Colville schools to open with hybrid plan Oct. 13, enrollment down 85 students

By: 
RaeLynn Ricarte
Editor

The Colville School District is getting ready to welcome K-12 students back on a part-time basis, but administrators and health district officials are keeping an eye on the rising local COVID-19 case count.

“Let’s keep our fingers crossed and let’s get the community spread to stop,” said Supt. Pete Lewis.

If everything is a still a go, he said classes will resume on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at all schools. 

The “hybrid” plan approved by the school board on Friday is to stagger in-classroom days so teachers can meet social distancing guidelines. Some students will go to school Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday, and others will be in class on Tuesday, Thursday and every other Friday. When not in class, students will continue learning lessons remotely.

“It’s going to be different for families, different for teachers and different for students this year,” said Lewis. 

He said in-school classes are an option for parents, but they can also have their children learn completely from home if they prefer during the COVID-19 crisis.

Zoom lessons through the Google classroom involve teachers providing instruction in the morning and then providing students with assistance on lessons in the afternoon, he said.

All staff and students will be required to mask up to be school buildings, said Lewis, and social distancing of six feet or more between all parties will be practiced.

There will also be a greater focus on hand washing and extra steps are being taken to keep schools disinfected. 

The district received funding from the CARES Act to cover the cost of providing personal protective gear and other supplies necessary in the post-COVID-19 world, said Lewis.

“From an educational standpoint, we know that the best place for students to be is in the classrooms with teachers,” said Lewis. “And, quite frankly, we has missed having them around.”

He said food will be provided to students for the days they aren’t at the school, as well as the days they are.  In fact, he said any child in the community under the age of 18, whether they are a local student or not, can pick up food at no cost.

To help students who live in remote areas without internet access has been a huge challenge, said Lewis. 

He said the school has wi-fi pucks available that families can check out through the high school to give them a pocket of internet access. Packets of lesson plans can also be picked up at schools.

Enrollment for the 2020-21 academic year is down by 85 students, said Lewis, which is a hit on the budget. The district receives $8,500 per student from the state, plus other funds for materials and operating expenses. 

“That hurt our budget but we’ve been working hard since last spring to save money where we can, so we are hoping to be able to offset the lost enrollment,” he said. 

He said some of the federal funding can be used to make up for lost enrollment, which is another plus. There are currently 1,650 students enrolled.
Schools are more fortunate than some public entities when it comes to budget issues, he said, because a certain level of funding is constitutionally mandated. 

The current situation is uncharted territory, said Lewis, so the district has been working closely with Northeast Tri County Health to make decisions about how to most safely educate students.

When the decision was made to resume some in-school learning, he said the spread of COVID-19 had slowed in August after an uptick that followed the Fourth of July holiday.  However, there has been a resurgence of the virus in the county that Dr. Sam Artzis, the county’s health officer, and others are closely monitoring. 

“We are relying on the guidance of Dr. Artzis about how to proceed,” said Lewis. 

Artzis has asked everyone in the community to do their part to reduce transmission of the coronavirus by: staying home if they are ill with even mild symptoms; avoiding gatherings, especially when six feet of distance between people cannot be maintained; getting a flu vaccine to avoid adding another illness into the mix; getting tested if they have symptoms of COVID-19; wearing a mask when around others outside their household; and practicing good hygiene.

As of Monday, the health district reported 183 confirmed positive cases in Stevens County, with a third death involving an elderly patient at an assisted care facility. Pend Oreille has 71 confirmed cases and Ferry County has 30 cases.

Lewis said the school district wants to avoid a “yo-yo” cycle where facilities are shut down due to a spike in the virus and then reopened when the case count goes down.

“This is about trying to stay open and make sure we follow the guidelines and protocols that are in place,” he said. 

On another front, the Colville School District is seeking a replacement for Sid Green, board president who represents District 1.

Applications for the vacancy are being accepted until 3 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22. Interviews will be conducted on Tuesday, Oct. 27, beginning at 5 p.m.

Applications can be picked up and returned at the district office, 217 S. Hofstetter. Applicants must be U.S. citizens and registered voters, as well as a resident of the district, which runs south of Colville to the west of Highway 395 and slightly north.

More information about the district and vacancy can be found at www.colsd.org.

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