TETON COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - UPDATE: 10-4-Driggs Elementary will welcome its students back to school on Monday, Oct. 5, as planned. The school had been closed on Wednesday and Thursday of this week due to a COVID-caused staffing shortage.
At a special board meeting Monday night, Teton School District 401 trustees heard from Eastern Idaho Public Health, Teton Valley Health and the district’s own administrative team, including the head of the Teton Education Association, regarding last week’s spike in school-related coronavirus incidents.
Due to staff shortages at Driggs Elementary School, the board unanimously approved the school’s closure Wednesday and Thursday, Sept. 30 and Oct. 1. Friday, Oct. 2, is a Professional Development Day, so there is no classroom instruction for students district-wide.
The board directed Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme to make any
school-closure decisions related to illness at least 24 hours in advance. This will allow parents more time to work out the logistics of dealing with such a closure.
Woolstenhulme and DES principal Allen Carter will determine over the weekend whether Driggs Elementary will open as planned on Monday, Oct. 5.
After each principal spoke about the situations in their individual schools, the board directed the admin team to prepare additional information for its next meeting on Oct. 12, on the following items:
- A school-specific framework detailing challenges and possible solutions
- A close examination of the district’s plan regarding substitute teachers and other needed staff members 1
- Additional strategies regarding how the expectations of students and staff can be beer enforced and communicated – these expectations are to stay home when sick; wear a mask inside buildings, on buses, and anytime outdoors when 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained; to stay 6 feet apart whenever possible and to wash hands frequently and with hand sanitizer.
The board removed specific numbers from the School Reopening Plan, adopted August 17, to reflect the EIPH risk levels that agency adopted shortly after the TSD plan was approved. Rather than needing 24 active cases per 10,000 population in Teton County to move into the high-risk level, the revision adheres to the EIPH level (50 active cases per 10,000 population in all seven counties in EIPH, and other considerations like hospital capacity).
As of the beginning of the meeting, Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme reported a total of 15 positive cases and 88 possible exposures, of either students or staff members, had been confirmed. This included three more positive cases at Driggs Elementary and five possible exposures at three other schools from yesterday. (The two DES students and one DES staff
member here had already been quarantined.)
James Corbe of Eastern Idaho Public Health and Infecous Disease Specialist Nikki Ripplinger of Teton Valley Health answered quesons from the board. Woolstenhulme emphasized that TSD 401 is responding with its protocols as soon as informaon is received from a parent or staff member regarding a posive case or possible exposure, not waing for confirmaon from EIPH.
Focusing on the immediate challenge of COVID response, the trustees set aside the original purpose of Monday’s special meeting, which was to discuss the district’s Strategic Plan. School board vice-chair Shannon Brooks Hamby was charged with determining when the board could reconvene for that session.