KAMIAH — At the regular board meeting of Kamiah Joint School District 304 on Monday, Nov. 16, the board revisited the district-wide mask mandate put in place on Nov. 12. The board had required masks for all students and staff through Nov. 24 after an employee who works with students at all three schools tested positive for Covid-19.
The meeting, with all school board trustees and district staff wearing masks, was held by Zoom to comply with Governor Brad Little’s Nov. 13 decision to return to stage 2 of Idaho’s reopening plan by keeping the in-person meeting to 10 or fewer people.
“The goal is to keep kids in school as long as possible,” stated Kamiah School District Superintendent, Dr. Benjamin Merrill. Board trustee Brandaan deGroot added that in-person school is important, since kids don’t learn when they are not in the classroom.
Most of the discussion centered around requiring masks in classrooms. DeGroot suggested focusing on socially distancing first before requiring masks. Using his son’s second grade class as an example, deGroot shared that desks are spaced apart to encourage social distancing with plexiglass dividers between students who are closer than six feet. He noted that elementary school classes are relatively small with 12-15 students per class so socially distancing is possible in the classrooms.
Trustee Jesse Hunt agreed, saying, “Kids are playing with their masks and not focusing on their studies.” DeGroot added at grade levels 7-12, class sizes vary from fewer than 10 students to as many as 30. In the larger classes social distancing may not be possible.
The board approved modifying the policy effective Tuesday, Nov. 17, that masks are required at all times in schools and transportation except in classrooms or if socially distant to avoid closing school to in-person learning. This leaves some discretion to the school administrator at each school when social distancing can be met.
The decision also extended the mask mandate until the December board meeting when it will be reviewed.
Despite a Zoom glitch, nearly 30 people attended the meeting. District technology coordinator, Stephanie Brimacomb stated, “The link worked fine until Zoom dropped the meeting” and she had to set up a new one.
A full report of other Nov. 16th decisions will be included in next week’s newspaper.