Central District Health issues guidance for Ada County schools ahead of shift to red category

Families in Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties should not expect their schools to be classified in the lowest level of coronavirus risk at any point during the 2020-21 school year, Central District Health officials announced.
Posted at 10:57 AM, Oct 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-09 12:57:11-04

BOISE, Idaho — Central District Health (CDH) put out additional guidance Friday ahead of the likely shift to category three, or red category, for Ada County Schools next week. Guidance for the red category is recommended remote learning over in-person learning.

The categories given by CDH are recommendations only, final decisions are made by local school boards. CDH says it is not anticipated that Boise, Elmore and Valley Counties will move to category three.

CDH also says that despite the potential for Ada County schools to move categories, they support schools keeping operations with some level of in-person learning, even if data places schools in category three.

“We recognize that many schools and districts have some excellent plans in place that they are consistently following to keep kids in school. While we are seeing cases within our schools and are working closely with those impacted, fortunately, at this time, we are not seeing much school transmission, where people are becoming infected from others in the classroom environment,” said Russ Duke, District Director for CDH. “We want to be judicious and responsible as to how we guide our schools based on data, as well as what we’re seeing in our investigations and contact tracing work."

The recommendation may change if case rates continue and increases in the number of people hospitalized as a result of COVID-19. CDH has issued a position statement for schools, outlining recommendations for the red category that give schools flexibility in hybrid learning plans.

Plans should include all means to reduce risks for students, staff, and teachers, and should include additional restrictions and actions if COVID-19 cases occur.

The following recommendations have been made to schools in the position statement issued by CDH:

  • Schools should be working actively to moderate and/or slow reopening plans and adjusting accordingly to reduce risk.
  • All programs should be operating with physical distancing measures in place
    • At least 6-feet between individuals or small pods, which are independently spaced groups limited to 3-5 students. These should be in place CONSISTENTLY throughout the instruction day for in-person operations, including before and after school, classrooms, meal times, and at recess or breaks).
  • Schools should evaluate at-home learning or hybrid models if operating in a 5 day-a-week instruction model and physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • All functions of in-person instruction should be evaluated and moved to operations at a reduced capacity if physical distancing (6 ft.) cannot be maintained.
  • Programs should work with Central District Health to actively monitor cases and transmission as a result of exposure. Messaging assistance for these occurrences will be provided as requested through CDH.
  • If transmission of COVID-19 is occurring in the physical structure or among a specific team or extracurricular event, schools should modify plans and operate under these modified plans for at least 2 weeks from an identified positive case in order to accurately assess if there is additional risk of transmission occurring.
  • All cases and any exposed contacts must follow quarantine guidelines outlined by Central District Health in conjunction with the current guidelines provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
    • This includes a full 14-day quarantine from the date of last exposure for identified contacts.
  • Youth extracurricular activities can be high-risk and are leading to a number of exposures and quarantines. During Category 3, we recommend assessing extracurricular activities based on whether the activity can be done with physical distancing and face coverings. For those activities where these mitigations are either not practical or cannot be enforced, they should be paused until in Category 2 to effectively reduce risk of transmission occurring in any and all parties involved in the operation of these events.
    • Extra precautions should be considered in all activities that utilize bussing and/or carpooling, as both increase exposure risk.

For more information on guidance from CDH, click here. The school categories are updated every Monday by 2 p.m., but with the Columbus Day holiday on Monday, they will be updated on October 13.