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'This sucks': Coeur d'Alene school board torn on returning in-person

Coeur d'Alene Public Schools will not be changing to all in-person classes just yet.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — In a special meeting Monday, Coeur d'Alene Public Schools board members met with Panhandle Health District and Kootenai Health to discuss COVID-19 data.

They had the ability to vote on students returning to in-person education, but decided to wait a couple more weeks. 

The meeting was supposed to be quick and easy, as members had an idea of what their position would be. 

"This sucks, this really sucks," said Vice Chair Jennifer Brumley. "I had 100 percent anticipated walking in today, believing we were in yellow and believing that we were going to be having kids in school in five days." 

Having to decide the fate of over 11,000 students, their families and their teachers is not a task to take lightly, which is why board members and health experts spent over an hour going over the latest coronavirus statistics. 

"I just can't make a decision today," Brumley added.

Kootenai Health reported that positive cases in the county are increasing, and have been steadily for the past couple of weeks. 

Right now, Coeur d'Alene schools are operating in the orange mode, which is a hybrid of virtual and in-person learning. 

"I may be the only one who would be comfortable with moving the yellow today," said Board Chair Casey Morrisroe. "I understand reluctance to not do so."

The reluctance came from the other four board members. Moving to yellow mode would mean every student would be in-person at school and there are no social distancing guidelines.  

"I thought I was going to be yellow," said Trustee Tambra Pickford. "I'm not 100 percent sure that we should be doing that, given our uptick and that we're trending up."

A clear turning point in the conversation was when Kootenai Health gave a coronavirus update

"We have had one more patient admission for COVID today, since we got on the phone so now we're at 21 patients in the hospital," according to Executive Vice President John Weinsheim. 

Credit: KREM
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He also warned that with flu season, the virus will only get worse.

When it came time to decide if they were voting, no motion was made. All but Morrisroe agreed.

The update made the decision harder, said Superintendent Dr. Steve Cook. He is asking for some patience going forward.

The board agreeed to be more transparent about their plans for the school year, as many parents have voiced concerns about feeling in the dark about their child's schedule. 

Their next meeting has not yet been announced, but it will be in the coming weeks.