Governor Sisolak Issues Directive in Support of Safe Return to School Buildings

July 28, 2020

CARSON CITY Nev. – Today, Governor Steve Sisolak signed Emergency Directive 028 to further support a safe, efficient, and equitable return to school buildings for the 2020-21 school year.

In response to recommendations from the Medical Advisory Team, the Directive shifts the minimum physical distancing requirements from six to three feet for pre-K, kindergarten, elementary and middle school students in accordance with the recommendations by the American Association of Pediatrics. The physical distancing minimum for staff and high school students remains unchanged at six feet.

In addition, the Directive sets in place a process to allow variances from certain health and safety protocols in areas where community COVID-19 transmission rates are sufficiently low, and it is determined the variance will not endanger students or staff. This shifts from a “one size fits all” approach to school reopening in recognition of the different circumstances affecting communities across Nevada. Variance requests are subject to review by the Nevada Department of Education and approval by the State Chief Medical Officer.

“Throughout our response to COVID-19, the health and safety of our students, staff, and families is always the priority,” said Governor Sisolak. “I know that the Nevada Department of Education and the local districts have worked diligently to evaluate the available guidance and recommendations to create appropriate education plans to our students through whatever means are most appropriate in their local district. The State will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 in Nevada and stands ready to provide support or intervention when necessary.”

“Responding to the ever-changing circumstances of the pandemic requires us to be nimble,” said State Superintendent Jhone Ebert. “In all our work, the Nevada Department of Education seeks to recognize the distinct needs of each district and school and to support them accordingly. Providing flexibility while supporting our local leaders in maintaining safe learning environments is more important than ever in light of COVID-19.”

“We are proud to partner with the Department of Education to help provide our schools with the information and flexibility they need, while protecting the health and safety of students, staff and communities,” said Richard Whitley, Director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Other key aspects of the directive are as follows:

  • Makes face coverings mandatory for all K-12 students and all school staff. Exemptions may be approved by school building leaders if medical conditions are documented by a medical professional.
  • Makes face coverings mandatory, without exceptions, for all other adults in school settings, including parents, vendors, volunteers, visitors, and others.
  • Requires students and staff to follow quarantine and isolation protocols and guidelines when a positive COVID-19 case, presumptive case, or contact with a presumptive case occurs. 

“Wearing a face covering is one of the simplest and most important tools we have to protect against COVID-19,” said Dr. Ihsan Azzam, Nevada’s Chief Medical Officer who also serves as the lead for the Medical Advisory Team. “Making face coverings mandatory for all students and adults in K-12 school buildings is critical to preventing the spread of illness.”

The Directive also carries forward aspects of distance education flexibility from the 2019-20 school year, including the option to use paper correspondence to provide equitable opportunities to learn at a distance for students who may not have devices or Internet connectivity. Further, the Directive reinstates existing laws and regulations on distance learning. This allows approved programs to continue to operate while new providers can apply. Districts and charter schools offering Path Forward Programs of Distance Education are exempt from distance education regulations and will operate in accordance with guidance previously issued by the Nevada Department of Education.

Finally, the Directive ensures continued access to Nevada Ready! State Pre-Kindergarten programs by providing early childhood education providers the flexibility to implement schedules that allow for social distancing without having to disenroll students or sacrifice per-pupil funding.