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Lake Tahoe schools open Monday

by Cheyanne Neuffer
cneuffer@tahoedailytribune.com

Zephyr Cove Elementary School and George Whittell High School begin the school year on Monday with in-person, daily class instruction.

Both schools plan to ensure social distancing and other safety protocols are in place. While the option was given to take online instruction, many were excited to get back to the classroom.

“The teachers are excited to see the students,” said Bernadette Esquivel, head secretary at Whittell.

She said that the numbers of enrollment have been fluctuating, but class sizes will be smaller. Small class sizes is one of the reasons both schools had the option to reopen in person.

Teachers at both schools have been making space and removing items in their classrooms so students can stay 6-feet apart.

Students have to wear masks during instruction, but the schools are looking to set up an outdoor option for class time.

The ZCES parents club and Whittell Boosters have been asking for donations which includes outdoor tents that are used for events and weddings along with wooden stumps for students to sit on outdoors. This gives the teachers the option to teach outside on weather suitable days. Also, the bleachers will be used as well for outdoor classes.

“The teachers were nervous at first, but they now feel more comfortable after the safety measures,” said Shawn Lear, principal of the lake schools “There is a very positive feeling on campus. The seniors are very excited to be back.”

Along with other safety protocols, students will have their own Chromebook laptops and their own supplies. The schools also have marked the hallways indicating the proper traffic flow in hallways to mitigate congestion. Students will carry belongings with them because there will be no access to the lockers.

“Staff are being trained in enforcing the safety protocols,” Lear said.

“When we looked at the enrollment numbers of the two schools it was determined that we could have in person learning for all grades and still maintain physical distance and meet the requirements to reduce the risk to individuals,” said Sean Ryan, vice principal for the lake schools in a press release.

As part of Whittell High School’s reopening process, families are encouraged to do the following:

• Screen your child(ren) at home with temperature checks every morning

• Keep your child(ren) home if they show symptoms of illness

• Transport your child(ren) to/from school when possible to minimize crowding on school busses

• Reinforce the importance of wearing face coverings at school with your child(ren) to minimize risk to peers, teachers, and other staff

• Provide reusable face coverings for your child(ren) if possible. Douglas County School District will provide reusable face coverings

• Open an account in Infinite Campus to ensure access to communication and student information

“We are ready to start but know that there are students that might need help with supplies,” said Lear. “We error on the side of caution.”

The schools are accepting donations from the community. With the transition to students attending online classes, Lear says, “We are not sure where the budget is going to land.”

As the lake schools prepare to open, the ZCES Parents Club, Whittell Boosters and Lake Schools Advisory Committee asked staff and administration to provide a supplies wish list of needs.

“We knew with all the added safety precautions and changes to the school year, the needs and wish list for the staff would be huge, that is why we wanted to provide a list and reach out to our amazing community for any help,” said Zephyr Cove Parents Club President Meghan Kelly, in a press release.

If a parent, community member or corporation is able to provide help, they are asked to contact Kelly at zcesparentsclub@gmail.com.