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Back-to-school in Spokane, North Idaho: What your district's plan looks like

School districts around the Inland Northwest are putting together their fall 2020 plans for students.

SPOKANE, Wash. — Back-to-school time is quickly approaching as the coronavirus pandemic looms over districts and their plans to reopen in the fall.

Schools around the Inland Northwest are putting together plans for what classes could look like for students in kindergarten all the way through middle school.

Some districts are opting to allow students to return to the classroom either full or part-time. Spokane Regional Health Officer Dr. Bob Lutz called the decision "disappointing" in the following statement:

The decision made by local school districts and their school boards to begin school in the fall with in-person learning - a choice contrary to the public health recommendations of Spokane Regional Health District, Washington State Department of Health, the governor and OSPI - is disappointing.

I acknowledge the challenges these recommendations provide. I also acknowledge the challenges that will occur for students when cases occur in school, which will have ripple effects not only within their school due to class quarantines and closures, but throughout the community as parents and their workplaces are exposed.

While public health cannot stop districts from opening schools to in-person instruction when outbreaks occur, quarantining of classes and schools will occur to try controlling further spread of COVID-19 and protect the health and well-being of the entire community. 

Here’s a look at what we know about school districts' plans:

Lakeland Joint School District

The Lakeland Joint School District Board of Trustees approved to start the year at the Yellow level, as described in the district's reopening plan.

This level means the school district will start in-person five days a week. Students will be released one hour early each day to give teachers time to prepare for the next day. 

The exact wording of the level is as follows:

"LJSD students will attend school 5 days/week in-person (Monday through Friday) with a 1-hour early release daily to allow for staff preparation time at the end of the day. Precautions will include social distancing to the greatest extent possible and face coverings (masks/shields) will be recommended where social distancing cannot be maintained. A full-time online option will be available for students."

The district will observe the following social distancing protocols:

  • Maintain social distancing (6 ft or more) to the greatest extent possible
  • Explicitly teach and reinforce with students: social distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, mask etiquette, stigma issues, etc.
  • Hand sanitizer available throughout buildings and in every classroom○Extra masks available in all classrooms and in the front office
  • Schools share “Stop the Spread” information with a focus on preventative measures and symptoms
  • Avoid sharing of materials/supplies
  • Desks arranged to allow for cohort groups and limit classroom activities that don’t allow for 6 feet of distance between students
  • Limit/avoid mixing of student groups to reduce potential exposure 

Garfield-Palouse School District

Garfield-Palouse Schools announced Thursday that elementary schools will open Sept. 8 for in-person instruction and middle and high schools will open with online learning on Sept. 2.

Elementary students must follow the following guidelines:

1. Cloth face covering/Masks will be worn in the building at all times. Families are responsible for providing a proper cloth face covering/mask for their student(s). 

2. All classrooms desks will be physically distanced at 6 feet spacing. 

3. Students will be in cohorts, (kept together) with their classroom teacher to prevent movement among groups. 

4. We have added a new 1-2 grade class to insure smaller class sizes. 

5. Most specialist will be eliminated to start and then gradually brought back into the schedule. 

6. All students will be screened by the school and classroom teacher daily for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 including temperature checks.

 7. Recesses will be staggered by classroom teachers to allow for proper physical distancing 

8. Breakfast/Lunch will be eaten in the classroom.

 9. A distance learning option will be available for families who choose not to send their student(s) to school for in-person instruction. 

For more information, visit the district website.

Mead School District

The Mead School District approved a change to its academic calendar that moves the last day of school from June 16 to June 25. The dates were adjusted due to the district moving back the start of the school year to allow more time to prepare for coronavirus precautions.

Mead School District approved its learning plan for the upcoming year as follows:

  • In-person classes will resume for preschool and K-5
  • Hybrid learning model for Grades 6-12
  • Families that are uncomfortable returning to in-person learning can choose virtual learning

The district approved pushing back the school year's start date by two weeks to Sept. 14.

