Lewiston school leaders offer reopening details

Bob Donaldson

The Lewiston School Board plans to welcome back all of the district’s students to in-person instruction this fall.

Though plans may change as the coronavirus pandemic progresses, the school board adopted the Idaho State Board of Education’s framework for reopening its schools at its Monday meeting.

Superintendent Bob Donaldson said the school district is currently in category one, which would allow traditional face-to-face education to resume at the start of the school year.

But if that remains the case, things will still look vastly different from a normal year. Face coverings and staggered lunch times will likely be implemented, as will an emphasis on social distancing and hand-washing procedures.

If the school district moves into category two, where there is widespread transmission with a high likelihood of exposure in communal settings, it will likely stagger the use of its buildings.

Assistant Superintendent Lance Hansen said elementary schools would likely operate with two sessions if the district enters category two, with sessions held in the morning and in the afternoon. Students in kindergarten through fifth grade would attend a session a day to limit the number of students in the building.

At the secondary level, students in middle school and high school would come to class every other day under category two.

The logistics are still being ironed out for what classes would look like in any of the three categories outlined in the framework, but the intent as of now is to have students in the classrooms as much as possible, Donaldson said.

Category three, which includes substantial community transmission, would include building closures and a switch to remote learning, as outlined in the state’s framework document.

School officials will continue to work with the Public Health – Idaho North Central District to determine next steps. Donaldson said plans are expected to be solidified by early August.

The school district will also consider protocols in case a student or staff member at a particular building tests positive for COVID-19. Working with the local health district, a decision would be made for a closure that would allow a deep clean of the building and for contact tracing to be implemented.

There will also be specific guidance created for the school district’s vulnerable populations.

In other school board news:

The school district will hold ribbon-cutting events for its new Lewiston High School and its nearby A. Neil DeAtley Career Technical Education Center at 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., respectively, on Aug. 14. Architect Amber Van Ocker said both buildings are in the “homestretch.”

“I have to say that the last month of any construction project, especially one that spans two years, this is when every single day out on the job site we start to see huge changes,” Van Ocker said.

Construction Superintendent Rich Fontaine said he expects to receive a temporary certificate of occupancy on Thursday, which will allow the school district to start moving items into the buildings. The final certificate of occupancy is expected to be issued by the city Aug. 12.

Both buildings remain on schedule, with classes set to start for the 2020-21 school year.

Donaldson said the Lewiston district recently entered into a rental agreement with Court Services for four classrooms at the old high school. The space is being used for mediation rooms, and Court Services also stated it is interested in potentially holding court in the classrooms.

Tomtas may be contacted at jtomtas@lmtribune.com or at (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.

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