Friday, March 05, 2021

LPOSD looks toward vaccinations, more flexible quarantine requirements

Staff Writer | January 16, 2021 1:00 AM

Editor's note: This article was edited to correct a statement about the number of staff expressing interest in a COVID-19 vaccination.

At Tuesday’s Lake Pend Oreille School District meeting, the board superintendent Tom Albertson updated the board on the district’s COVID-19 status, as well as new quarantining guidelines provided by the Idaho State Board of Education.

Under those new guidelines, Albertson said, students who are determined to be a close contact of someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 may be allowed to continue in-person classes if both parties were wearing a mask. That individual would be asked to continue closely monitoring for symptoms.

A close contact, Albertson said, is a person who was within six feet of the infected person for 15 or more minutes.

Several trustees spoke in favor of the guideline, saying allowing for more leniency would help keep students from falling behind, and noting there were no cases within the district where a positive COVID-19 case was definitively linked to close contact with another student.

Previously over the past several weeks, trustees said they had heard from parents dissatisfied with quarantining requirements for their children who were not confirmed to be a positive case. The new guideline might help alleviate some of that discord, one trustee said.

The new guideline did not require action, Albertson said, but could be used as a tool at the discretion of school nurses to determine if a student needed to quarantine.

“My intent of bringing this to you as a board is not to change our operational policy,” he said. “[It is] a tool that could be used by our contact tracers.”

Albertson also updated the board on COVID-19 vaccinations, which became available for category 1B recipients, which include school staff, Jan 13 through Jan 31.

Roughly 400 school employees expressed interest in receiving the vaccine, Albertson said, and a few have already gotten the chance to get their first dose thanks to some local clinics offering it for certain essential workers.

Lonnie Williams, asked if teachers who get the vaccination would still be required to wear a face mask.

The district did not yet have a policy in this regard, and would follow experts’ guidelines, Albertson said. However, he noted the experts he talked to noted that full protection from the vaccinations only comes 10 days to a month after the second dose of the vaccine.

“The goal is to get to 65% herd immunity [within the Bonner County community],” he said.

In other COVID-19 updates, Albertson noted that the district had officially adopted an updated policy to its sporting events, which allowed the district to host two spectators per athlete with the condition district officials sign off on a legally binding document pledging to enforce social distancing and other safety requirements.

In an update from Sagle Elementary School Principal Kathy Berget, she noted that most students saw typically or above-average growth, while K-1 students saw some decline in critical reading skills during the pandemic. Some students also had trouble in math.

“Without explicit instruction in mathematics, it’s difficult for kids to master those skills,” she said.

However, in recent months more students have been meeting their targets, she said.

Within her school, she said, students have been largely compliant wearing face coverings, with the need for an occasional reminder. Some parents still expressed concerns, she said, but it was less significant than before.

“I would say that was more at the beginning of the school year than now,” she said. “For the most part, it hasn’t been a big issue for us.”

In addition, she said, parents have largely been proactive in working to curb the spread of the virus and kept their children home if they seem like they might be sick.

The board also dissolved and re-appointed its members Tuesday night.

Former board chair Cary Kelly stepped down from his position, making room in the position for former Vice-Chair Geraldine Lewis. Lewis was voted into the position, with all trustees except Gary Suppiger voting yea. Trustee Williams was voted in unanimously as vice-chair.