The plan was approved at a meeting on Aug. 6, according to KREM's Brandon Jones.

Mead also released a list of safety protocols for in-person learning:

  • Face coverings required for students and staff on buses.
  • Intensified cleaning protocols for transportation services.
  • Expanded entry and exit options for buildings, assigning specific and consistent access points in order to limit the number of students going in or out at the same time.
  • Face coverings required for all students and staff on school campuses.
  • Required daily reported temperature and health checks.
  • Physical distancing measures.
  • Group students to minimize exposure, allow for contact tracing.
  • Designate handwashing breaks throughout the school day.
  • Provide self-contained “grab-and-go” meals.
  • Staggered meal schedules to limit students picking up lunch in the cafeteria at one time.
  • Repurpose spaces such as gyms, libraries and underused building space for instructional use to allow for more space between students.
  • Optimize ventilation and airflow in each building.
  • Establish protocols for reporting symptoms and initiate contact investigation and tracing in collaboration with the Spokane Regional Health District.

Coeur d'Alene Public Schools

Coeur d'Alene Public Schools approved its reopening plan on August 24.

The plan sets guidelines for four levels or coronavirus risk: slight, minimal, moderate and substantial. The risk level is determined by key metrics that came from consultation with local health officials, such as testing positivity rate, new confirmed case trends, and hospitalizations and critical care admissions. The exact data points can be found on the CDAPS website.

The risk categories – minimal, moderate, substantial, or critical – will determine the learning model students and teachers will be in: traditional, blended or distance learning. 

During periods of moderate risk, school buildings would be open and masks would be required for everyone. Half of the students would attend school on Monday and Tuesday, while the other half would attend Thursday and Friday, and masks would be required during periods of substantial risk.  

If COVID-19 activity in the community makes it too risky for everyone to be in school buildings at the same time, the district will switch to blended learning. This is a mix of classroom and online learning.

During this phase, students would be in classrooms two days a week — Monday and Tuesday or Thursday and Friday — and use technology at home to continue their learning during the other three days of the week. 

If the community is experiencing a high level of coronavirus activity that makes it too risky to have students in classrooms, the district will activate full-time online instruction for the duration of heightened risk.

Coeur d'Alene's Long Range Planning Committee had a meeting Monday, Aug. 31 to discuss childcare, food options, phase re-openings, air flow and enrollment. Here are some of the key takeaway from the meeting:


  • The district has partnered with the Kroc Center to provide childcare for staff that have kids. They have a max capacity of 60.
  • Boys and Girls Club will be opening a program that can have 100 kids (unclear if they plan on using it for teaching space or childcare)
  • On Wednesdays, when everyone will be virtually learning, three schools will be available to send kids to a full-day childcare option with a maximum of 60 students per building.
  • School plus will still be available for before and aftercare.
  • The Early Learning Center will be converted to a full-day childcare facility.


  • There will be pre-ordered meals available to all students for free. It will be a grab-n-go system. Meals will be free due to funding from USDA.

Phase Re-openings

There will be a week's notice when shifting into different categories. If the decision is made on a Tuesday, the plans will be implemented the following Tuesday vice versa. They hope to "live" in each category for at least 4 weeks each so it is not so strenuous on students and staff. 

Air Flow

The district is adding new HVAC systems that will increase airflow and it will have increased filtration 


According to Superintendent Steve Cook, enrollment is down in the district by 800 students. They are seeing that change mostly in elementary school-aged children. In older ages, like high School, they're seeing about the same if not more in students.  

Freeman School District

The Freeman School District announced Friday it will start  the school year in a modified hybrid learning model.

According to an email from Superintendent Randy Russell, the district has created a six stage reopening guide. 

Schools will begin the school year in Stage 3. This means students in P-2 students in the greatest need of additional support will have an agreed upon set of criteria to participate in in-person classes. All other students will participate in distance learning. Staff will be at school to deliver and plan instruction.

An explanation of all the stages is available here

Riverside School District

The Riverside School District approved its plans for reopening this fall and pushed the school year start back to Sept. 8. 

