Coeur d’Alene Schools to bring all students back full-time

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho — Back to school is about to feel a little more normal for students in the Coeur d’Alene School District.

The Board of Trustees voted to move risk categories Friday morning from the “orange,” moderate risk to “yellow,” minimal risk.

That means starting October 5, students, who chose the traditional route, will be back in school five days a week. Right now, they are alternating between in person and remote learning, spending two days at school and three days at home.

Currently, about 10,000 students are enrolled in the CDA School District. Of that, almost 9,000 chose to go in-person, whichever the level of the reopening plan they’re in. A little more than 1,000 students chose to be in the eSchool.

Mom Carrie Frank is excited to have her kids back in school full-time. For the last two weeks, she’s been juggling five kids in three different schools. She’s also working from home.

“Trying to work in balance of the kids and all their school work is a lot especially all the different levels. I have everything from high school to kindergarten, so we have honors classes to following the dotted line,” she told 4 News Now.

Being back in school will definitely help her sophomore son, Cooper, focus better.

“There’s going to be a lot less procrastination going on at home because there’s so many different options. Like ‘Oh, I can go play Minecraft.’ ‘Oh, you want to hang out today?’ When you’re at school you’re actually learning and participating,” Cooper said.

Although Carrie is happy it’s happening now, she believes the district should’ve started in the yellow category.

The school board could’ve made that change on Monday, but felt the COVID-19 metrics they looked at were too high. They received some criticism over that.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: No change for Coeur d’Alene Schools; board votes to stay in ‘orange’ category

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: CDA school board to re-examine risk categories, possibly bringing students in 5 days a week

The district looks at three different metrics to determine which category it’s in, all within a seven day rolling average:

  • New cases per 100,000 people
  • Testing positivity rate
  • Hospitalizations and ICU admissions at Kootenai Health

Before Friday morning, the board went with numbers from Kootenai Health, which has slightly higher numbers. In a previous board meeting, health officials with PHD said its numbers are a little behind compared to Kootenai Health because the hospital reports its numbers to the state first. PHD waits to get its numbers from the state to report. The numbers from Kootenai Health are also more localized to Kootenai County compared to Panhandle Health, which reports all of north Idaho.

On Monday, the Panhandle Health District reported the positivity rate at 5.8 percent. With numbers given to the board Thursday, ahead of the meeting, that positivity rate went up to 7.8 percent.

Board members said other school districts use numbers from Panhandle Health, which also says it’s in the yellow category right now and has been for the last three weeks. So, in Friday’s meeting, the board decided to use Panhandle Health’s number moving forward to look at its risk categories.

Making the change from orange to yellow felt easier for board members Friday, saying that they had more time to understand the numbers they were given.

“That’s why I’m feeling very confident and comfortable today in how we’re moving and it’s not reflective of some of the things going on in the community,” said Jennifer Brumley, a board trustee.

When and if Panhandle Health changes it’s risk category, the school board will still have to make that decision to move as well. However, they’ll be able to get guidance from PHD and understand where the spike in cases comes from.

“Panhandle knows and certainly those things would play into a risk level. If there are 25 cases and 20 of those came from our schools, that is much different than if there were 25 cases and 20 came from a jail or nursing home, for example,” said Casey Morrisroe, the board chair.

“I recognize that’s something we can’t control, but I do want us to not think from the lens of kind of a knee-jerk response,” Cook added about moving risk categories. “We’re yellow one week, we’re orange one week or we’re red from one week, the stability is going to be critical to student learning and students success and keeping folks healthy.”

If the district has to change course again, it’ll take about a week to make changes. That’s why the school district is waiting until October 5 to bring all its students back. Staff will have to figure out logistics in bringing back all the desks into classrooms among other details.

Masks will still be required in the yellow category. Social distancing will be a little tougher to maintain, but Cook said students will practice it where it’s “practical.”

“Our challenge now is to keep our schools open and it takes a partnership with our families to do so and keep washing your hands,” said Steven Cook, the superintendent.

Carrie says she’s not too happy with her kids having to wear masks, but regardless, she’s happy her kids will be back in the classroom full-time.

“I’m grateful for the chance that our kids get to go five days and we get to see how it all works out,” she said.

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