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ST. ANTHONY — Parents of students in Fremont County Joint School District 215 want to see changes made to the district’s COVID-19 policy.
The group of parents are calling themselves the Parents FOR Education in Fremont School District 215. In a letter penned by spokesman Brad Orme, the group outlines that its goals are to address concerns that the school district is “quarantining healthy children” and “pressuring them to wear masks.”
The letter was delivered to the Fremont County District Office on Sept. 17 and bore the signatures of 75 parents.
“After consultation with our attorneys and for the mental health and emotional well being of our children, we call on our school board to put an end to this practice immediately,” the letter states.
Later at a subsequent school board meeting, Superintendent Byron Stutzman asked the school board to allow the district’s leadership team to go over the COVID-19 protocol and make adjustments to accommodate more parents.
The leadership team consists of all the building principals and all of Stutzman’s directors, plus himself.
“It’s a pretty controversial subject, and we’ve been trying to follow the Eastern Idaho Public Health guidelines in what we do,” Stutzman told EastIdahoNews.com.
EIPH released a COVID-19 Regional Response Plan earlier this year that includes countywide mask mandates and stipulations on public gatherings when the number of active cases in a district exceeds a certain percentage of the county’s population. Fremont County is currently at moderate risk level and a mask mandate is in place.
The school district’s plan isn’t quite as strict as the EIPH plan, and recent revisions, based on parental feedback, continue with that trend.
The school’s plan doesn’t mandate masks at any level for students but they do highly recommend them for all students starting at the minimal and moderate risk levels. Staff are mandated to wear masks starting at minimal risk.
Some of the recent changes to the plan deal with students who come into contact with infected individuals. Rather than sending exposed students or staff home for 14 days, as the CDC recommends, when someone comes into contact with an infected individual they will be required to quarantine for five calendar days and wear masks at school for an additional five calendar days. This includes close contacts who may be in other schools.
“The CDC defines close contact as a person that has been within six feet of the infected person for a prolonged period of time (about 15 minutes) within two days of the onset of symptoms,” the plan mentions.
Orme says that even though the district has amended some of its COVID-19 guidelines following their letter, it still left much of what some parents’ concerns are in it, such as the district quarantining healthy kids.
The group plans to draft another letter in response to the changes, and spend the rest of the week gathering more signatures before submitting it to the school board, Orme said.
Fremont is the only school district considering changes. In Jefferson County, an emergency school board meeting was held Tuesday night where the Board of Trustees also revised its back-to-school plan.
The Board of Trustees voted to adjust the district’s protocols while in the Yellow or “Moderate Risk” zone by moving to a four-day week. Mondays will be a “flexible learning day” for students, meaning they will complete their work from home, starting Oct. 5. With this change, early release on Wednesdays is eliminated.
“Teachers will maintain limited office hours to support students but will have time to prepare their curriculum for both in-class instruction and on-line instruction to support all students,” a letter from Superintendent Chad Martin addressed to Jefferson School District Patrons says.
The other change that was made was in regard to the protocol for quarantining students who are in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for the virus.
“We will continue to trace close contacts and notify parents, however, if the student who was in close contact was wearing a face covering, parents will have the choice to either quarantine their child for 14 days from the last contact, or have them continue to go to school wearing a face covering and have daily temperature checks at school,” the letter explains.
To read the district’s updated COVID-19 plan, click here.
More COVID-19 news can be found here.