The district has created a four stage plan for the school year. Schools will begin the year in stage 2. The district will monitor the plan with the ability to transition to Stage 3 as soon as they can. They will also have a plan for Stage 1 if they need to go backwards. 

Stage 1

  • Online learning K-12
  • Some in-person learning for P-12 students with disabilities and without internet

Stage 2

  • All students from Stage 1
  • AB in-person P-5
  • ABCD in-person 6-12
  • Online for those who choose

Stage 3

  • In-person daily P-5
  • AB in person 6-12
  • Online for those who choose

Stage 4

  • In-person Daily P-12
  • Online for those who choose

Stage 2 involves in-person learning for P-5 students on a rotation schedule. Group A will attend in person on Monday and Tuesday and Group B will attend in person Thursday and Friday. Students will complete teacher guided work on their "off days." Students with disabilities and without internet services will have access to Wednesday and possibly more days, as well.

Students in grades 6-12 will attend in-person learning on a rotating schedule in Stage 2.  Group A will attend in person on Monday, Group B on Tuesday, Group C on Thursday, and Group D on Friday.Students will complete teacher guided work on their "off days." Students with disabilities and without internet services will have access to Wednesday and possibly more days, as well. 

The school board moved the start of the school year from Aug. 31 to Sept. 8. The year will end on June 15. 

The district is hosting two webinars next week. Aug. 17 at 6 p.m. will be for elementary families, link here. Aug 18 at 6 p.m. will be for secondary families, link here.

Parents are asked to complete registration survey by 4 p.m. on Aug. 19 after studying the options. 

More information is available on the district website.

Spokane Public Schools

Spokane Public Schools Board unanimously approved their COVID-19 plan on Aug. 12, meaning the district will start all-virtual and classes will start on Sept. 14.

The plan also calls for elementary school students to return to class full-time once its safe to do so, followed by secondary school students going to a hybrid model.

The original start date was set for Sept. 3. Under the adopted plan, parent-teacher-student conferences will take place starting Sept. 8 to prepare for the year.

Families can also opt to stay virtual-only all year, but must make that decision by Aug. 15.

According to a letter sent to parents, from Aug. 31 to Sept. 4 teachers and staff will continue training on safety, social-emotional learning, distance learning and technology strategies. 

On Aug. 18, the district will hold a webinar on special education classes.

From Sept. 8-11, there will be conferences with teachers or advisors for each student and their family to answer specific questions. Conferences will last 35-40 minutes per student. 

SPS leaders wrote in a message the district's distance learning plan has been revised significantly from the experience students had in the spring of 2020. 

The improved model includes: 

  • Real-time school day with teacher(s)
  • Identified school start and dismissal time
  • Specific times scheduled for each period/subject
  • Blend of live instruction, group work, and independent activities
  • Specialist & elective experiences included
  • Set times for intervention support and contacting teachers
  • Use of Microsoft Teams as the district-wide digital platform
  • Laptop check-out for all students
  • Limited in person instruction provided for small groups of students 

An example of the sample schedules can be found here.

Parents who are not comfortable sending their children back to school when buildings eventually reopen can also choose to utilize the district’s distance learning option.

Parents have until Sunday, Aug. 16 to decide whether they want to enroll their student in a distance learning program for the whole year.

For kids in grades K-12, this mean registering for Spokane Virtual Academy or  On Track Academy for grades 10-12. 

Both online programs are self-paced, so students move at their own speed. There's regularly scheduled interaction with teachers and other student and a blend of live instruction, group work and independent activities. Teachers will also have office hours. They also offer monthly tech support sessions for parents who want a deeper dive into online learning. 

SPS has been holding a series of webinars to help parents sort through all the changes. There is also a guide on the district website.

The next webinar is Thursday, Aug. 13. It will be focused on the distance learning model for elementary students. Click here to register.  

