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Creekside Charter first to reopen to students for in-person class

While schools and academies from around the Truckee-Tahoe area have started the year off with distance learning, Creekside Charter has been able to work with county and health officials to reopen its doors to students this week.

Students attending the transitional kindergarten through eighth grade school in Olympic Valley were welcomed back to their classrooms on Tuesday with extensive safety and health protocol measures in place.

Schools within Placer County were able to reopen Sept. 1 if safety measures and opening day plans were in place. With 212 students enrolled at Creekside Charter and other factors like outside learning, no offered standard school bus, and outdoor lunches brought from home, the school, which is not part of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, was able to quickly transition to a model were officials felt comfortable allowing students to reenter its classrooms.

“We are following all of the guidelines that are put out by California Department of Public Health as well as Placer County,” said Executive Director Jeff Kraunz. “We’re really proud of what we’re doing here. We’re really proud that we’re opening and are doing it as safely as possible.”

As part of safety precautions, the school started the year this week under a cohort model where half the students are attending every other day.

“We did that to work out many of the logistics that are associated with so many of the different rules,” said Kraunz.

The non-classroom based charter school normally offers four full days of classroom study a week, allowing students flexibility in their pursuit of other passions. Kraunz said the school hopes to be able to open without the cohort model on Sept. 21.

The school also purchased Plexiglas partitions, new filtration systems, sinks, and had tents erected outside as a way to move students from classrooms to outside.

“We’re really emphasizing outdoor learning right now,” added Kraunz. “I’m really proud of the community that has rallied together to put these tents up for kids.”

All students and faculty at the school are required to wear face coverings while indoors. Students in second grade and below aren’t required to wear face masks while outside, but their older peers are.

As far as testing and screening, students are required to fill out daily health screening forms and if they are flagged with a symptom they can only return to the school if they have a negative COVID-19 test result and are symptom free for 72 hours. Kraunz said the school has partnered with Tahoe Forest Health System for testing, adding that students and faculty members should get back test results within the 72-hour window. A positive COVID-19 result by a student will also result in their entire grade being quarantined for 14 days.

The school, which is provided land by Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows at an annual rate of $1, is also providing other options for families and students that don’t wish to return to in-school learning. Kraunz said some students have transitioned to home school, some are doing independent study full time, but the bulk of students have returned to campus.

While stressing the importance of safety, Kraunz said the decision to reopen the school came down to concerns about mental well being of students and need for classroom-based interactions.

“We know that students need to be back at school and so when we were giving the clearance by the county, we went and did that as fast as possible but in a safe way,” said Kraunz.

“We’re opening in a safe way and if we have to close, we’ll close. In the meantime, we’re excited to see kids back on campus.”

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.


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