PAYETTE, Idaho — Payette School District is in the second week of its new school year. As of Monday, a handful of employees are already out after becoming exposed to COVID-19.
The board and the superintendent are hoping that mandating masks inside the schools will allow the kids to keep learning in person.
As of Monday, five staff members were not at work since they’ve either tested positive for COVID-19 or need to quarantine after coming in close contact with someone who has the virus.
“None that I know of that have traced it back to a school contact,” Superintendent Robin Gilbert said. “We've only been in school with students for three days.”
Starting this week, students and staff will need to wear some sort of face-covering while in school. This wasn’t previously required under the district's original decision to open in the "green" category.
“Just trying to help teachers, staff and families feel more safe and to reduce the spread,” Gilbert said.
Some students have also tested positive or are in quarantine after exposure to the virus but Gilbert didn't have an exact number.
“Our positive cases have been in different locations across the district, they're not clustered within one school,” she said.
It's not a huge surprise there are positive cases. Southwest District Health has Payette County listed in the "red" category, meaning there is significant community spread of COVID-19.
SWDH director Nikki Zogg told KTVB that requiring masks will help the school district.
“Any measures they can take while doing in-person learning while there is this high amount of community spread is really important to keeping the school open and getting kids in school,” she said.
Right now, the district isn't considering closing any schools or changing the re-opening category. Zogg said one case inside a school probably wouldn't be a reason to close it either.
“It’s really important when cases are identified, they're identified early and the school is working with the health district to try and identify close contacts and try to contain it to the extent they can so the school can continue,” she said.
For the face-covering mandate, Gilbert said face shields fall under this description. Students could have conditions that prevent them from wearing a mask or wearing one could make it harder to learn for some students.
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