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Charter school authority likely won’t change in-person learning guidance

A recommendation to change the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority’s distance learning mandate, which allows for some in-person classes, is unlikely despite a fall uptick statewide in COVID-19 cases, the authority’s executive director said Friday.

The authority’s board met virtually Friday to hear coronavirus-related updates. The board meets again at 9 a.m. this Friday and could take action on whether to make changes.

Some Las Vegas-area public charter schools switched from a hybrid model, a mix of in-person and remote instruction, to 100 percent distance learning last week following Thanksgiving break. Decisions were made by individual school boards.

“There’s a variety of decisions being made at school sites,” charter authority Executive Director Rebecca Feiden said, adding that she thinks schools have been methodical and cautious in their decision-making.

Feiden said she currently doesn’t expect to recommend any changes to in-person learning guidance for consideration at this week’s meeting, but she believes it’s important to have an action item.

Following Gov. Steve Sisolak’s “Stay at Home 2.0” recommendation and announcement last month of a three-week statewide pause, charter authority staffers have “repeatedly urged schools to exercise caution with in-person learning due to the increasing test positivity and case rate across the State,” according to Friday meeting materials. “As a result, many schools have reduced the scale of in-person learning or temporarily returned to full distance learning.”

In August, the authority’s board approved a distance learning mandate, saying schools in counties with an elevated level of COVID-19 transmission could provide in-person instruction for up to 25 percent of their students.

Last month, the board relaxed the requirement further, allowing schools to bring up to 40 percent of their students on campus at any given time.

Many Las Vegas-area public charter schools began the school year with 100 percent distance education, but started bringing a limited number of students on campus in October under a hybrid model — either with half-day sessions or alternating which days students attend in-person classes.

Following two meetings this month, the charter authority board isn’t scheduled to meet again until Jan. 22. But Feiden said an emergency meeting could be held in late December or early January, if needed.

All written public comments for Friday’s meeting were advocating for a full-time return to in-person classes.

So far this school year, the charter authority has been notified of 200 students or employees who’ve tested positive for COVID-19. That has led to more than 600 students and employees being identified as close contacts and excluded from school as a result.

During their meeting, the board also:

— Approved the acquisition of Somerset Academy Las Vegas’ Aliante and Skye Canyon campuses.

Somerset partnered with the Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund to construct the two campuses and is currently leasing them.

In the first five years after acquiring the buildings, Somerset will see an estimated $1.25 million in savings for the Aliante campus and $1 million in savings for the Skye Canyon campus.

— Approved a request from Sports Leadership and Management Academy in Henderson to implement a dual credit program for eligible high school students through the College of Southern Nevada.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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