The district has also said in a message to staff that it is "strongly" encouraging teachers to virtually teach from their classrooms this fall, which the district said it "allowable if all safety protocols and social distancing are closely followed." The district also said "it believes this sends an important message to the community and ensures effective technology, resources and supports are available to teachers."

The message to staff also laid out childcare resources.

The childcare resources are as followed:

SPS Day Camp

  • "We will provide a full day camp for students in grades K-6 for families and staff. This low-cost or scholarship option will have limited enrollment per site to manage the total number of students in a building at any one time. Additional sites will open based on registration numbers. Enrollment will be closely managed to provide high levels of social distancing and strict adherence to safety protocols. Students will receive structure and routines that assist them with engaging in their real-time distance learning. Registration will be available next week."

SPS Learning Centers

  • "In partnership with community organizations, learning centers will be open for 2-3 hour periods for students in grades K-8. This option will provide a supervised location to provide structure, routine, and assistance for distance learning. Sites will be located throughout district and community spaces to enhance social distancing and accommodate a set number of students at any specific block of time. Information on times and locations will be coming soon."

Community-Based Options

  • "We are working with community partners to provide a list of community-based childcare options for families. A list of providers will be maintained on the district website."

Express Program

  • "We will continue to provide Express school-age, before and after school day care for students from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. and 3 to 6 p.m."

People can visit spokaneschools.org/express to learn more and register.

Current information about remote and in-person learning can be found on the SPS website.


  • Sept. 8-11: Dedicated time for conferences with teachers or advisors for each student and their family, to answer specific questions and make sure everyone is ready. Conferences will last 35-40 minutes per student. Information on the conference sign-up process will be coming later in the month.  
  • Sept. 14: Distance learning classes begin for all SPS students K-12. The school day for real-time distance learners in all grades is 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m.

School Supplies

  • All students will need a face mask, gym shoes and a backpack. 
  • All families should also have a household thermometer.
  • Students in grades 3-5 will need wide-ruled lined paper, pens, colored pencils and 2-3 spiral notebooks.  
  • Students in grades 6-12 will need lined paper, graph paper, highlighters, pens, pencils and 2-3 spiral notebooks.

Liberty School District

The Liberty School district plans to begin with remote learning on September 2 and then transition into a hybrid A/B schedule two weeks later, according to an announcement from the district. 

With the A/B schedule, students will be divided into two equal groups, with an equal number of students for each classroom for K-6. For grades 7-12, the district will attempt to divide classes as equally as possible. The district will monitor grades K-5 to determine when the district can shift to having all students in those grades in class. 

Students with IEPs or enrolled in Special Education classes will be brought to school and worked with in small groups or individually with proper safety guidelines being followed.  In addition, students without internet at home can also come to school for instruction on a set schedule using the remote learning model. 

When school starts, parents and students will have three options for how they'll attend classes. 

Option 1

School-paced virtual learning or hybrid A/B schedule with a preference to transition to in-person at the school when safe to do so.

  • This option will be led by Liberty teachers and allows students to return to inperson learning when it is available.
  • If you are confident that you want your student to return to in-person learning when it becomes available this is the best option for you.

Option 2

School-paced virtual learning with a preference to stay virtual for the remainder of the school year.

  • This option will be led by a Liberty teacher and allows students to learn virtually for the entire school year.
  • If you would like to have your student remain in virtual learning and connected to a Liberty teacher for part of or the entire school year, this would be the best option for you.

Option 3

Self-paced virtual learning in the four core subjects, with a preference to stay virtual through the first semester, or the entire school year.

  • This option allows students to work at their own pace to complete assignments over the course of the semester or school year.
  • Students will be partnered with a teacher from Edgenuity who will assign lessons, provide feedback, and issue final grades.
  • If you plan to have your student work learning virtually for the school year and prefer the flexibility to move the curriculum at your pace this would be the best option for you

Members of the Liberty School District will begin making calls attempting to contact all families about their preference for schooling this fall. 

Medical Lake School District

In a newsletter to parents, the Medical Lake School District made the announcement that students will be a distance learning model only. 

