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News >  K-12 education

Coeur d’Alene school board votes to limit COVID-19 safety measures

UPDATED: Tue., June 8, 2021

Tommy Mickelson, a sophomore at Lewis and Clark High School, gets his COVID-19 vaccination Tuesday from school nurse Jennifer Smelcer, one of several nurses giving vaccinations in the lunch room at Lewis and Clark. Smelcer is assigned to Shadle Park High School.  (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Tommy Mickelson, a sophomore at Lewis and Clark High School, gets his COVID-19 vaccination Tuesday from school nurse Jennifer Smelcer, one of several nurses giving vaccinations in the lunch room at Lewis and Clark. Smelcer is assigned to Shadle Park High School. (JESSE TINSLEY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

In a unanimous vote Monday night, the Coeur d’Alene school board directed administration to develop policy that brings the district almost full-circle to pre-COVID-19 times.

As part of the overall guidelines for the 2021-22 school year, the district will not require face masks, will quarantine only those who are known to be positive for COVID-19 and will not contact trace or quarantine those who are not positive.

A surge in COVID numbers this fall could alter that policy; however, Idaho Gov. Brad Little has made it clear during the past year that districts will be allowed to set their own policies regarding face coverings and other measures.

While Idaho has offered more freedom to districts regarding face coverings, officials in Washington decided last month that they will again be required this fall.

The language is clear: “For the 2021-2022 school year, schools must plan to provide full-time in-person education for all interested students with the following mandatory mitigation measures: face coverings, ventilation, cleaning and disinfecting,” according to the state superintendent’s office.

The Washington Department of Health will merely recommend some form of physical distancing; however, districts will be required to “have a plan that factors in physical distancing (3 feet physical distancing in classrooms and 6 feet elsewhere), to the greatest extent possible.”

At the same time, state health and education officials told districts that “physical distancing recommendations should not prevent a school from offering full-time, in-person learning to all students/families in the fall.”

The health department language on quarantining and contact tracing isn’t crystal-clear; however, it plans to require districts to provide “details of how schools will respond to cases of COVID-19, and meet the reporting requirements to public health.”

Washington and Idaho have one thing in common: Neither will require vaccinations for eligible students in the fall.

“However, we encourage vaccination among all eligible students, staff, and volunteers,” the state superintendent’s office said in a recent statement.

Spokane Public Schools is still formulating plans for the fall; however, since last year, administrators have routinely followed state and local public health guidelines.

The district will revisit the issue during a board meeting Wednesday night.

Currently, its goals align with those of DOH and OSPI. According to documents posted this week, they include full-time in-person instruction for all students and a full-time virtual option.

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