PAYETTE — As students return to school for the first time since being dry docked in mid-March, the newspaper reached out to the Payette School District to learn how the first day of school went for teachers and students. As Superintendent Robin Gilbert described in an email on Aug. 25, “We are off to a good start. Many parents thanking us for opening and being here for kids.”
Gilbert said that administration at each site implemented their own adaptations of the District’s operation plan, including encouraging mask wearing and screening students for COVID-19 efficiently.
“Kindergarten parents and students met teachers on west lawn for pictures and goodbyes,” wrote Gilbert. “[Payette] High School met with juniors and seniors in the football stands, while sophomores met in the dome.”
Freshmen met for their orientation process on Aug. 20. According to Gilbert, parents and guardians are being kept away during the school day.
“Parents were supportive of not being allowed in the school,” she said.
Gilbert reported getting those students in quarantine, including football players under quarantine for possible COVID-19 exposure, involved remotely and accounting for their attendance as being important to their progress.
“Most are quarantined due to a possible exposure, but are not sick and want to be in school,” according to Gilbert.
Attendance figures for the first day of classes were not available as of press time. Gilbert noted that data from Southwest District Health is not the only factor being used to determine the safety of school operations, but that the District includes city and county response, whether local businesses are shutting down due to COVID-19 risk, “but most of all educational impact.”
At this point, Gilbert said it was too early to say how adopting a four-day school schedule would affect operations but that she believes it can help minimize spread of the virus.
“Four day week should help to eliminate exposures, allow for greater cleaning and disinfecting, and reducing number of days online if we have significant spread or incident.”
As the District charts its course for the school year, Gilbert reminded the community that they are responsible for their part.
“What happens in the community (shopping, socializing, dining, etc.) impacts schools. We are a simple reflection of the community,” wrote Gilbert. “One thing families can do to mitigate exposure is to isolate positive or probable family members within the home. “[The Centers for Disease Control have] guidelines for isolation; Staying in one room and having meals and materials delivered to that doorway. If possible, designate one bathroom for isolated individual. If not possible, they should wipe down counters and faucets when leaving, use personal hand towels, etc. If a family member tests positive, they can return to activities after 10 days of first symptom. Other members of the household must quarantine 14 days from LAST exposure. This can really drag out if isolation is not done properly.”
As District officials work to help students deal with stress brought on by the pandemic, Gilbert notes that having everyone present is needed to be effective.
“Getting them back to school is one strategy.”