Tahoe Truckee Unified to return to distance learning | TheUnion.com

Tahoe Truckee Unified to return to distance learning

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District notified families over the weekend that its schools would shift back from hybrid instruction to full distance learning, effective this past Monday.

The district, which had opened the doors of its campuses to students Oct. 29, announced the decision citing “a huge spike” in confirmed cases of COVID-19 in its students and staff. The change will last until at least the new year.

The move came on the same day Nevada Union High School switched to distance learning because of the number of COVID-19 cases and related quarantines and isolations. All Nevada Joint Union High School District schools are scheduled to follow suit this coming Monday.

Kelli Twomey, coordinator of Tahoe Truckee’s district communications, confirmed that as of Monday evening, the district had 27 active cases of COVID-19 — 19 in students and eight in staff members, resulting in over 185 people quarantined due to exposure.

Where “things got worrisome,” Twomey said, was the news that this number had climbed from 12 to 27 between last Friday and Sunday.

In a message to parents, the district said this presented issues in keeping campuses open not only with respect to safety, but staffing, as it experiences “shortages of staffing due to quarantining a class” as well as in other areas such as food and transportation.

Twomey explained that there was also a workload concern when it came to contact tracing, primarily conducted by school nurses, as active cases rose and they had to contact increasingly large groups of people.

In addition, a metric the district had considered when deciding to open its campuses was testing availability. According to Twomey, as they requested the close contacts of confirmed cases get tested, they were increasingly finding testing through Placer County was unavailable or couldn’t occur for several days, reducing their ability to have people infected with COVID-19 isolate rather than spread it.

“It was really a culmination of all those things,” said Twomey.

Twomey said that, due to those factors, the district was closing its schools despite a lower percentage of confirmed infection than the California Department of Public Health has set as the threshold — 5% of the school population — having found that “that’s too high of a number.”

The return to distance learning, the message said, will remain in place at least until January, at which point the district will reevaluate whether it is safe to return to its facilities.

Twomey said this timeline was set taking into consideration their “huge concern of a spike over the (winter) holidays,” as well as the desire to create some consistency for students rather than have them potentially switching quickly back and forth between instructional formats. She noted that their winter break would begin Dec. 18, and that “the idea was that would be enough time to gauge what things look like.”

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at vpenate@theunion.com.

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