TWIN FALLS, Idaho — The Twin Falls School Board has approved the school district's updated back to school plan, including a requirement all students and staff wear face coverings.
Under the new plan, face coverings like masks and shields would be required in the yellow and orange levels.
In the original plan, decisions regarding face coverings were left up to individual teachers, but the district says feedback from parents raised some concerns.
"After reading through all of the comments that came back, we realized having that kind of system wasn't going to work within the school system wasn't going to work because it didn't create any kind of consistency," explained Dr. Brady Dickinson, Superintendent of the district.
The coverings are only required when social distancing protocols can't be followed, and the district is making exceptions for those with medical conditions or disabilities. Students will also have breaks from the face coverings once per hour.
"Those will be designed by their teachers and building principals to decide how they best fit for the different grade levels and different kinds of students," explained Eva Craner, a Public Information Officer with the district.
The district will provide everyone with three reusable masks, paid for with funding from the CARES act and a levy.
"We know that masks can be expensive," Craner said. "If someone wants to provide their own masks we're open to that, if they want to provide another face-covering we're open to that as well, we just ask whatever face covering it covers the mouth and nose."
Other than the face-covering requirement, most of the plan will stay the same. The plan will work on a levels system determined by the amount of community spread in Twin Falls.
The four levels are:
- Green: Means it's business as usual for the schools, with in person classes and typical school protocols
- Yellow: Stricter focus on COVID-19 precautions (social distancing etc.)
- Orange: A "hybrid" between online and in person. Half the students would be in-person and the other half would be learning online. It would rotate on an "A" day "B" day type schedule.
- Red: Complete return to distance learning (similar to what we saw this spring)
“Ideally, we would like to operate in green as much as possible. With that being said, some might feel that the safety precautions in yellow seem pretty stringent. That is by design,” Dickinson said. “If we are seeing an increase in cases in our community, we would like to take additional precautions to keep our operations out of ‘Orange’ or ‘Red’ which would limit the amount of time students would physically be on campus.”
The district is still working with the South Central Public Health District to determine an actual metric for moving between levels. They're also working to officially designate a level for the start of school, but say it's likely we'll enter school in the yellow level.
They'll make the official decision on August 10. The first day of school is August 19.
The district says it's important to keep in mind the details of the plan might change.
"One thing I do want folks to understand about the plan is, it has to be nimble. It can't be written in cement because we're still learning about this virus," explained Dickinson