Sunday, September 19, 2021

COVID details shape Lakeland schools plan

Staff Writer | September 11, 2021 1:00 AM

RATHDRUM — Lakeland Joint School District now has a 2021-22 operational plan in place.

Getting there took a while.

The plan approved by the school board Thursday night had been discussed at length during the board's Aug. 26 meeting but had been tabled.

Meyer asked the board to approve the plan Thursday.

"Otherwise, we are still operating under last year’s plan,” which was enacted in response to the COVID crisis, Meyer said.

There was confusion over the plan's language, including what to call it. Some trustees were concerned about ties to federal funding.

“My understanding is that the plan is in connection to receiving ARP ESSER funds,” said Board Chair Michelle Thompson.

“The plan is not just for ARP ESSER funds,” said Meyer. “It is for patrons and staff to have a guide. Parents want something concrete to look at and I don’t feel comfortable making decisions without the board's approval.”

During the school board meeting on Aug. 26, the board was discussing the plan under the title a “Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan.”

Referencing a webinar presented by the Boise attorneys' office of Julian, Hull and Anderson, representing the Idaho School Board Association, Trustee Ramona Grissom from Zone 2 said, “We’re being told another thing.”

“The powerpoint explicitly says that the board must include CDC recommendations and include how the policies adopted will follow the guidelines of the CDC in regards to ARP ESSER funds,” Grissom said.

Meyer clarified that she had met with a parental subcommittee to get feedback on what they would like in the plan.

“Twenty families representing different schools...are requesting a concrete plan," Meyer said. "It would be used as a guideline, a supporting document for parents.”

Trustees unanimously approved the operational plan with Trustee Grissom seconding the motion “as long as the ARP ESSER language is removed.”

Neither the board nor the superintendent clarified whether ARP ESSER funds would be sought in the future.

ARP ESSER funds are part of the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund which is under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Nearly $122 billion will be awarded to schools across the country.

A requirement for receiving ARP ESSER funding is that the operational plan used by schools must follow recommended CDC guidelines regarding COVID.

Current CDC guidelines include universal masking-up when indoors, efforts to provide vaccinations, and contact tracing of any confirmed COVID cases.

The district plan recommends masks with no requirements, does not promote vaccination and the district will not be tracking any COVID cases.

“We are not going to be required to,” Meyer said.

The district has opened under what the plan calls a “green level of operation,” defined as having “no evidence of exposure in large communal settings like a healthcare facility, school or mass gatherings.”

Meyer said she watched the presentation by the Boise attorneys that was recommended by Trustee Grissom.

“I want to make sure the district is not signed up for something that the board does not want,” she said.

Meyer also reported that district schools opened Tuesday with no problems despite having 377 more students than last year. District enrollment is now 4,718.