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Lakeland goes Code Orange

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | August 27, 2020 1:08 AM

RATHDRUM — The Lakeland Joint School District will open in the “orange” COVID risk category when the 2020-2021 school year begins Sept. 8.

“Right now, we open in ‘orange,’ masks will be recommended but not required, and if we go to yellow it will be five days a week,” Lakeland School Board Chairwoman Rena Olmstead said following the 4-1 vote Tuesday night.

The meeting, attended in person only by board members and a few district staff, was a lengthy session packed with discussion about how school will be carried out in the different phases, ranging from devices and connectivity to how to cohort students and how to keep them at safe distances when in class.

“I would want to follow the recommendations and the ordinances that are put in place,” Vice Chairman Rob Irons said. “I think we can follow the guidelines set forth by Panhandle Health and the kids won’t have to wear masks if we enter in orange. It would be my desire to enter in orange based on all the facts and cases that we have.”

The “orange” level of operation for Lakeland indicates moderate community/school spread and means a blended learning model will be in place. Students will be alternating between learning in-person and online, with livestream or recorded options available. Precautions will include social distancing to the greatest extent possible and face coverings — masks or face shields — will be recommended where social distancing cannot be maintained. A full-time online option will be available for students.

The more than three-hour meeting was also viewable online through Zoom and Facebook. The Zoom session was at max capacity before the meeting began, and more than 1,600 Facebook comments were posted during the session. Many people urged the board to open in “yellow,” which would be a modified traditional schedule with minimal spread of COVID and in-person school five days a week. Many were blatantly upset and even antagonistic with other users, while some called for “grace and patience” as the board navigates this unknown territory.

“What about all of us single full time working parents and dual income families who CANNOT HOMESCHOOL!?!?!” user Lacey Lee Dorn wrote.

“What was the point in sending out the parent survey, if OUR opinions for OUR children don’t matter anyway?” wrote Jennifer Ryen Jamison.

“I’m not complaining, but there is no way a mask is going to work for my first grader or her classmates, and she is very well behaved,” posted John Bierne.

In “orange,” parents will be encouraged to screen students every morning before attending school and to keep symptomatic students home. Blended learning cohorts will attend school Tuesdays/Thursdays or Wednesdays/Fridays, with Mondays serving as an online day for all with individual assistance available.

Visit www.sd272.org for the full reopening plan and schedule.

“There’s no real win here,” Olmstead said. “We’re going to make people mad regardless of what we do.”