Clark County schools call 5-day break to ‘stop the spread’ amid COVID spike
The Clark County School District will be closing from Friday through Tuesday amid an “extreme staffing shortage” as COVID cases in Nevada hit all-time highs.
The announcement came Tuesday, ahead of what was already supposed to be a long weekend for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. As of Jan. 10, a dashboard maintained by the school district showed 2,272 positive cases in the district this month.
The district will call Friday a staff development day, with no instruction and staff required to work from home, while Tuesday will be considered a contingency day, with the same arrangement for staff and students. To compensate, Monday, Feb. 7 and Tuesday, April 25 will be full instructional days.
“This five-day pause will promote a safe, healthy learning environment in our schools to ‘Stop the Spread’ in order to continue face-to-face instruction,” the district said in a statement.
District officials said all athletics, before- and after-school activities, Safekey, field trips, athletic practices, and athletic travel are canceled from Jan. 14-18. Students and staff are expected to return to normal operations on Wednesday, Jan. 19.
The highly contagious Omicron variant has driven unprecedented numbers of new cases in Nevada. On Tuesday, the state reported 5,417 new cases since Monday.
Schools in states all around the country have opted to move back to remote learning as large numbers of staff members have called out sick. But Nevada's other urban school district isn't going that direction yet.
Washoe County Superintendent Kristen McNeill told school trustees Tuesday evening that she does not recommend a districtwide move to remote learning at this point.
“My direction to our staff is that we need to keep the doors open and the lights on for the best interests of our students,” she said.
The Reno-area school district is not immune to challenges surrounding COVID and absences, though. The Washoe County School District on Tuesday had a little more than 250 teacher absences that could not be filled with substitute teachers, Deputy Superintendent Debra Biersdorff told the school board.
It has created what she described as an “all hands on deck” approach to covering classrooms, with everyone from principals to central office staff assisting where needed. If that becomes unsustainable, Biersdorff said the district will approve temporary pivots to distance education on a school-by-school basis.
Recently, staff with Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office said "the goal is to continue in-person learning."
“In order for us to protect both lives and livelihoods, we have to work together in partnership. We have to be mindful to take care of each other, but we also have to keep our economy going," DuAne L. Young with the governor’s office said during a press call on Dec. 30. “We are not considering any measures to shut down, what we are considering is to continue that support and fortification of our system.”
Sisolak reiterated in a statement on Tuesday that he did not want to see wholesale, long-term shifts to remote learning as Nevada districts experienced earlier in the pandemic.
"There is no substitute for having kids on our campuses, learning in classrooms with their teachers and peers. And I will use every resource I have as Governor of the State of Nevada to keep schools open for in-person learning," he said. "Sadly, we are still dealing with the realities of a global pandemic. But 2022 will not be 2020. We now have the tools, the knowledge, and the resources to keep schools open safely and effectively. There is no going back."
This story was updated at 8:30 p.m. Jan. 11, 2022, to include information from a Washoe County School Board meeting.
Reporter Jackie Valley contributed to this story.