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CDA, PF districts: No return to classes

| May 7, 2020 1:14 AM

The Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls school districts will not hold classes again this year due to the coronavirus.

In a letter to families sent out Wednesday, district spokesman Scott Maben wrote that with revisions made Monday in the State Board of Education’s guidelines for when school buildings can reopen to instruction, “we now know our District cannot return to in-person instruction during the remaining four weeks of this school year.”

“This is not how any of us envisioned the final months of our year, and our hearts go out to all students, family members and teachers missing out on the customary end-of-year milestones and celebrations,” Maben wrote. “At the same time, we are encouraged by the new skills and creative connections families and educators have embraced through this period of Remote Learning.”

On Wednesday, the Post Falls Board of Trustees acted during a special meeting to extend the soft closure to the end of the regular 2019-2020 school year. This action was based on the Idaho State Board of Education’s revised criteria for schools to reopen.

Post Falls will continue remote education and will be developing plans to provide opportunities for students to pick up personal belongings and return textbooks or chromebooks during the last week(s) of school.

Maben wrote that the goal now is to focus on safely reopening our buildings in September for the 2020-21 school year.

This will include a modified plan for teaching and learning, physical distancing and health measures, cleaning and disinfection protocols, and accommodations for students and staff who have a higher risk of infection due to age or medical vulnerability.

“We also will have a strategy in the event a resurgence in the pandemic forces our District to close all schools again next year, as well as a plan to immediately close and sanitize any building where a student or staff member is diagnosed with COVID-19,” Maben wrote.

In the letter, he wrote that on Monday, the state board amended the re-entry criteria for schools to align with the governor’s newer “Idaho Rebounds” guidance, designed to reopen businesses, services and agencies over four stages culminating in late June.

“The state board decision to align school criteria with the governor’s plan effectively prevents most school districts from reopening their buildings for the rest of this school year,” he wrote. “Some smaller schools and those in rural areas may be able to reopen if they are in areas with no known community spread of coronavirus. In Coeur d’Alene and Kootenai County, however, we have documented community spread, according to Panhandle Health District.

Additionally, Maben wrote, the governor’s phases for reopening mandate that gatherings of people should be avoided during the current Stage 1 (May 1-15). In Stage 2 (tentatively May 16-29), gatherings of fewer than 10 individuals will be permitted if there is no significant spike in COVID-19 cases and “where appropriate physical distancing and precautionary measures are observed.” In Stage 3 (tentatively May 30-June 12), gatherings of 10 to 50 individuals would be permitted.

“These restrictions make it impractical, if not impossible, to bring large groups of students and staff back into buildings during this phased-in approach to reopening,” he wrote. “Maintaining small groups of students six feet apart at all times in classrooms, hallways, lunchrooms, restrooms, and on playgrounds and school buses, would present significant logistical barriers.”

He wrote that the district is working on an end-of-year calendar regarding when the last day of instruction will be, when final student work should be turned in, and when student belongings may be retrieved from school.