Douglas school plan OK’d; LTUSD still in the process |

Douglas school plan OK’d; LTUSD still in the process

A plan for fall classes at Zephyr Cove Elementary School was approved by the school district.
Bill Rozak / Tahoe Daily Tribune

With the end of summer looming, school districts around Lake Tahoe are putting together plans for next school year.

Douglas County School District approved a plan for next year that will be sent to the state for approval that includes a combination of in-person and online learning or strictly online for students and parents who don’t feel comfortable going back to school.

“I think they’re trying to make the best plan they can while following the governor’s orders and the results from the survey they sent out earlier this summer,” said George Whittell High School principal Shawn Lear.

Survey results from parents and staff showed that 55.8% of parents wanted their students to return to school in the fall with a regular schedule and 36.5% of staff wanted school to return to a regular schedule. Only 8.9% of parents and 7.6% of staff wanted to have school be fully distance-learning.

“As the superintendent of Douglas County School District, I want to be clear that I do not believe it is in the best interest of our students, staff and families to keep our schools closed completely to in-person instruction,” said Superintendent Keith Lewis during the Tuesday meeting.

Lear, who oversees Whittell and Zephyr Cove Elementary School is concerned about some of the class sizes, saying that some classes have a large number of students in physically small classrooms.

Lear said he’d like to send out a survey just to the teachers at the lake schools to get their thoughts.

One topic of conversation during the meeting was temperature screenings. Lewis was concerned about the time it would take to get the temperature of each student every day and wanted to also confirm that doing so wouldn’t violate any Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations.

Lear said he wanted to push for screenings at the lake schools, since the schools are smaller, it wouldn’t be as time consuming.

“The health and safety of kids is the number one priority,” Lear said.

Part of the benefit of in-person schooling is the access to extracurriculars and Lear said he wants to offer that as much as possible for the students.

At the elementary school, he wants to incorporate Spanish, art, music and other extracurriculars into the daily schedule so that parents and staff don’t have to worry about additional transportation needs.

At the high school, he said he’s comfortable they could accommodate clubs to meet during lunch as long as they stay under the group size limit. As for sports, he thinks the sports teams can continue meeting with their coaches, learning plays and strategies and running non-contact drills.

Whittell and Zephyr Cove are in a unique position because the school district is making decisions based on coronavirus cases in the counties in the valley but the schools are more likely to be impacted by cases in South Lake Tahoe and Stateline.

Cases continue to rise in South Lake Tahoe and vice-principal Sean Ryan has been attending Barton Health meetings to keep up-to-date on the virus at the lake.

The rising case count is also a concern for Lake Tahoe Unified School District.

LTUSD has had several meetings on the topic of school reopening and has sent out a survey to students and staff on their thoughts and preferences.

The plan that is presented focuses on a hybrid model in which students would be in the classroom 2-3 days a week and distance-learning the other days.

The school board has a meeting schedule for July 30 during which they will make a decision on the plan for next year based on survey results.

“It will play out in real time, just like it did in the spring,” Lear said.

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