PAYETTE — With the winds of COVID-19 blowing Idaho back into stage three of its reopening plan, officials at the Payette School District are aligning their sails to steer its students and staff out of trouble.

During the Board of Trustees regular meeting on Nov. 9, the discussion of adjusting the district’s leveled operating plan to accommodate stage three restrictions came up.

The board reviewed steps agreed on by athletic directors across the Snake River Valley athletic conference to help minimize potential for transmission of the virus as athletic contests move indoors for the winter season.

“It makes us team players,” said Superintendent Robin Gilbert to the board. “All the athletic directors and principals got together and discussed how to work through what the governor has recommended.”

Changes being made to the plan include:

• Adhering to the state’s 50 spectator capacity limits for athletic contests, not counting athletes or coaches

• Only home team spectators would be admitted at wrestling matches, two per wrestler

• Basketball would see only 25 spectators per team admitted, with visiting team spectators’ names being put on a list in advance before the game

• Highly recommending those spectators who do come to games to wear masks and use available space to social distance

• Performing deep cleanings following cluster outbreaks of COVID-19, rather than for isolated cases

• Requiring students who have traveled to places with known COVID-19 spread to self-quarantine for two weeks, as determined on a case-by-case basis.

Board Chairman Adam Rynearson acknowledged the risk of not taking the same steps other districts in the league are taking.

“Especially non-conference games, they’ll decide to cancel [the game],” said Rynearson. “We saw that a little bit, I think, in football with some schools.”

He added that enforcement of the spectator capacity rules needed not be impractically strict.

“I understand the rule … of 50 people per event,” said Rynearson. “Our gym is enormous. If you have parents show up for [an event] and you say, ‘I’m sorry there’s 50,’ and there’s space to social distance… I believe we won’t turn those people away.”

Rynearson further commented that the prospect of a student’s next game possibly being monumental drives his sentiment behind his stance on enforcement, noting one baseball game where his son hit a grand slam.

In an email on Nov. 10, Gilbert said the district is not seeking permission to have more than 50 spectators at games, in an effort to be fair to other schools in its athletic conference.

“Personally, I work with [Southwest District Health] and Emergency Management all the time,” wrote Gilbert. “With us barely moving to orange, I can not think of scenario in which we would have a plan approved. So yes, we are not asking for a different plan. We want to work with our [conference] schools and be consistent in following the Governor’s requirements for indoor events.”

Gilbert said the district’s mask policy follows that of the conference.

“The SRV is asking spectators to wear masks. If they are sitting in the bleachers, physical distant due to the 50 person capacity, they do not have to wear a mask. This is the same in a classroom if physical distancing can be provided.”

Regarding student travel, Gilbert said the district’s protocols have already been put to the test twice.

“We handle it on a case by case basis depending on where they went, what they were doing and testing results. We do require them to wear masks and social distance also monitor for any symptoms. They only stay in school if they are asymptomatic.”

During the meeting, Gilbert noted that as students report not feeling well at school that they continue to be sent home at this time.

Trustee Andy Kirkendall motioned to accept changes to the district’s operating plan, with Trustee Candita Strong seconding. A voice vote was unanimous in favor.

“I hope that we’re done with this by December, because I sure would like to see people attend these [games],” Rynearson added.

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