The district has designed two virtual learning options:

Option 1: Preschool-12th grade

School-paced virtual learning with a preference to transition to in-person when it is safe.

  • Led by MLSD teachers and allows students return to in-person learning when available.
  • Allows students to keep their same teachers from their school throughout the school year or grading period. 
  • Student care: In-school student support provided for students needing additional access-determined on a case-by-case basis.

Option 2: Kindergarten-12th grade

  • Allows students to work at their own pace to complete assignments over the course of the school year or grading period.
  • Students will be partnered with specialized Connect + MLSD teacher with virtual learning training as part of this virtual school community to help guide their learning.

Students need to register for one of the two options by August 21 here.

For more information on the re-opening plan, click here.

East Valley School District

At a school board meeting Thursday night, the East Valley Board of Directors decided to begin the 2020-2021 school year in a hybrid, in-person model. 

According to a letter to parents from Superintendent Kelly Shea, most students will be divided into two cohort groups, A and B. Group A will attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays. Group B will attend Thursday and Friday. When they are not in school, Shea said students will be distance learning.   

If parents don't want to send their children back to school, there will be a full distance learning program. Shea said students in grades 9-12 will have the option of the EV online program. If families want to home school, the district will offer a Parent Partnership Program. 

"In my thirty-four years of public education, I cannot think of a bigger challenge than the one that lies in front of us," Shea wrote in the letter. "We must find the East Valley way to slow the transmission of this virus, keep our people safe, and provide our students meaningful and engaging learning opportunities. The mountain is steep and the terrain is rough, but I know we can do this. However, if we are to be successful, it will take all of us working together. My hope is that we can put the divisive rhetoric aside, focus on our students and our staff, and make the sacrifices we need in order to make this work." 

The district is also delaying the first day of school by two weeks. The district will now start classes on Sept. 14.

The school district said they will be using that time to train teachers.

Deer Park School District

Deer Park School District approved a plan for reopening schools for the next school year Monday, Aug. 10. 

There will be two learning options to chose from:

Option 1: In-person learning on a split/rotating schedule

  • Students will be divided into two groups (Blue and Gold), attending school two days one week and three days the next.
  • Days when students aren't in class are still considered school days and each school will communicate learning expectations and structures for instructional support. 
  • Students in need of additional in-person service may have the ability to attend on a more normal four or five-day schedule.

Option 2: STAGS @Home Program

  • Deer Park teachers will be dedicated to providing a "robust and engaging" learning experience for students using proven remote learning.
  • Will offer teacher-led online experiences and activities as well as opportunities for more autonomous learning structures that allow students to access and complete assignments/tasks on a more flexible schedule.  

For more information on the decision, click here.

Central Valley School District

CVSD has designed four different virtual learning options that students and families can choose from for the upcoming fall. The district is asking families to make their choice by Aug. 21.

The virtual learning options are: 

  • The first option is school-paced virtual learning with a preference to transition to in-person when schools are able to re-open. It will be led by CVSD teachers and allow students to have an easier transition to in-person learning when it becomes available. 
  • Another option is school-paced virtual learning with a preference to stay virtual for the full school year, which allows students to keep the same teachers throughout the year. 
  • Self-paced virtual learning with the intention of returning to in-person classes will also be available for families. This option allows students to work at their own pace to complete assignments over the course of the school year, guided by CVSD teachers.
  • The fourth option is self-paced learning with the intention staying virtual.

The district will distribute chromebooks to families if needed.

The district also said if a family picked a learning option that would keep their student(s) virtual for the full-year, but the family then felt comfortable enough to send their student back to in-person classes, officials would then work to get that student back in a classroom as quickly as possible.

CVSD also announced two options for meal distribution for students in the district. One option will allow a meal box to be ordered ahead of time containing five breakfasts and five lunches, with some items in bulk and some frozen meals. Families can also pick up all meals from one place, even if they have students in multiple schools.

