wear their own.

Logan, who presented the hybrid plan to the Trustees, said even with the reduction of social distancing requirements to three feet between students, the district is still limited to 50 percent of capacity. And, he said, that 50 percent capacity doesn’t mean 50 percent of the school building’s capacity, but 50 percent of the capacity of each classroom, cafeteria and gym, which prevents the schools from bringing back all students at one time.

Workman said one exception could be Smith Valley School, which has a small enough enrollment that it may be able to accommodate its entire student body. He said that is still being worked out.

Logan also told the Trustees that protocols are being developed by the state health district on how to handle COVID-19 cases or outbreaks, and he said the District and individual schools need to remain flexible and ready to pivot to complete distance learning, because an outbreak in a school or a community could require school closings at any time.

High schools and middle schools will be reduced from seven class periods to four, to reduce the amount of time students spend changing classrooms. But, Logan said, the additional time in the classroom for each period means a full year of coursework in each class can be condensed into one semester, so students will actually complete eight courses  instead of seven in a school year.

Workman began the meeting by saying that the district wants to open to full-time in-person instruction, but cannot because of the directives limiting building capacity. He said the hybrid model was chosen simply because it’s a less bad solution than full-time distance learning for all students.

“This is not something that we’d be doing at any other time,” Workman said. “We wish we could have every student with us. We wish we weren’t in a pandemic and we wish everyone felt safe coming back.”

He said students who choose full-time distance learning will attend through Edgenuity,

“It doesn’t look anything like it was in the spring,” Workman said. “Our online program is a fully certified program that can award credit.”

Because all students in third grade and above will be doing half of their course work online, the District is working to provide Chromebooks for all students. Logan said the district currently has 5,000 and has ordered 4,000 more, although Workman said it’s not certain whether the other 4,000 will be received by Sept. 1. Workman said each student will have one assigned to them, and that students in the same household will not share laptops.

Breakfast and lunch will be available to all students every day, Workman said, including on the days when they are at home, and including those students who opt for full-time distance learning.

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