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Coeur d'Alene back-to-school plan approved, but specifics of mask policy not finalized

The district will utilize a hybrid model with students coming in on select days and wearing masks; any exceptions to the mask rule are still being discussed.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — Coeur d'Alene students, as expected, will begin the year attending school twice a week and learning remotely on other days, after the school board unanimously approved the reopening plan.

The plan consists of four stages ranging from red to green. Red means all instruction is done online. Orange is a hybrid model, with masks required on school grounds and in school buses. Yellow is fully in-person instruction with masks required. Green is fully in-person but without a mask mandate.

The current stage is orange. If pandemic conditions improve or worsen, the board can elect to switch stages.  And we now know what metrics they will use to make those decisions.

The first one is the number of new daily cases in Kootenai County per 100,000 people, based on a 7-day rolling average

If that figure is greater than 30,  that suggests the district needs to move into red and go fully online. Between 15 and 30 is orange. Between 1 and 15 is yellow. To enter the green stage, there needs to be barely any new cases in the area; the number must be less than 1.

They'll also consider the percentage of tests that come back positive countywide. More than 20 percent is red, between 8 and 20 percent is orange, between 3 and 8 percent is yellow, and less than 3 percent is green.

Hospitalizations and ICU admissions will also be considered as a third metric.

The board's approval of the reopening plan contained more than a dozen specific policies. But it did not contain a policy outlining the specifics of the district's mask protocols. That policy is still being discussed.

A draft version presented at Monday's meeting provided early insight into what the precise requirements for masks may be. For instance, it says that face shields are not acceptable alternatives for most people. It allowed for exceptions for those with verified medical reasons for being unable to wear a mask. And it says teachers should schedule mask breaks where students can go somewhere safe and remove their face coverings for a while.

The main sticking point was language in the draft regarding who can grant exceptions that aren't explicitly mentioned in the policy. Currently, only the superintendent or someone they specifically designate can make that call.

But at least one board member felt teachers should be able to use their discretion to allow students to remove masks in some cases, such as when social distancing is achievable. 

Others pushed back on that idea, feeling it would lead to inconsistency and put too much pressure on teachers.

The mask policy is expected to be voted on at the next board meeting.