Class is back in session with fewer COVID-19 rules for students in Coeur d’Alene

COEUR D’ALENE, Idaho – The bell rings at Lake City High School: the signal that it’s time for another class on the first day of a more normal school year.

Seniors Cayden Stone and Ainsley Brigham are excited to be back at school, especially now they get to start full-time.

“I’m just looking forward to this year so much. I really think it’ll be such a good year, and we’ll really regain that confidence as a student body and look forward to those big events that we really like and have looked forward to in the past couple of years,” said Brigham.

COVID-19 hit Lake City High School hard last year. All schools in the district started on a hybrid schedule for the 2020-21 year. Over the course of the school year, students shifted between full-time and a hybrid schedule. Masks were the same, as Lake City High and other schools continued to battle COVID outbreaks.

Lake City High saw its worse outbreak in May when 20 students caught COVID in school.

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“It was constantly changing, going from two days a week to five days a week,  masks or no masks,” Stone said. “It was hard. It could take a toll. I know when I was home, it took a toll on my mental health.”

This year, masks are not required, just highly recommended. There will also be no contact tracing and as a result, no quarantining.

The district says it will rely on the Panhandle Health District for contact tracing as the school district does not have enough manpower to continue doing it. As for quarantining, Scott Maben, the school district’s communications director, says families need to follow health professional recommendations.

The district is urging families to call them if their student does test positive for the virus. There have been instances in the past where that did not happen.

They also want to be more lenient on quarantining this year since many students missed class because of it last year. There were also students who continuously had to quarantine last school year.

“I think it’s important we try and proceed normally as long as we can. Who knows, we may end up hybrid. We may end up remote. Those things could happen. But, in the meantime, we’re going to do everything we can to keep them happy here and safe,” the principal of Lake City High School Deanne Clifford said.

Schools have little room to change the rules, as the district follows what the school board says. The board, over the summer, voted to make masks a recommendation rather than a requirement in a three-to-two vote.

“The community, as a whole, has to take ownership in this. We don’t have mask mandates coming down from Panhandle Health. We don’t have mask mandates in many of our local other, no counties,” said Superintendent Shon Hock. “It’s really unfortunate that five volunteer board members for a school board are left with making that decision.”

Even though masks are highly recommended, few students and staff were seen wearing them in hallways and classrooms.

If there is no contact tracing, masks or quarantine enforcement, what is left?

Clifford says students are encouraged to sanitize in class, as each room will have hand sanitizer for them. The district is also continuing to disinfect classrooms as needed.

Masks could make a comeback later in the year, but it is all up to the board.

“Our hope is to have as much of a normal school year. I think that’s what most parents are hoping for and I think that flips right into the fear. The fear is our hospitals are already overcrowded and so we could quickly have to do some things differently,” Hock said. “We certainly hope everybody just does their part and tries to maybe get us through this curve right now and hopefully have a normal year most of the yea.”

Stone says he’ll do whatever the district tells them, adding that he’s fully vaccinated. He just hopes he can stay in class as long as possible and get the normal traditions seniors do.

“I just hope everyone can have a good year back together, just kind of rejoice in a way and just have a good time together,” he said.

READ: Doctors concerned over lack of mask mandate in Coeur d’Alene School District