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Masks back on at three Cd'A schools

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | May 12, 2021 1:08 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — Three Coeur d'Alene schools have returned to mask requirements for all or some students and staff because of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Canfield and Woodland middle schools and Lake City High School have experienced numerous cases and quarantines since the Coeur d'Alene School Board relinquished the mask mandate at a workshop April 19, when the board unanimously authorized district administration to use the building COVID tracker document to determine when schools may need to temporarily require masks.

"We are working hard to avoid a large outbreak of COVID stemming from students exposing each other at school," district spokesman Scott Maben said Tuesday. "By temporarily returning to masks within a school, grade level or classroom, we have a much better chance of limiting the scope of an outbreak, which helps us keep schools open and students attending in person."

The district notified Canfield families Friday. Canfield's mask requirement for all students and staff began Monday and will continue through May 21. The school district reported three new positive cases in a 14-day period. The exposures involve students in two grade levels and three classrooms. This has resulted in 26 quarantines related to these cases.

Also on Monday, the district sent letters to Woodland and Lake City High families informing them of the shift back to the mask requirement for some of their school populations.

All Woodland eighth grade students and staff are required to wear masks through May 24. In 14 days, Woodland experienced at least three new positive cases of COVID involving in-school transmission. The exposures involve students in five classrooms in eighth grade, resulting in 42 quarantines related to these cases.

Lake City had seven new positive cases involving in-school transmission in two weeks. The cases involve students in four separate classes in ninth and 10th grades. This has resulted in 104 quarantines related to these cases.

The Lake City mask requirement for freshmen and sophomores goes through May 24.

"I believe that it is our school board members’ and district’s sincere intentions to do what is in the best interest of students. Student health and safety is the No. 1 priority," LCHS Principal Deanne Clifford said. "This is a polarizing topic and our community has people on both sides of the mask issue. While there are many in our community who disagree with the decisions being made, I am confident that our district's decisions come from a place of care and concern. They continually consult with medical professionals and make these decisions to ultimately protect our students’ health and ability to avoid lengthy quarantines."

In correspondences to families, the district acknowledged that this "feels like a step backward and comes as unwelcome news." However, this decision was made in alignment with federal, state and local public health recommendations and in consultation with Panhandle Health District. This mitigation measure is consistent with the guidance shared with families when the board voted to move from masks being required to masks being strongly recommended.

"With five weeks remaining in the school year, we want to get to summer break with as little in-school transmission as we can," Maben said. "The students we have asked to wear masks for the next two weeks understand this and generally are supportive and cooperative. If we can get these three clusters under control, we will soon be able to return to masks being strongly recommended but no longer required."