When students at Fruitland High School do eventually return to school, they will be required to wear appropriate facial coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
This change was made on Tuesday afternoon in a special meeting of the Fruitland School District Board of Trustees. During the meeting, the board unanimously approved the emergency school closure of Fruitland High School (according to policy 1701C) and changed policy 3255C, which requires all students and staff members to wear a face covering when in school buildings. Previously, the policy, which dictates dress code for students during a health emergency, was a mask recommendation.
On Thursday, Fruitland School District Superintendent Lyle Bayley announced that Fruitland High School would be moving to the “red” reopening level, meaning that the school would be moving to online instruction starting on Friday.
This was following a total of 23 cases of COVID-19 over a 14-day period.
Bayley said a representative from Southwest District Health told him that they would have to close the school if the number of cases hit 5% of the student population.
The 23 cases in Fruitland High School, which had about 510 students in 2019 according to the Idaho State Department of Education, accounts for just over 4.5% of the students.
On Tuesday, Bayley said he wanted to close the schools before SWDH did, because he worried that SWDH would close the school for at least two weeks. Bayley added he spoke to SWDH on Monday and there were no new cases for Fruitland High School over the weekend.
Bayley said he would be in touch with SWDH on Wednesday, and will make a decision on reopening the school at that time. If the school does reopen, it will be in the “yellow” hybrid model of instruction, which the school started the year off with.
On Friday, Bayley said many of the students who tested positive would be able to return to school as early as this week.
All four members of the Board of Trustees were present on Tuesday, with Debbie Hurrle, who is at home after testing positive for COVID-19, attending the meeting via Zoom.
“As somebody who has it, I think the kids sometimes don’t understand the severity of it,” she said.
Hoping to have the high school reopen sooner rather than later, and stay open after, the school board voted unanimously to require face coverings in all schools. The previous version of the policy, Bayley said, didn’t “have a lot of teeth to it.”
Bayley said the cases in each of Fruitland’s three schools correlate with mask wearing among the students. He said Fruitland Elementary School has had the fewest cases in the district and the students are generally good at wearing masks. After that, Bayley said the mask wearing among students decreases as you go up in grade level, adding that high school staff members are reporting that quite a few students are not wearing masks.
Bayley added that Fruitland High School Principal Marci Haro said that about 80% of the students who tested positive for COVID-19 were known to not be wearing masks in the school.
Bayley also quoted a survey that was completed by members of the Fruitland teachers union, and it showed that staff members are in support of having everyone wear face coverings while in the school (81.8% from the elementary school and 100% from both the middle and high schools).