Parents in Coeur d’Alene prepare for school as district looks into child care options

COEUR d’ALENE, Idaho – Parents in the Coeur d’Alene School District have a few weeks left to prepare for the first week of school.

The district is using a color category plan to reopen. On August 17, the school board decided to reopen in the orange category, meaning there is a moderate risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Students will get to be in the classroom part of the time. They will be split up going to school twice a week in-person, then spending three days learning online. One group will be attending school on Mondays and Tuesdays; the other group will attend Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesdays will be used for online learning.

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It’ll be just a few short weeks before Rosalie Joy gets to see her friends again in first grade. She’s excited, even if it’s only two days out of the week.

“I love learning, and I love having fun, and I love doing lots of activities,” she told 4 News Now.

Her mother Leah Joy is mostly happy with the school district’s decision, too.

“I really liked that they are taking a fluid approach and kind of going by what is happening in the current situation,” she said.

Spring was challenging for Rosalie, as she couldn’t really focus with the Zoom calls as a kindergartner.

With classes split now, Leah hopes they won’t have to rely on the online portion as much as they did in the spring.

“Because they’ll see them two days a week and then they’re there for two days. I’m hoping it’s more project centered,” Leah said.

However, one things she’s not too thrilled about is that her daughter most likely will have to wear a mask to school.

In the district’s plans, if schools open in the yellow or orange category, that means masks will be required for teachers, students and visitors. Since the district will be reopening in the orange category, that means masks will be mandatory.

However, a school district spokesperson said the mask policy still needs to be approved by the board. They’re also looking at including provisions for mask breaks and accommodations for medical conditions, the school district spokesperson said. The school board could be voting on it on August 31.

Leah believes making her child wearing a mask to school isn’t necessary. She feels kids will play with the masks often, and that it’ll be a distraction.

“I think if someone’s going to be exposed, it’s going to happen with or without a mask, especially in that young group,” she said.

Masks are mandatory in Kootenai County, however Panhandle Health District says schools can choose what to do with that.

“Masks are required in a public place where social distancing can’t be maintained. Public places are places open to all members of the public without specific invitation. The decision whether to require masks in non-public areas of school is for the school district to make,” Panhandle Health said in a statement.

Even though it’s up to the school districts, Panhandle Health still recommends students and staff wear a mask when they can’t maintain social distancing.

Although Leah isn’t happy with the rule, she’s still willing to send Rosalie to school.

“My plan is to use a shield, but even then, the psychological aspect of children seeing their teachers in a mask and all of their peers in a mask, is just, it really weighs on me,” she said.

Schools in the district will be allowed to move to different colors in the plan, depending on on data from Panhandle Health and the school board. So, it is possible for a school to move to five days in-person learning later in the fall, or if the COVID-19 situation gets worse in Coeur d’Alene, kids could be learning entirely from home.

Another issue that comes up from the district’s blended learning plan is for parents who work full-time.

With the approval of plans in recent weeks, the superintendent hopes it gives parents enough time to plan for the upcoming school year.

The school district will have a child care option for parents called School PLUS.

Right now, it’s intended for before and after school for days students will be learning in person. The district is looking into the option of having child care on Wednesdays, and expanding it even more to help families.

They’re also looking at working with community partners such as the Kroc Center and the Boys and Girls Club.

The Kroc Center says it hopes to help teachers in the school district with their own children, so they can work.

“This will allow more space in their school care program, their school plus program, to open up so there’d be more space available for the community at large. By us being able to focus and put our attention on one avenue, we’ll be able to tighten up everything throughout the year,” said Colin Lynch, the community education and programs manager with the Kroc Center.

It is still all in the planning stages; Lynch says they’re hoping to help kids with remote learning and bring in some para-educators, as well.

Information about the School Plus program will be announced by the school district in the coming weeks, as well as other child care options in partnership with the district.

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