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Update to quarantine, reopening plans for Cd'A Public Schools

Staff Writer | December 8, 2020 1:00 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Updates to how the Coeur d'Alene School District monitors the rate of COVID-19 spread and associated quarantines were unanimously approved during the school board meeting Monday evening.

Superintendent Steve Cook recommended the district modify its reopening plans by repealing the Exposed Student Return to School Early document voted on at the November meeting and formalize language in its COVID resolution that provides administrative authority for the district to act quickly when needed.

"It gives us a little more latitude to be more efficient" and more precise, Cook said.

"That would effectively nullify the current procedures for quarantine experiences that we've been using for the last month," he said. "And, quite frankly, would mean that (today) there are going to be a whole bunch of folks that would potentially qualify to come back into school."

New alternative quarantine recommendations more closely align with those issued by the Centers for Disease Control last week: Follow a 14-day quarantine, or, where testing is available, quarantine can end after day 10 without testing, if no symptoms have been reported during daily monitoring, or on day seven, after a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test result.

"It's important to note that these would be quarantine times, so a student would return on day 11, or on day eight," district lead nurse Nichole Piekarski said.

The second of the two unanimous votes involved district's reopening plans, which have depended on three data points to inform decisions this school year: COVID incidence rate per 100,000 people; the percent positivity in the number of COVID testing results; and the number of hospitalizations and fullness of the hospital.

Cook presented these items to be considered as data points: How the rate of active COVID cases is impacting the schools; percentages of students and staff that are out because of quarantine; and number of students and staff being pulled out of school buildings for those two reasons.

Substantial indications of in-school transmission can impact a school's ability to function, Cook said.

"Those factors almost lead themselves to a little bit of an algorithm that we've been utilizing here recently that give us guidance on what's the best approach forward, with regards to opening or closing a school, or changing a category status," Cook said. "There's a lot more detail that we know and understand now, and we would like to get the board's support in how we would administer those things."

Cook said when Kootenai County in the "red" COVID risk category and the school district is in "orange," it creates confusion for parents.

The COVID Data Considerations for Change in Category Status document, which was approved during the meeting, states that: "Elevation of any of our schools from a current category status to an elevated status will be considered on a case by case basis with the aforementioned factors and objective criteria. Not all criteria must be met to elevate school to higher category."