LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — When the coronavirus pandemic began, Faith Lutheran Academy was forced to close its doors and implement virtual learning like every other school in Clark County.
Principal Diana Bartholomew said their last day of in-person learning was March 13, 2020.
"My birthday," she said. "I won't forget that birthday."
Bartholomew said making the decision to send kids home was hard, but distance learning was harder on many students who felt isolated, depressed and some began falling behind in their education.
"We saw the social-emotional implications of not being in school," she said.
As a private school, administrators at Faith Lutheran Academy made the decision to bring kids back into the classroom at the beginning of their new school year in August of 2020 with a host of safety protocols in place.
Bartholomew says they added more hand sanitizer, trained teachers in safety practices, bought personal protective equipment, had teachers switch classes instead of students and turned many of their rooms like the library and chapel into classrooms to allow for social distancing.
And while there has been a handful of confirmed coronavirus cases among the school population, Bartholomew says the safety plan helped stop the virus's spread.
"It really does limit the coronavirus cases that we've had. We've had some," she said. "The few cases that we did have we were able to trace back to a family member or an adult."
Another tool they've brought in called the R-Water system that has helped them sanitize the entire school quickly and efficiently.
Rayne Guest, founder and CEO of R-Water, said the machine generates 300 gallons of a sanitizer called TK-60 and 150 gallons of an all-purpose cleaner every day on-site with salt pellets.
"It does eliminate COVID in under 20 seconds," Bartholomew said. "All they have to do is make sure there's salt in the device and it takes about two and a half pounds of salt to make about 1,000 gallons of solution."
Bartholomew says the solution works and dries quickly preventing delays in education, it's non-toxic, and since it's produced on-site there is no need to battle for limited supplies when there's a rush on cleaning supplies.
As students in the Clark County School District prepare to return to in-person learning Monday, Bartholomew says teachers and administrators need to be flexible with their plans to allow for tweaks.
She also warned that mask fatigue was a real problem for young students who've been home for months and aren't used to wearing a face covering for hours at a time.