Parkway Elementary School in Clarkston will take a pause from in-person learning starting today in response to a rise of COVID-19 cases at the school, the Clarkston School District announced Wednesday.

The closure will extend until the school reopens Oct. 11. Students will switch to remote learning and will only miss three scheduled days because of Friday’s vacation day and parent-teacher conferences scheduled for Oct. 6-8.

The decision to close was made after school officials consulted with local and state health officials.

Parkway had a third grade class close last week when three students had lab-confirmed cases and four others were symptomatic, Asotin County Public Health Administrator Brady Woodbury said. The statewide standard for closing a class is three cases.

And this week, three more Parkway classes — two first grade and one third grade — exceeded the three-case threshold. The school also reported more than 100 absences in a day this week, Woodbury said.

“Looking at everything overall, it looks like there’s significant COVID spread happening ... in Parkway students and staff,” he said. “And so we decided that the best thing to do would be to close for a few days and try to stop that transmission.”

Also consulting on the decision was Dr. Bob Lutz, the county’s health officer who is based in Spokane. Lutz summoned a group of epidemiologists from the Washington Department of Health, who also studied the situation.

Health officials are hesitant to close schools, Woodbury said, because it’s generally a safe setting for students. Masks are required, spacing is emphasized, and teachers and administrators monitor the children.

But “there’s also an expectation that kids who are well, that when they go to school, they’re not going to be at high risk for COVID. So we need to weigh and balance those,” Woodbury said.

Other Asotin County schools have seen an uptick in cases, Woodbury said, so more closures could be possible. So far in September, there have been 521 COVID-19 cases throughout the county, which is the most of the pandemic.

“My plea is please, please keep your kids home if they have any (COVID-19) symptoms at all,” Woodbury said. “That alone could go the furthest of anything in keeping the schools open.”

The Lewiston School District on Wednesday reported four new cases among students, at Camelot and McGhee elementary schools, Sacajawea Middle School and Lewiston High. Districtwide, there are 16 active cases and a total of 175 cases since school began.

Five more COVID-19 deaths were reported in north central Idaho and southeastern Washington on Wednesday.

The Public Health – Idaho North Central District website showed one case apiece in Nez Perce, Latah and Lewis counties. All those who died were men, with one in his 50s, one in his 60s and one in his 90s.

Whitman County reported two deaths, but no other details were released.

The region also saw 111 new cases, with the most coming in Nez Perce County (39) and Asotin County (30).

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare announced Wednesday that several local public health districts in the state are behind in their reporting new COVID-19 cases to the state. Approximately 11,500 laboratory-confirmed cases have yet to be reported on the state’s COVID-19 website.

Baney may be contacted at mbaney@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2262. Follow him on Twitter @MattBaney_Trib.