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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Lakeland opts to go full in-person, masks optional

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 31, 2020

 (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)
(Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

Students in the Rathdrum-Twin Lakes area will be back in class five days a week with no masks required after the Lakeland Joint School District board reversed course during a special meeting last weekend.

The decision came three days after the board voted to join neighboring Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls and bring students into buildings two days a week.

Even as the meeting was streamed on Facebook Live, viewers posted more than 1,200 comments, most of them urging to open classes 4 or 5 days a week.

Two days later, on Thursday, the Panhandle Health District lowered its COVID-19 risk level from “orange” to “yellow.”

That evening, the board scheduled a special meeting for Friday night and approved the change to yellow.

Beginning Sept. 8, the district’s 4,337 students will attend Monday through Friday, with a one-hour early dismissal to allow for staff preparation time.

The decision puts Lakeland alone at one end of the local back-to-school spectrum. Most districts in Spokane County are beginning the year with distance learning only.

Others have adopted a twice-a-week hybrid model, including like Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, which requires students and staff to wear masks.

Superintendent Becky Meyer could not be reached Monday afternoon. Neither could Lakeland teachers’ union president Jason Bradbury.

The video recording of Friday’s board meeting was not posted on the school district’s website as of Monday afternoon.

Bradbury told the board last week that about 60% of teachers opposed a return to class under the “yellow” protocols.

“Based on the recommendations of science and common sense, opening in the yellow will not allow for proper social distancing … predicting a rise in COVID cases,” Bradbury said.

According to the district, the “yellow” back-to-school model calls for “Social distancing to the greatest extent possible and face coverings (masks/shields) will be recommended where social distancing cannot be maintained.”

A full-time distance- learning option, the Lakeland Online Academy, will be available for students whose families are reluctant to send their children back to buildings.

Masks will be recommended when social distancing isn’t possible, but they won’t be mandatory, even on buses.

According to the district, bus transportation will be available with a maximum of two students per seat, though three family members may use the same seat.

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