We are quickly approaching the scheduled school start date and with that comes a flurry of planning. Normally, planning would have already been completed in the late spring and early summer, but the world is far from normal.

This week I want to focus on where we are in our planning and what to expect as we move forward. In recent weeks we received the frameworks from the Idaho State Board of Education.The frameworks are not a directive or legally binding but rather a set of guidelines to consider as we plan for a safe and successful beginning to our school year.

As you read through the frameworks you will realize a major portion of it is something we should be reviewing annually. I sent out a sign up sheet recently with great participation. Some of the groups have already met and some will still be taking input. 

The input we are receiving is truly valued and considered as we move forward. Realizing we will do our best to implement what we can, the reality is that some will be frustrated and disappointed. 

Yesterday, the CDC released new guidelines for opening schools.  We will be reviewing these guidelines and implementing where we can, realizing and understanding that even within our district, needs can and are different.  Public Health is meeting with the Region II superintendents to help create protocol for as many scenarios as we can create. Public Health will be involved in all of our decisions affected by the Pandemic.

JSD171 Leadership will meet again to review the information obtained and plans being drafted. The Superintendent Advisory Group will review and make suggestions on the plans later in the week. We intend to combine all of these to present to the District Board of Trustees on Monday, Aug. 3. Once we have the final plan we will make sure that it gets out on every media platform we have so our constituents can plan accordingly. Please keep in mind that plans can change as they do daily in our world.  

We as a district are very grateful for the input and support we are receiving from all of our stakeholders. We will be taking every precaution we can to safeguard our students and staff. We anticipate this can get very messy but having a solid plan to fall back on as well as open and constant communication are the keys to making this work.  

I want to emphasize that all of the work and efforts that everyone has done will be for nothing if our communities don’t help us out by using safety precautions to stop the spread of COVID-19. I am quite certain that Public Health will ask our district to close some or all of our facilities if the spread increases. I am asking that we all work together and take the responsibility to make this work. We all want nothing more than to get things back as normal as possible and to be able to educate kids. Thank you in advance for your help and teamwork.

Last week, we started the 2020 fall semester of the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy (IDYCA). The health, safety, and well-being of our students is our number one priority and the foundation of our program. We registered 128 students this session, three of whom have tested positive for COVID-19. These students were quarantined immediately following their positive test results, and they have subsequently been released to return home with their parents. They will be allowed to return in a future cycle.

We have currently tested 100 students and are in the process of testing the remainder, of which, only three students have tested positive. All staff members have been tested and their results were negative. We test 25 students a day, and receive the results within 24 hours, from SMH-CVH labs.

Strict safety procedures are in place to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, and include daily medical screenings and temperature checks of all staff and students. All staff and students wear masks, which are laundered daily. The education building is cleaned/disinfected twice a day and the Orofino Health District is providing guidance to students and staff on proper hygiene techniques. Every student is provided PPE, hand sanitizer and cleaning products.

The risk of exposure to the greater Pierce community by an IDYCA student is extremely low, given the secluded nature of the program. Students remain on campus during the duration of the program, and prior to the start of this semester, we decided to suspend all community outreach projects.

The risk for COVID-19 complications among the IDYCA student age group demographic is particularly low. However, these kids were at particularly high-risk for not completing high school or earning a GED prior to enrolling in the IDYCA. Our program’s mission is to provide students, who are at-risk of not graduating high school, a second chance for success. Our goal is to effectively mitigate COVID-19 risks, while providing these kids the second chance they chose and deserve. 

As always, I will do what I can to keep everyone informed of any changes or updates. Thank you again for your ongoing support of our district and communities.

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