School Board updates leveled operations plan

The exterior of Payette High School, as pictured in June 2021. The Payette School District Board of Trustees has updated its leveled operations plan, as approved Monday night. 

PAYETTE — At its regular meeting on Monday, the Payette School District Board of Trustees voted to approve changes to its leveled operations plan. The move comes amid the ongoing spread of the delta variant of COVID-19. 

Last Monday, Sept. 7, the Board called an emergency meeting to discuss their options for amending their existing plan, which was first written in March 2020. The consensus among officials was to avoid negatively impacting the social and emotional health of students through such changes.

“Kindergarten students are not going to learn online without a parent that is right there with them,” said Superintendent Robin Gilbert at the emergency meeting. “It disrupts families to have to stay home with younger kids.”

Gilbert also notes that processes to get federal approval to provide grab and go meals are now more complicated than they were last year.

“I personally do not believe we … acted appropriately for closing the high school,” Trustee Candita Strong added during that meeting. “I believe that since it was not determined that the kids were getting COVID at school, I believe that we way overreached.”

Strong expressed concern for the mental well-being of students, as the district grapples with the ongoing pandemic.

The plan continues to take a three-tiered approach to providing instruction, color-coded green, yellow and red. Following are examples of changes adopted Monday.

• Attendance in the yellow tier would see K-8 students attend school in-person in groups, alternating online learning days. Grades 9-12 would go fully online. 

• The yellow tier, “minimal to moderate community transmission,” strikes a line providing for staggered use of school buildings, stating “Payette Schools may initiate staggered physical attendance with digital remote learning for all students, limiting the number of students in the building and buses to increase physical distancing while maintaining quality instruction for all.”

• A line was added to the red tier, “substantial community transmission,” which provides for targeted, short-term or extended building closure. The line reads, “This is a last resort in

mitigation strategies due to the negative social-emotional and academic impact it has on

students.”

• Among actions available to school officials, a short term dismissal of up to four school days is now available “to allow for health recovery and mitigation of continued spread.”

• Staff will be required to wear masks, while such remain recommended for all students regardless of tier.

• Staff who must quarantine may return after day 7 once they have a negative test result taken on day 5 or later.

• Fully vaccinated individuals don’t need to quarantine after contact with someone who got COVID-19.  “However, fully vaccinated people should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms and wear a mask indoors in pubic for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative.”

• Masks are recommended on school buses in the green and yellow tiers, and assigning seats to group students with family members would be conducted in the latter tier.

• Virtual attendance remains available for students in quarantine, where available.

• In the yellow tier, masks are required for unvaccinated individuals and only pre-packaged concessions may be sold. Buildings with reported cases would be prioritized for deep cleaning.

• Salad and condiment bars are available in the green tier only. In the red tier, grab-and-go meals would be served at designated locations based on federal waiver approval or delivered by bus if necessary.

“The mandate will be reviewed at the October board meeting,” wrote Board Clerk Barbara Choate in an email Monday evening. The next meeting in the Galleon Room at Presidio High School, 20 N. 12th St., is scheduled for Oct. 11 at 6:30 p.m.

Payette High School experienced a campus closure the week of Sept. 7-9 due to a high reported incidence of COVID-19 cases, as previously reported.

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