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Cd’A fine tunes plans for reopening schools

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | August 25, 2020 1:07 AM

Details discussed, approved during long back-to-school workshop

COEUR d’ALENE — During a long special workshop Monday evening, the Coeur d’Alene School Board unanimously voted to approve emergency policies and the updated plan for how to manage and mitigate the pandemic as schools reopen.

These policies include procedures for handling communicable and infectious diseases, instructions for health checks and illness guidelines that include expanding leave for teachers when they run out of emergency Family and Medical Leave Act time and temporary exclusions when students need to be quarantined.

The district is still planning to open in “orange,” denoting a moderate risk level of high but controlled community transmission, including confirmed exposure within communal settings and potential for rapid increase. Blended learning — in-school instruction two days a week, remote learning for three — will be in use when students return Sept. 14.

Superintendent Steve Cook explained that when it’s time to change to a different risk level, a week’s notice will be given.

“The board would ask for a board meeting and we’d say, ‘At this point we believe that it’s time to do a transition in some fashion,’ whether that’s going from yellow to orange or orange to yellow, and do essentially a one-week notice,” he said. “If we did it on a Monday, the following Monday would be when that change in category would take place.”

Trustee Lisa May inquired about the days when students, especially secondary students, are remote learning and what will be expected of them.

“Last spring was pandemic learning, and that’s definitely not what we’re trying to deliver now,” Cook answered. “It’s real school, and real school means that there are going to be expectations, whether you’re in person or you’re at home.”

Plans to reopen will help guide the school year, subject to change when needed.

“It’s so critical we find a balance between, how do we keep our kids completely safe, and then how do we still let them be kids?” said elementary education director Kate Orozco, who contributed via video conference.

The school board will be working with local public health officials and community partners to monitor and evaluate the latest data for tracking COVID-19 in the community, examining case trends, positivity rate and hospitalizations and critical care admissions at Kootenai Health.

But ultimately, the big decisions for how to safely navigate this unknown territory fall on the shoulders of school board members.

Vice Chair Jen Brumley said she appreciates all the work and thoughtfulness that has gone into Coeur d’Alene’s reopening planning process.

“The reality is there had to be a breaking point to make a decision for all families to start planning,” she said. “At the point we made that choice, we were in ‘orange,’ and things may change considerably in the next two weeks, but we’re planning for ‘orange,’ we’re going to open in ‘orange.’

“A lot of parents commented over the week about, ‘Does this board even think about them? Does this board even care about the implications?’” Brumley continued. “I can tell you personally that from my conversations with others, that this board does care. It does care about parents, it does care about the implications and this is not an easy decision, not an easy recommendation.”

She said liability is something that weighs heavily on the board.

“If this board decides that with Panhandle Health telling us where we need to be, and Kootenai Health telling us where we need to be, and we throw that aside and ignore that, and kids get sick, or teachers die, then that becomes a liability to this district,” she said. “There needs to be a better understanding of why we’re doing what we’re doing, and we really do care about everybody in this community.”

Visit www.facebook.com/cdaschools to view the full session.

www.cdaschools.org

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Coeur d'Alene School Board Chairman Casey Morrisroe asks a question Monday evening during a workshop in Midtown Meeting Center. School will resume Sept. 14 in a moderate risk level. (DEVIN WEEKS/Press)

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Coeur d'Alene Superintendent Steve Cook on Monday discusses recommendations for the upcoming school year during a workshop in Midtown Meeting Center. (DEVIN WEEKS/Press)