As of Friday morning, the number of of Fruitland High School students who have tested positive in a COVID-19 outbreak over the past two weeks is 23.
In an email, Fruitland School District Superintendent Lyle Bayley said many of the students who have tested positive are scheduled to return to school as early as next week, as long as they remain symptom-free.
Starting on Friday, high-schoolers of Fruitland School District are staying home and taking classes online. On Thursday, Fruitland School District announced that the high school would be moving back to the “red” reopening level.
“The school district has been closely monitoring the number of positive COVID cases associate with our high school the past week,” a letter from Bayley reads. “We have seen an increase in COVID cases the last two days that has moved us to an area that we need to make a change in school instructional delivery for a period of time in hopes that our level of COVID spread will decrease.”
For Fruitland School District, moving to the red means that all high-schoolers will be returning to at-home instruction. School lunches will be available for pick-up at designated sites, and all extracurriculars are on hold, including athletics.
The change was first hinted at on the afternoon of Sept. 25, when Bayley sent a warning to school staff.
“Just a note to let you know that I have been in contact with Southwest District Health multiple times this week regarding COVID numbers in the high school,” the email reads. “SWDH keeps track of our number of positive students and well as those that have been quarantined. I will be visiting with them again on Monday and there may be enough cases that we will need to go into the RED category and go online. I wanted you to have some time to plan if this does occur, so I am letting you know today to be prepared to do this.”
Fruitland School District will be reassessing the COVID numbers in the school district on Wednesday. If the superintendent feels the numbers are looking better, then the school will reopening in the “yellow” hybrid model of instruction, Principal Marci Haro said.
During its Sept. 14 meeting, the Fruitland School District Board of Trustees voted to have the district move its education plan from the hybrid “yellow” model to the “green” in-person model.
For the first weeks of the 2020-21 school year, Fruitland School District operated in a hybrid model, with half of the student body attending school at once and the other half taking school online, alternating days in an A-B format.
Starting on Sept. 17, the district moved to a fully in-person model with a four-day school week (Wednesdays being a day for cleaning the school while students take classes online).
Data finally available
On Friday afternoon, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare released its first weekly summary of COVID-19 in schools. The information can be found on the state's website.
In its data, IDHW reports that there have been four cases of COVID-19 at Fruitland High School, and four cases at Fruitland Middle School.
The number for the high school does not match up with the number given by Bayley (23). According to IDHW Director of Communications Kelly Petroff, the IDHW count is “gathered from local public health districts, the media, and school reporting, and are limited to available information. The data may not match data from individual schools as it is compiled once a week.”
From Payette, IDHW reports 16 cases from Payette High School and one case from McCain Middle School.
Payette’s numbers are the second-highest on the IDHW list, with North Star Charter School (21) being the top in Idaho. The Eagle-based charter closed its elementary school on Sept. 22 and will remain closed until at least Monday. Emmett High School (15) has just one fewer case than Payette and closed its doors on Sept. 25.
In an email sent on Saturday morning, Payette School District Superintendent Robin Gilbert was unable to confirm the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the school, but did say that the high school has several students who are currently quarantining “based on possible exposure.”
Gilbert said Payette School District is not considering a move to hybrid or online instruction at this time.
The IDHW summary lists no cases among New Plymouth schools and has one COVID-19 case from Weiser and three from Weiser Middle School. Treasure Valley Classical Academy has no listed cases from IDHW.
On Thursday afternoon, Southwest District Health sent out an update for its weekly case numbers. Payette County remains the only county in Idaho to sit in the “red” health alert level. Southwest District Health did move Washington County from the “yellow” alert level to “orange” this week, citing an “increasing daily incidence rate, increasing hospitalization rate and high positivity rate” but no transmission within the schools.
Southwest District Health revealed that Payette County has 22 students in isolation and 153 students in quarantine. Neighboring Washington County has two students in isolation and one in quarantine.