The Lewiston School Board approved a three-phased reopening plan for schools this fall during a special meeting Wednesday.
The plan is built off of the reopening schools framework adopted by the Idaho State Board of Education earlier this year and elaborates on an opening plan that was approved by the school board in July.
Administrators emphasized that changes will likely be made as the coronavirus pandemic progresses and stated the plan is a “living document.”
“It’s fluid and we’ll be making adjustments to it,” Superintendent Bob Donaldson said. “Other districts are in the same situation.”
The district has not yet determined what category schools will reopen in. That decision will be made two weeks before the start of the school year, so the most recent data and guidelines from local health officials can be taken into consideration.
“Our desire is to return to school as normal (in a traditional education setting) with enhanced safety and cleaning procedures,” stated Donaldson in a letter that will be sent out to parents. “However, we must be proactive and prepared during these ever-changing times to continue educating our students should circumstances change throughout the year, in order to protect the health and safety of our students and employees.”
Parents who are unable to send their kids back to school are encouraged to contact their children’s school between Aug. 10-14, so a plan can be developed to meet their needs.
The district is working to develop a remote learning platform for students who do not attend school in a face-to-face setting.
Category 1 or the ‘green phase’
If there is low community spread defined as isolated cases or limited community transmission and no evidence of exposure in large communal settings like health care facilities or schools, the district would allow all students to receive face-to-face instruction every day.
“At this point, all schools would operate as normal as we can make it,” said Kim Eimers, the district’s director of student services.
Students and staff would be encouraged to wear face coverings when in close contact. Each school would develop their own protocols to limit contact, which could include one-direction traffic patterns in schools.
Buses would run on normal routes, but drivers and students on the bus will be required to wear appropriate face coverings and siblings would sit together. Students would use hand sanitizer as they enter the bus, and each bus would be sanitized at the end of each route.
Schools will also establish parent pick-up and drop-off routines to help limit exposure to others.
Field trips and assemblies would be limited. To hold either, a plan outlining safety precautions would need to be submitted prior to approval. Clubs and organizations would also be required to submit a plan before they could operate.
Access to school buildings would be limited to parents, guardians and essential volunteers, who would all be required to wear face coverings. Those who do visit school buildings may be subjected to health screenings.
Meals would be served like normal, but added sanitation procedures would be implemented. Self-selected items, like salad bars, would be prohibited, unless they are pre-packaged.
Schools will develop a plan to allow for alternate eating areas and times for lunch if needed to ensure social distancing.
The district hopes to open in this category, but that may change.
Category 2 or the “yellow phase”
If there is moderate community spread defined as widespread or sustained transmission with a high likelihood or confirmed exposure within communal settings, school buildings would be limited to 50 percent capacity.
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade would attend half days, while secondary students would attend school every other day.
Physical distancing of 6 feet would be implemented in classrooms and other areas of the buildings.
In this phase, staff members would be required to wear face coverings, while students would be “strongly recommended” to wear them.
Regulations on buses would be the same as in Category 1, but students would have assigned seating on the bus so that contract tracing is easier.
No field trips or assemblies could be held and there would be limited before- and after-school activities.
The protocol for visitors and nutrition services would remain the same as in Category 1.
Category 3 or the “red phase”
If there is high community transmission which affects health care staffing and if multiple cases are identified in communal settings, students would learn remotely, although a limited number of students could still receive face-to-face instruction.
“The buildings for all intents and purposes would be closed,” Eimers said.
Each student would be issued a device. Remote learning would follow an adopted schedule within each building and grade level. There would be regular communication between teachers, students and parents during the week and established office hours would also be available.
There would be no transportation, and all before- and after-school activities would be suspended.
Meals would revert to a “grab and go” style. The district would also likely deliver meals by bus like it did during the spring closure of schools.
All buildings would be deep cleaned and sanitized during any closures.
Switching between categories and positive tests
The opening plan allows the district to switch between the three categories as circumstances arise. The district will work with the local health district to determine changes.
If there’s a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the district, a classroom or a school building may be closed for 48 hours for deep cleaning.
The person who tests positive, and those who were in close contact with that individual, will have to quarantine for 14 days.
Students who are quarantined will be provided educational materials to complete from home.
While the categories are meant to be implemented districtwide, that could change if someone tests positive.
“We could be in a green scenario (districtwide), but have one building or one classroom that is at the red level,” Eimers said.
If the district decided to move up a category, in most instances, families should expect to remain at that level for a minimum of two weeks.
Any changes will be posted to the district’s website, social media and in communications to parents.
Tomtas may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2294. Follow her on Twitter @jtomtas.