Healthy Education and Learning Task Force Finalizes Operational Protocols and Plans for Opening Schools in the Fall

TWIN FALLS -- At the July 13 School Board meeting, the Healthy Education and Learning Task Force presented a final draft of the Operational COVID-19 Protocols. The protocols outline how the district will operate given the level of COVID-19 spread in our community. To be prepared for the upcoming school year, the District developed these plans for the different situations that might occur during the school year. 


“We now have plans in place which will allow us to continue educating our students in four different levels of COVID spread,” said Dr. Brady Dickinson, Superintendent of Schools in an email to parents.


The protocols list four levels of operation Green, Yellow, Orange, and Red, which correspond with levels of COVID spread that could happen in our community. The District plans to work closely with South Central Public Health District to determine what the COVID level is in our community at any given time. 


“We will work closely with South Central Public Health District to determine what the COVID-19 level is in our community using a set of metrics that they are currently developing,” Dickinson said. 


Both Green and Yellow protocols allow all students to be physically in school at normal times. Orange is a hybrid schedule where only half of the District’s students would physically be in school at one time, and Red is a fully distance learning model. 


“Ideally, we would not have to use the Orange and Red protocols as they limit the amount of time students are actually on campus and we know this type of protocol could disrupt families’ work schedules,” Dickinson said. “Because of this, there are relatively strict guidelines in place during Yellow to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and to keep us from needing to move into those other two levels.”


Additionally, the protocols outline how the district and individual schools will handle a confirmed case of COVID-19 within our school building, cleaning protocols, food services precautions, and additional guidance for school leaders to help keep our schools operational during the pandemic. 


“There have been some changes to the plan since it was last distributed in draft form two weeks ago. These changes were based on feedback the HEAL Task Force received from the community,” said Dickinson. “Please note that the plan, while comprehensive, is neither exhaustive nor static. As new research becomes available, the district will continue to be flexible and adapt to support the education of our students.”


The biggest change from the draft plan relates to face coverings. In an abundance of caution and in consultation with health care professionals, we have decided to require face coverings in Yellow and Orange level protocols. Staff and students are required to utilize a face covering (mask or shield that covers nose and mouth) within the school building. Exceptions will be made for breakfast/lunch while eating and other instances designated by school administration where social distancing can be maintained (not less than six feet for 15 minutes). All staff and students will be provided with washable masks for use. Face shields will be provided upon request and availability. In addition, disposable masks will also be made available. Staff will ensure students have the opportunity for a “covering break” every hour with social distancing maintained. Considerations/exceptions will be made for staff and students who provide documentation from a state licensed medical professional stating the wearing of a face covering could be a health risk for that individual.


Community members can view the Protocols by visiting the TFSD website. 


The District continues to have teams working on instruction, teacher support, and individual school operation plans. 


“Our goal is to communicate and engage with families on a consistent basis when information is available about what precautions might be implemented,” Dickinson said. “This is a challenging time and I commend the TFSD staff members who are working tirelessly to make tough decisions that will serve the needs of our community while ensuring that we are being cognizant of the health and safety of our staff and students.”