Students in Coeur d’Alene Public Schools will begin attending school in person every day beginning Oct. 5 after its board of trustees approved the move in a special meeting early Friday.
The unanimous vote came after the board reviewed data trends on COVID-19 cases in Kootenai County.
Following guidelines from the Panhandle Health District, the board voted to change the risk classification for its 11,000 students from “orange” to “yellow.”
The district began the year on Sept. 14 in orange, or moderate risk, with a blended learning schedule and masks required for students and staff.
Under the yellow classification, all students – except th e ones enrolled in the virtual CdA eSchool – will attend school in person every day.
Masks are still required in the yellow classification.
Until now, Lakeland was the only large district in Spokane and Kootenai counties to employ a full in-person learning model.
Post Falls, which began the school year in the orange category, may soon join them. The Post Falls board will hold a special meeting Monday. On the agenda is a consideration of “level/color of school operations.”
Cheney Public Schools will join other Spokane County districts in phasing in kindergartners and other groups beginning next month.
Coeur d’Alene’s decision was largely praised on the district’s Facebook page, where dozens of people weighed in.
“Thank you,” parent Joy Taylor-Ball posted. “The blended learning model is failing our children, in my opinion. My kids need the in-person 5 days a week classroom experience.”
Another parent, Sarah Quillan Scott, said, “Thank you so much. My son has been struggling immensely and this will help so much with his mental health and his social growth.”
Some felt the district was moving prematurely and giving in to community pressure, while others felt the decision didn’t go far enough.
“I can’t say I’m super thrilled about the kids having to wear masks that much,” Marissa Garrett posted.
The decision comes four days after another special meeting during which the board opted to remain in the orange category after a slight uptick in positive tests in Kootenai County.
The health district’s risk level remains at yellow. The board decided to follow the health district’s lead and move to yellow.
Since then, board chair Casey Morrisroe noted, the district has received hundreds of comments “all over the map” from parents and community members.
“I have confidence in Panhandle Health in their ability to assess our risk levels … I feel comfortable moving forward,” Morrisroe said.
Superintendent Steven Cook acknowledged the reticence of some parents to send their children back for full-time in-person learning.
Cook tried to assure the community that while the district isn’t obligated to follow the health district’s guidelines, in the event of a change in risk levels, “we would immediately bring it to your attention.”
Cook also said that a window of seven to 10 days “is a reasonable amount of time” to pivot between risk classifications.
In Cheney, Superintendent Robert Roettger said Friday that on-site kindergarten will begin Oct. 12. In-person learning will be on a regular schedule, five days a week.
On Oct. 5, the district will begin phasing in pre-kindergartners in the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program.
Two days later, the district will expand services from the current three days per week to five days for K-5 students who receive 50% or more of their instruction in special education.
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