School staffing remains stable amid covid surge

It’s hard to believe, but the school year is half over. The Pershing County School District held its regular monthly board meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 18, the first day of the second semester. 

The trustees (James Evans, Mike Mancebo, Cindy Plummer, Melissa Shields and Sherry Knight) met amid another milestone – the beginning of the third year of Covid. Like the rest of the town, the district faces an uptick in coronavirus positivity due to the omicron variant.

For perspective, the second week of January the district had 12 presumptive or positive cases out of 100 - the highest of all school year. Throughout the year they’ve had a total of 23 positives.

Staffing remains stable. The superintendent, trustees and administrators aim to keep the doors open throughout the second half of the academic year. 

“I believe we’ll be able to manage. It may not look normal and it may not be perfect but we’ll be able to do it,” said Russell Fecht, superintendent since July 2015.

Capital project nears completion

Tom Donaldson updated the board on the capital project. 

“We are finishing up our pavement project with two gazebos at the high school and two at Lovelock Elementary School,” he said. “We are also starting construction on a 30 X 100-foot warehouse building behind the district office.”

Principal’s reports 

Lovelock Elementary students are excited about the arrival of PE teacher, Annie Branson. Each grade level will have PE twice a week, approximately 356 students.

DARE has restarted at LES with Sheriff Jerry Allen as the DARE officer. 

The middle school is planning a talent show. It will include a parent’s night. Shea Murphy wants parents to check under ‘calendar’ on the district website. They’ll find an up-to-date list of upcoming events.

At the high school, several student ‘mathletes’ were in Fernley, competing against scholastic teams in their league. PCHS counselor Matt Schottel advises the group.

According to Gallagher, the Nevada Department of Corrections faces staffing issues due to the surge in Covid. “People aren’t getting that sick but if they test positive they have to quarantine for five days,” he said.

The adult education department is working with the Frontier Community Coalition to get the word out about its high school equivalency program.

“The ability of people to support themselves depends on their education which effects substance abuse and the ability to recover,” said Gallagher.

Trustee Cindy Plummer said she’d like to see active recruitment with flyers and posters around town. 

Superintendent’s report

Russell Fecht explained why he has not rolled out a mask mandate for the students in response to recent events. He alluded to the familiar scenario of a home basketball game. 

“We have a full crowd. Kids all the way from elementary on up aren’t wearing masks in a public setting. I ask our principals when I walk through the schools if there’s been an increase in parent’s showing up at the door wearing a mask. There hasn’t been. It’s the same ones as were wearing it in October and November. Until you see that uptick and level of concern I’m not going out on that limb unless I’m told I absolutely have to.”

“My filter’s pretty much gone when it comes to Covid. All along we’ve said there will always be a subpopulation that isn’t happy. Either the school won’t be safe enough or we’re too restrictive.”

“What this surge has done is bring the two groups back to the forefront. One group sends me emails saying I’d better not put the mask mandate back on our kids. Another group shows up with face masks and rubber gloves to tell us the school isn’t doing enough to keep their children safe.”

“Ironically, when you go to a home basketball game you see the same people telling me we’re not doing enough. They aren’t masked. They aren’t vaccinated. That’s where my frustration starts to build.” 

“If this is your child’s third or fourth time getting Covid at what point do you do something as a family by telling your high school aged child to consider vaccination or at minimum wear a mask?” he asked.

Other news

Trustee Mike Mancebo reported that the ‘rec board’ recently signed a scope of work contract for the community pool. They expect the $284,000 project to begin by May 15. “It’s looking more promising than it has been,” he said. “I’ve got my fingers crossed.”