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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

COVID-19 in local schools: Some report outbreaks – others don’t report their cases at all

Lake City high school posted social distancing regulations outside their stadium during a high school football game. The school has more than 10 people infected and has some 200 students quarantined. (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

For educators and students in Spokane and North Idaho, the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon.

Instead, one month into the school year, positive tests are slowly rising at most districts that have provided data to the public and local health districts. However, many have chosen not to do so, leaving the public with an incomplete picture of the COVID pandemic among local youth.

Among the largest districts in Spokane and Kootenai counties, only Central Valley, Mead and Coeur d’Alene are posting daily dashboards.

Others, including Spokane Public Schools, are updating their information on Fridays.

Spokane had a jump in cases, up eight from two last week to 10 recently confirmed, with 45 people in quarantine.

The number of COVID cases is climbing higher in districts that have brought students back to classrooms, too.

The biggest impact is being felt in the Coeur d’Alene School District, where a coronavirus spike has coincided with high case counts in the county at large.

As of Friday, the district had 19 positive tests and almost 300 people in quarantine, including one out of every 7 students at Lake City High School.

Now Coeur d’Alene will become the first district in the area to take a step backwards in the face of the pandemic, following Thursday’s decision by the Panhandle Health District to raise the county’s COVID risk level from “minimal” to “moderate.”

On Friday, Superintendent Steven Cook ordered that, effective Monday, students at Coeur d’Alene, Lake City and Venture high schools will return to their previous schedule of attending classes inperson two days a week and remotely the other three days.

Students will use the same schedule as they did for the first three weeks of the school year.

The Coeur d’Alene school board is scheduled to meet Monday morning to discuss the category change for other schools. Any change approved by the board will take hold Oct. 26 to allow students and families time to prepare.

The district opened the year at the “orange” level, allowing for blended learning with two in-person days and three remote days, and half of students in class at once.

On Oct. 5, the district moved to “yellow,” allowing in-person learning for all who wanted it. Since then, the district has seen a spike in cases, though almost all were the result of contact outside of schools.

COVID-19 also has spike in the Lakeland Joint School District, where the school year began on Sept. 5 will full in-person learning and masks optional.

As of Friday, Lakeland had 17 cases, according to a weekly summary posted Friday by the Idaho Department of Health.

It’s unclear how many people have been quarantined in Lakeland. A spokesperson said Friday that because of privacy concerns, those numbers haven’t been shared.

Neighboring Post Falls just began posting a dashboard, updated each Wednesday. It shows 9 active cases – 6 of them at Post Falls High School – but no details on how many have been quarantined.

Like Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls opened the year in a hybrid model. It moved to full in-person learning this week.

Spokane’s 10 cases – up from 2 a week earlier – affected five buildings. Bemiss Elementary had 4 cases and Ferris High School and Franklin Elementary 2 each.

Central Valley School District reported 6 positive tests during the past 14 days, resulting in 48 people being quarantined.

Of those, three positive tests and 15 quarantines occurred at Central Valley High School.

While the 15,000-student Central Valley district opened the year with distance learning only, it is moving tentatively toward bringing its youngest learners back to buildings.

The smaller Mead School District (enrollment 11,500), which began the year with full in-person learning for elementary students and an alternating scheduled for upper grades.

Thursday, the district reported 11 positive cases and 116 people quarantined during the last 14 days.

Another 2 cases and 21 persons quarantined in the Riverside School District, all but one of those at Riverside High School.

Meanwhile, the region’s largest district, Spokane Public Schools, posted its first dashboard on Oct. 9. It breaks down cases by school and close contact but is updated only every Friday.

Other districts have elected not to publish COVID numbers online, preferring to send information directly to families.

Most are providing no information at all.

In the East Valley School District, where students are learning in a hybrid model, Superintendent Kelly Shea said the district has discussed the pros and cons of a dashboard.

“Right now we have no plans to do so,” said Shea, who said he doubted the value of posting numbers online.

“I also worry about panicking people,” said Shea, whose district sends pertinent information directly to families.

Since classes began on Sept. 9, East Valley has had 5 people test positive, resulting in 38 individuals being placed in quarantine.

None of those transmissions occurred in school buildings, Shea said.