LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Disinfecting classrooms every day and deep cleaning whenever a COVID-19 case happens. That’s how the Clark County School District says it will protect students and teachers as they head back to school after winter break.
But some parents and staff are still worried about the omicron variant causing a huge spike in cases and what that could mean for in-class learning.
A new year has brought new questions for parents. Some school districts across the country are making last-minute changes like a return to remote learning with concerns over omicron. So far, CCSD is committed to returning as usual, saying it will welcome back students and staff as scheduled but acknowledging the omicron surge with mitigation practices in place.
One parent on the CCSD Parents Facebook page called the district’s message insulting, saying he believes the district has no real plan with others worried about sending their kids back to school.
Reuben D’Silva, a history teacher at Rancho High School, says the message was vague and believes the status quo remains right now.
“Having those masks on in indoor settings. Trying to have some kind of process of cleaning your classrooms every day," D'Silva said.
He’s also worried about the current shortage of staff getting worse with teachers getting sick and staying home.
“So, we are in a major shortage right now in terms of staffing. We even have issues with substitute teachers wanting to take jobs, and it’s causing a tremendous strain on teachers,” he said.
Some parents, though, aren’t worried, saying schools need to stay open.
“I think moving forward with kids in school and living life as normal is the best thing, so I support if that’s what CCSD wants to do," Abby McCoy said.
D’Silva prefers to see in-person learning remain as well. He says it remains to be seen how omicron will affect schools in the valley.
“We’ll see what’s happening. Is there going to be a spike in COVID-19 cases? If that happens, then we definitely have to have some sort of plan of action for that,” he said.
Pediatrician Evelyn Montalvo-Stanton with UNLV says she’s seen an increase at some hospitals.
“Our numbers have increased a lot at Sunrise and UMC, so we're seeing a lot more kids get admitted to the floor and, more importantly, the pediatric ICU setting,” she said.
She says compared to last year there’s been an increase of about 25 to 30 percent. Dr. Montalvo-Stanton says she’s seeing both vaccinated and unvaccinated kids at the hospital. There’s a clear difference in how the virus is affecting them, with vaccinated kids faring much better “compared to those coming in unvaccinated, who are coming in a lot sicker and getting admitted to the ICU,” she said.
She says if parents notice symptoms like loss of taste and smell, coughing, or fever in their child, they should go to their pediatrician to check and get tested. Severe cases should go to the hospital.
“If they are in respiratory distress or they’re very sick and dehydrated — because we’re seeing a lot of kids not able to tolerate any oral feeds — then they need to go to the emergency room,” she said.
As kids return to the classroom, Dr. Montalvo-Stanton says it may be a good idea to replace cloth masks with better protection.
“Since this omicron is so infectious, the ideal thing is to have an N95 mask, but obviously we can’t use it in our pediatric population, so having a surgical mask would be the best thing to use," she said.
The doctor also recommends if your child is eligible to get vaccinated to do so to give them the best protection from serious illness.