LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Bishop Gorman High School gave 13 Action News a tour of how it is handling in-person learning amid the pandemic.
The Clark County School District is considering a switch to hybrid learning, meaning students would be allowed back into the classroom a few days a week, and some private schools in the valley have already been doing that for months - including Bishop Gorman.
Of the approximately 1,500 kids currently enrolled at Gorman, about 1,200 of them, or 80%, have chosen to learn in person and be on campus five days a week.
The other 300 enrolled students have elected to learn virtually at home.
It's relatively rare to see kids in classrooms during this pandemic. But Gorman staff says it's the safest place for them.
"For anyone that thinks this is not a safe environment, they’re sorely mistaken," said Gregory Piet, superintendent of buildings, safety, and IT at Bishop Gorman.
Piet spent all summer developing Gorman's extensive new COVID-19 safety plan.
"I’ve spent a lot of my energy lately ensuring that this campus, the 54 acres that we have, is safe for all of our students that come on the property," said Piet.
After two months of being back in class, by now the students know the routine. Before the school day even begins, every student gets their temperature taken before they're allowed on campus. And wearing a mask is a must at all times on campus unless they're eating or exercising outside.
Inside each classroom, Piet has personally measured the distance between every desk, making sure students and teachers are socially distanced in every direction. In the hallways, students only walk in one direction to avoid any cross-contamination between classes.
"I don’t think I could sleep at night if we weren’t doing everything we could to keep the students safe. This campus is probably the safest environment they are going to be in, with another thousand plus people around," said Piet.
Piet says he's even taken steps to improve air circulation inside the school.
"I’ve increased outside air dampers to 100%, so we’re getting as much fresh air as humanly possible. I’ve increased the amount of airflow in every classroom, so now we have more air exchanges per hour," said Piet.
Since the cafeteria can't serve lunch currently, it's been turned into a digital photography classroom, and kids have to bring their own lunch, which they eat at their desks.
But the staff says these are sacrifices the students are happy to make, so they can continue to go to school.
"The kids want to be at school. That’s an unusual thing. They want to come back. They want to see their friends. So, this is the way we come back," said Sandy Young, the school nurse at Bishop Gorman.
Part of Young's job is to respond to any potential cases of COVID-19 on campus and make sure it doesn't spread to other students.
"It’s been a plan in development. It still is today. We are changing today and reacting to things that happen that are outside of our control," said Young.
On the list of concerns the staff can't control, positive COVID-19 cases are at the top of the list, and Gorman has had some. But, staff denies any of those cases have spread to other students or staff on campus.
"We’ve had no cases that have originated here on campus. We've had no cases that have been linked to any of the students while they’re on campus," said Young.
If a student does start feeling sick at school, Young and her staff have extensive seating charts and a network of cameras on campus to help them trace any other kids they may have come in contact with. That way, they can send students home when necessary, and everyone can continue to learn safely, either virtually or in person.
"If I have to quarantine someone, they just log-on online at home. They’re seeing their teacher, they’re seeing their classmates, and they are getting the same information at the same time everyone else is," said Young, describing the school's approach to virtual learning.
If this all seems like a lot, that's because it is. Staff at Gorman say that's the price you have to pay to learn in person during a pandemic. And Gorman educators say not only is that possible it's important.
"Being in charge of IT, I’m always supportive of the electronic medium, however, there’s nothing that can replace face-to-face instruction," said Piet.
"Studies are looking at the social issues that they have with kids, the mental health issues that they're going through now because they’re not able to socialize. We are very social animals. So, to be able to come back on campus, see our friends, see our families, our faculty and staff - that’s important," said Young.
If you want to learn more about Bishop Gorman's safety and health protocols click this link.