LAS VEGAS (AP) — Schools in Reno and Sparks will continue to combine in-class teaching with distance learning as a proposal to begin some classroom instruction in Las Vegas draws opposition from unions representing school employees in the face of another spike in COVID-19 cases.
The Washoe County school board voted in Reno Tuesday to keep full-time instruction available for elementary students and a hybrid plan in place for middle and high schools with alternating in-class and remote teaching.
Meanwhile, Nellis Air Force Base north of Las Vegas acknowledged an increase Wednesday in the spread of COVID-19 “across the installation and our local community.” It’s advising nonessential employees to work from home “to the maximum extent possible.”
An advisory posted Wednesday said regulations would go into effect Thursday, that large groups should be limited when possible and face coverings are required on base. It didn’t provide any details on the number of infections.
In Washoe County, where in-class instruction has been in place since the new school year began in August, health district officer Kevin Dick said Wednesday the “alarming numbers” of active coronavirus cases are now 3.5 times higher than they were at the beginning of October.
The county’s current number of known active cases surpassed 4,000 for the first time on Wednesday, just five days after reaching 3,000 for the first time.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said the day before she thought a citywide mask mandate “was imminent” and warned business closings were on the horizon if current trends didn’t improve.
Statewide, Nevada has reported more than 1,000 new, confirmed cases of coronavirus in six of the past seven days. As of Wednesday, the state’s 14-day rolling average for new cases was at 969, with 113,411 cumulative cases and 1,877 deaths since the pandemic began.
In Las Vegas, Clark County Education Association President Marie Neisess said the union does not support any reopening of classrooms “without a robust safety program in place with testing, contact tracing and proper PPE as well as choice for educators to continue working remotely.”
The National Education Association of Southern Nevada released a similar statement Monday saying the district is not prepared to handle “the consequences of COVID spread on our campuses.”
Clark County Board of School Trustees President Lola Brooks said the board is set to meet at 5 p.m. Thursday to discuss the 200-page plan. If approved, employees would be expected to return to work Dec. 1, and the plan would take effect in January.
The district, which has about 307,000 students and 40,000 employees, started the new school year in August with strictly distance learning, with an exception for seven rural schools operating in-person classes.
The district’s new proposal calls for a hybrid model of learning where students would attend classes in person two days a week and online the other three days a week. Parents would also have the option of having their child continue their education online only.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.