School Reopening and Ensuring Pedestrian Safety in Nevada

As July comes to an end, many parents and students in Nevada wonder if they will be returning to school in August due to Covid-19. While both Washoe County and Clark County have unveiled preliminary plans for reopening, the fate of the 2020-2021 school year is unknown. If school were to start, Northern Nevada hopes to improve the pedestrian safety around schools after several student pedestrian accidents during the previous school year.

School Reopening Amidst Covid-19

As Nevada residents reach the end of July, Washoe County has seen nearly 5,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases, while the Las Vegas and Clark County areas have seen 32,025 confirmed cases. Nevada as a whole has seen a total of 759 deaths due to the virus through July 28th. [1] As cases continue to climb, parents question whether it is safe to let their children go to school. For many parents, especially those with younger children, it is difficult to care for their children while they have to work or deal with other responsibilities. Washoe County has unveiled the following plan for schools to reopen, which includes the following measures:

  • For Elementary School: Students will attend school every day. Children will be socially distanced and will be required to wear masks.
  • Middle and High School: Students will alternate between remote distance learning and on-site school instruction. Students will be required to wear masks and socially distance.
  • Those with preexisting conditions or uncomfortable with returning to school can do distance learning five days a week through a program provided by Washoe County School District, such as North Star.
  • Schools will also ensure they put in place more thorough cleaning measures and seating measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
  • Re-opening will be delayed two weeks and school will now open August 17. [2]

Clark County has announced that they will not reopen school sites and schools will participate in distance learning for the first nine weeks of school. [3] Like Washoe County, Carson City hopes to reopen schools on August 17 under similar measures. [4]

Employee safety has become a topic of interest after Washoe County school reopening plans were revealed. Will teachers receive paid leave if they contract Covid-19, or will they have to use their sick leave? Some teachers even posed the question over whether they could receive workers compensation if they were to contract the virus while at the school site. Many questions still remain and the actual plans might vary between schools. The Teacher’s Union, comprised of Reno and Sparks’ teachers, have demanded that schools remain on distance learning for at least nine weeks, similar to the plan used by Las Vegas and Henderson schools.

Pedestrian Safety in School Areas

As Washoe County prepares to reopen schools, some have questions over safety for students, but this time it isn’t about Covid-19. Pedestrian safety around schools are an important topic, especially after the many pedestrian accidents around schools in Reno during the previous school year.

In the beginning of 2020, the Washoe County School District announced that more than twenty Reno and Sparks students had been injured in pedestrian accidents or bicycle accidents in the school zones during the academic year. [5] For example, in February, a thirteen year old Spanish Springs students was injured when crossing the street across from his school.[6] Luckily, the boy survived, however not all students are lucky. Benson & Bingham reported last December in this blog that during the fall semester of the 2019-2020 school year, a Wooster High School student was struck by a pickup truck while walking to school. She was taken to Renown and passed away from her injuries later that day. The victim was only seventeen years old. [7] According to the Reno Police Department, in many of these instances the driver is at fault, and often times driving over the posted speed limit at school zones. They remind those driving in the Reno Area that schools zones are marked with flashing lights, or with a sign stating times when the specific speed limit is in effect.

To combat pedestrian accidents in school zones, Reno mayor Hillary Schieve proposed a handful of new initiatives including mandating that all schools do a yearly traffic study on the streets around their campus and that police officers be allowed to take their squad cars home at night to create a bigger police presence on neighborhood roads. [8] Some schools have placed neon orange flags on crosswalks that students can hold while crossing the street, in hopes of improving visibility.

Perhaps, Reno and Sparks school zones could follow the lead of some Las Vegas school zones. In February of this year, after two students were struck by a vehicle in a school zone, a Las Vegas area school noticed that their school zone was unsafe. They then encouraged Clark County to survey all school zones and found that the repainting of faded crosswalks, as well as the installation of more obvious indicators of school zones and corresponding speed limits, could improve pedestrian safety. [9] By taking these measures, Las Vegas students can feel safer when walking to and from school, and pedestrian accidents can be prevented.

With schools reopening in the near future in Washoe County and Carson City, or next semesters in Clark County many are worried about safety and preventing the spread of Covid-19. However, as students return to school, Reno, Sparks, and Las Vegas residents should not neglect pedestrian safety and should take necessary precautions to protect students from pedestrian accidents.










Photo Credit:  Senior Airman Sarah Hall-Kirchner

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