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What the red 'substantial' COVID-19 risk category means for North Idaho schools

Four districts in Kootenai and Boundary counties are holding meetings to discuss their reopening plans as COVID-19 cases surge in North Idaho.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Four school districts in Kootenai and Boundary Counties are holding meetings in the next several days to discuss reopening plans following the decision to move both counties to the highest COVID-19 risk level. 

The Idaho Board of Education approved amendments to the state’s Back to School Framework Wednesday to allow more learning options during high risk coronavirus transmission concerns.

The announcement came the day before the Panhandle Health District moved Kootenai and Boundary counties to the substantial (red) risk category.

In a press release, the board said it added a new “orange” category, meaning the order of risk levels in the Back to School framework are now green, yellow, orange and red. The board said the amendments reflect changes made by six of Idaho’s health districts who have adopted four risk levels, including Panhandle Health.

According to the board, the changes allow more options in the red category, where risk of transmission is the highest, than just remote learning. The Back-to-School Framework says school districts will have the option of limited/staggered use of school buildings with physical distancing and sanitation.

“We will continue to support our schools in their decision making and provide them up to-date data and the latest CDC guidance to help inform their decisions in educating our youth as safely as possible,” Lora Whalen, District Director for Panhandle Health District, said in a press release. “As a community, we can keep our students in school, and keep our businesses open, but precautions have to be taken seriously by everyone.”   

The Coeur d’Alene Schools Board of Trustees is meeting for a special session Friday at 4 p.m. to discuss the change to the risk levels as it pertains to the district’s operating status for next week.

On Monday, Oct. 19, the district decided to move all of its schools to the moderate risk category and modified what the  plan looks like from K-8 students. The board said the students will attend four days a week in person and remote classes on Wednesdays. This plan goes into effect Monday, Oct. 26.

Students at Coeur d’Alene High School, Lake City High School and Venture High School are already attending classes in-person two days a week and remotely the other three days a week due to increased transmission at the high school level.

The Post Falls School District Board Trustees also has a special meeting Friday at noon to discuss the new Back to School framework and to consider changes to the district reopening plan.

The Lakeland Joint School District has a special meeting on Friday at 8 a.m. to discuss its reopening plan. 

The Boundary County School District Board of Trustees held a special meeting Thursday at 5 p.m. to discuss the district reopening plan.