From Superintendent Boland:
With Idaho reporting its first confirmed cases of COVID-19, we know parents, patrons, students and staff are very worried about how the virus may impact families and our community as a whole. This weekend, our district administrative team has been agonizing over the decision of whether to close schools.
We have heard from students, staff and the IEA. We have read the emails from parents and students. We have seen the social media postings. We have been in consultation with local health officials, state government officials, and the governor’s office.
At this point, all levels of government have urged us to continue school next week. It was a difficult decision, but we plan to hold classes this week although it will be a short week. Schools in D91 and D93 will be closed on Thursday and Friday so our families and staff can prepare in the event of an extended closure, and our custodial crews can deep clean our schools.
Ultimately, the responsibility for health and safety is a parent’s decision.
However, over the last few days we have put a number of measures in place to try and protect our students and staff, and we will continue to do that as we receive guidance from health officials about the best ways to try and limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Here is an update on those measures:
- STUDENT ABSENCES: We are reviewing our attendance policy to ensure it can accommodate families who may be severely impacted by the virus and to ensure sick students stay home until they are fully recovered from their illness.
- For now, all student absences the Week of March 16 will be excused. Parents do not need to call in to excuse those absences.
- Based on current guidance from Eastern Idaho Public Health we expect classes to resume after Spring Break, but may consider other revisions to the policy as necessary.
- LARGE GROUP GATHERINGS CANCELLED/POSTPONED: In accordance with the guidance from local health officials that encourage social distancing, the district made the difficult decision last week to postpone the District Musical and the 5th Grade Patriotic program. In addition, we have asked schools to cancel all large group gatherings planned in the next month. Future events such as high school graduation ceremonies may need to be cancelled.
- LIMITING TRAVEL: We cancelled or postponed all out-of-state school- and district-related travel for students and staff last week. Travel within Idaho has not been affected yet, but additional travel restrictions may be implemented now that the state has confirmed COVID-19 cases.
- SPRING BREAK TRAVEL: If you are planning to travel during Spring Break we urge families to carefully review the latest guidance from the CDC.
With the first confirmed COVID-19 cases in Idaho, there will be heightened concerns about the virus and an increased demand for testing, but we urge parents, patrons and staff to follow the guidance from East Idaho Public Health. They urge that only those who meet the following criteria call their healthcare provider to discuss testing for COVID-19:
- Have a cough OR fever with shortness of breath AND have traveled to a COVID-19 affective area within the prior 14 days
- Had close contact with a lab-confirmed COVID-19 patient within the prior 14 days.
Health officials say those who do not have COVID-19 symptoms should not seek medical attention as it places an undue burden on our healthcare system. In addition, they stress the most effective way to prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19 is to practice basic preventative hygiene:
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick
· Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
· Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care
· Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
For more information and resources on COVID-19 please go to the district website at www.ifschools.org.
We want to assure you that doing what is best for our students, our staff, our families and our community as a whole is always at the heart of our decisions, and this situation is no different. We will continue working together, and working with local health officials and government entities so we can do our part to try and protect our students, staff and families.
Events are changing rapidly and we promise to keep you updated as we receive additional guidance from the governor’s office and Eastern Idaho Public Health.