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Cd’A School District releases draft plan for reopening

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | August 4, 2020 1:09 AM

Final approval of school reopening plans will be made Aug. 24

COEUR d’ALENE — The reopening plan draft for the Coeur d'Alene School District went before the school board as an information item Monday evening.

The plan maps out ideas, strategies and next steps for what is expected to take place when kids are finally back in classrooms in person Sept. 8. It was created using state guidelines and the 2020 Idaho Back to School Framework.

After an already full meeting with numerous items on the agenda, the first official discussion about reopening proved to be a robust if not impassioned one.

During public comment, Coeur d'Alene High School photography teacher Bruce Twitchell cited the Idaho State Constitution's words on education: "The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools."

In response, Twitchell said that with some kids going online and some in-person, "it is not going to be uniform. It's just not." He said online and in-person are much different.

"Especially at the middle school and high school level, per class period, are we going to have mixed online students and in-person students for that class period?" he questioned. "Will there be educators giving a certain period that is just for the online students? Will educators be given extra prep time to prepare their online lessons and presentations? Because that takes a lot more time, I guarantee you it does. I've been there, I've done it. It takes probably twice as much time to prepare online classes and to give feedback online than it does in person."

Similar to other school districts, Coeur d'Alene's risk categories are split into color stages defined by number of cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations considering capacity, beds and ICU patients.

Category 1 is green, indicating minimal risk: Evidence of no to few cases, case investigations underway, no evidence of exposure in a large communal setting, e.g. health care facilities, school and mass gatherings. Category 2 is yellow, or moderate risk: Moderate and/or sustained transmission with likelihood of confirmed exposure within communal settings, with potential for increase in suspected cases. Category 3 is orange, or substantial risk: Substantial but controlled transmission including confirmed exposure within communal settings, with potential for rapid increase in suspected cases. Category 4 is red, indicating critical risk: Substantial and uncontrolled community transmission, health care staffing significantly impacted and multiple cases within communal settings.

According to this draft, school will be conducted in the traditional sense in categories 1 and 2, blended (remote and in-person) and staggered in category 3 and conducted remotely in category 4. Masks will be encouraged and social distancing will be considered practical in category 1; masks will be required and outdoor learning spaces will be maximized in category 2; blended learning as well as staggered use of school buildings will take place in category 3; and school buildings will be closed for extended periods of time during distance learning in category 4.

Protocols for preventative measures, facility usage, sanitation, transportation, personal protective equipment and more are all lined out in the draft, with flexibility depending on how COVID-19 affects Kootenai County. A resolution was also introduced to give board members an umbrella under which they can move swiftly in emergency circumstances and that grants them authority to control guidelines where necessary. The district will make recommendations regarding health and safety protocol based on the best known information at the time. The school board will be faced with a lot of big decisions as the school year unfolds.

"These decisions for which one of these categories lives squarely on the shoulders of the school board," Superintendent Steve Cook said to the trustees. "The state board, the governor and every state department has given us that authority to make those decisions, so the five of you hold that authority."

The Coeur d'Alene School District also introduced its new CdA eSchool optional online program for families wanting alternatives to hybrid and in-class instruction. This standalone school will offer rigorous K-12 instruction in core content areas and basic electives, presented completely online. Educators from the Coeur d’Alene School District will serve as the teachers for the online program. The occasional class may be offered through the Idaho Digital Learning Alliance or a similar vendor. More than 100 students had already been enrolled by Monday evening. Registration closes Aug. 17 but will most likely be extended, according to district spokesman Scott Maben.

The board will accept written comments on the plan until noon Aug. 20. Comments may be emailed to board clerk Lynn Towne at ltowne@cdaschools.org. The board is scheduled to vote on final approval of the reopening plans on Aug. 24 at 5 p.m.

Visit www.cdaschools.org to review the reopening plan, details about eSchool and more.

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Eighth grade Earth science teacher and coach Tony Prka expresses the importance of school sports for the mental health and stability of students during a school board meeting Monday evening. (Screenshot via Facebook)

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Coeur d'Alene School Board Trustee Lisa May passionately expresses her concerns about not having enough data to make informed decicions as the school board discusses the first draft of back-to-school plans Monday. (Screenshot via Facebook)