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Cd’A pushes school reopening to Sept. 14

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | August 18, 2020 1:09 AM

Blended learning will be in place when schools resume in moderate risk level

COEUR d’ALENE — The first day of school for students in the Coeur d'Alene School District has been pushed out almost a week from Sept. 8 to Sept. 14.

The decision was unanimously approved Monday during a special virtual meeting, in which trustees, district officials and local health officials discussed protocols for going back to school. The delay is expected to give teachers and staff more time to prepare and coordinate how to implement safety measures as students return to school buildings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What we recognize is the safety of our kids and our adults really means we have to get it right, and that will take time and practice and lots of discussion and really going over procedures with a thoroughness that wouldn’t be necessary in most school years," Kate Orozco, assistant superintendent of elementary education and instruction, said during the meeting.

Trustee Tambra Pickford questioned if those four extra days would be enough time to accomplish what is needed for everyone to be comfortable and confident when kids are back in class.

"None of us have been here before," Orozco responded, adding that the district has two big things to consider.

"We're walking a line, right? There's a balance between families' needs and economic needs as well, and getting kids into school, which is so important. We've been gone for so long. So balancing that," she said.

"Secondly, it does mean that there's going to be some sacrifices.”

The school board also unanimously voted to reopen school in the "orange," or moderate, COVID-19 risk level. That means blended learning will be in effect — students will attend class in person two days a week, with half on Mondays and Tuesdays and the other half on Thursdays and Fridays. Remote learning will take place three days a week.

Masks will be required for everyone on school property and buses.

Students will attend in person according to this plan: Those whose last name begins with A-K will attend in person on Mondays and Tuesdays. Those whose last name begins with L-Z will attend in person on Thursdays and Fridays.

The district will accommodate families with children who have different last names so they may remain on the same schedule. Information will be provided soon on the process for families to request that all of their children remain on the same schedule.

Board Chairman Casey Morrisroe said he is "disappointed" school won't be starting in the minimal phase, but he agrees with Superintendent Steve Cook that while the data is trending better, it is uncertain the district will substantially be in the "yellow" phase in time for the first day of school.

"That was my hope, that we could be in the yellow category and be open for five days a week," Morrisroe said. "Really, what Kootenai Health shared with us about the blips on the radar we've seen after the holidays and those sorts of things I guess gave me a little pause, that I feel more comfortable with opening in the orange."

People responded to these decisions on social media. Some stormed about child care, scheduling, lack of internet and other issues students and families will face as school resumes.

"Wow unbelievable," one commenter wrote, adding that if students can go safely two days, they can go five. "These kids have been out of school too long. Now you have prolonged it longer" and kids are going to fall further behind.

"So now they can't attend with and see their friends at school — unless they are same part of the alphabet," another commenter responded. "That's really sad for kids."

The board will conduct a final vote on reopening framework and discuss operations in further detail during an in-person workshop at 5 p.m. Aug. 24 in Midtown Meeting Center, 1505 N. Fifth St., Coeur d'Alene.