The other option is for pick up on certain distribution dates and times.

The district also said that it is working on childcare options and would continue to provide care throughout the day for first responders and health care workers' families. 

Cheney School District

The Cheney School District announced on Monday, Aug. 3 that it too would begin the upcoming school year by doing virtual learning, with students not returning to classrooms. 

The district shared photos of its conditional reopening plan, which includes six stages:

  1. Stage 1: 100% Distance Learning.
  2. Stage 2: 100% Distance Learning, with school buildings open to staff.
  3. Stage 3: Modified Hybrid Learning, with students "in the greatest need of additional support" taking part in some in-person instruction.
  4. Stage 4: Hybrid Learning, all students included in Stage 3 as well as some in Preschool through Fifth Grade attend school in-person part of the time. Grades six through 12 still on a distance learning model.
  5. Stage 5: Hybrid Learning. Kindergarten through Fifth Grade students and staff complete in-person instruction five days a week. Preschool students participate in-person with a set schedule. Grades six through 12 complete some instruction in-person.
  6. Stage 6: 100% In-person Learning. All students and staff carry out in-person instruction five days a week.

More can be found in the district's Facebook post.

Gonzaga Prep

Gonzaga Prep sent a notice to parents Tuesday, Aug. 18 to announce changes to its back to school plan. 

In the letter to parents, school leaders said they modified its previous plan due to "recent recommendations by the Spokane Regional Health District."

The new plan will give families the option of choosing either fully digital instruction or starting the year with in-person instruction in small groups, one day per week.

"This model was developed in consultation with the SRHD and will add robustness to existing health and safety measures, while supporting the school’s goal to incrementally expand future opportunities for in-person instruction," President Michael Dougherty wrote in the letter.  

The school will be sending detailed plans and answers to frequently asked questions by the end of the week. 

According to the letter, the plan adds resiliency to the existing health and safety measures by:

  • Decreasing the number of students on campus each day to a maximum of 25% of our student body, and reducing class sizes to an average of six students. 
  • Dividing each grade level into four cohorts, in order to decrease the potential exposure and/or spread of COVID, while minimizing the impact of any required quarantine measures. 
  • Enhancing the school’s ability to teach and enforce the required safety protocols, while developing a body of evidence that will support the school’s continued improvement. 

"If the school is successful in preventing COVID spread in this initial phase, we will work to incrementally expand students’ access to in-person instruction," Dougherty wrote. "Alternatively, if our experience demonstrates that we are unable to prevent or minimize COVID outbreaks and experience disruption to our in-person instruction, then we will be prepared to move to fully digital learning until we are confident we can ensure the health and safety of our students and our faculty/staff." 

Parents who decided to send their student back for in-person learning will be required to sign an acknowledgement of risk and commitment to a "shared duty of care for ensuring that their child and family will act in a manner that minimizes the potential health impact of their decisions on the safety of fellow members of our community."

Students will also be required to sign an acknowledgement of new school rules and an honor code for abiding by the rules at all times. 

The school will also be offering a tuition rebate of 5% of families' tuition. The rebate will be limited for part or all of the school year. It will be applied to tuition accounts on a quarterly basis if the school does not return to fully in-person instruction for that quarter. 

West Valley School District

West Valley School District's Board of Directors voted at a meeting on Aug. 17 to begin the school year 100% online.

Its reopening plan approved by the board details online learning for elementary, middle and high school students throughout West Valley Online Academy taught by West Valley teachers. 

The district will consider phasing in one grade level at a time for its elementary schools, beginning with the youngest students. 

In its reopening plan, the district promises to offer regular school hours and evening options, independent practice and skills development, small group learning, and individual support for students that will be phased in starting Sept. 21. 

There will also be onsite options for students with the greatest need for support, and virtual teacher office hours for families and students. 

Those students involved in early learning may be phased in to hybrid, onsite learning one to two days per week. 

West Valley School District is holding another online Q&A session on Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. 

Note: This story is updated as schools release details on their reopening plans.

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