Dear TFSD Families:
As you are probably aware, the community risk level was raised to red (critical) by the South Central Public Health District (SCPHD) yesterday. This morning, the Twin Falls School District #411 Board of Trustees met and made the decision, in consultation with the SCPHD, to continue in the orange protocol (hybrid) schedule until their November 9th Board Meeting at which time a determination for the following two week period will be made. Should cases unexpectedly rise during this time, a special meeting could be called to change designations. If the Board had enacted the red protocol schedule, all classes would have moved online and schools would be closed to all in-person activities. The decision to remain in orange came after a careful review of the data from our schools and the community, and conversations with both SCPHD and St. Luke's. According to the TFSD Operational COVID Protocol, decisions on schedule designation will be based on school/community spread/risk and will be made in consultation with the local health department. The purpose of this letter is to be transparent and further explain the rationale for the decision. The basis for this decision is:
- South Central Public Health supports remaining in orange as a school system for now. During the Board meeting on October 9th, where the decision was made to go orange, SCPHD recommended the district assess the situation after two incubation periods (roughly 4 weeks). As of today, we have been in orange for eight days. According to Logan Hudson at the SCPHD on 10/20/20:
SCPHD supports the TFSD’s decision to stay in the orange designation based on the following:
Since TFSD has implemented mandatory face coverings in its building and is in a hybrid model, in which approximately ½ of the students are in the building at any given time, SCPHD feels the risk of transmission in the classroom setting is low.
In addition, there is a lack of a body of evidence to suggest closing schools will decrease community case rates of COVID-19. Given this, and the evidence to suggest going to entire virtual learning may lead to decreased student achievement, SCPHD supports the decision to stay in a hybrid model of learning. The hybrid model was just implemented last week and at that time, SCPHD recommended reevaluating case counts and rates after at least two incubation periods have passed (4 weeks). This recommendation hasn’t changed.
Please contact me if you have any questions or concerns.
Logan Hudson, MN, RN
Public Health Division Administrator
South Central Public Health District
- The TFSD Reopening Plan states that changes to the operational level will be based on the school/community and will be in consultation with SCPHD. Making this decision does not contradict our plan as it is in line with the SCPHD’s recommendation.
- On 10/21/20 the Idaho State Board of Education revised the Idaho Back to School Framework to include use of the hybrid model during the red risk level. This change to the state-level plan illustrates the growing body of knowledge related to how the virus is spreading in communities and schools.
- Spread within the schools appears to be less than that within the community. Based on contract tracing, and in consultation with the SCPHD, it does not appear our schools have experienced critical rates of uncontrolled community spread. This is likely due to our diligence with face coverings and other safety measures.
- The change to orange protocols just took effect a little over a week ago. This change allows for more consistent social distancing in addition to the already required face coverings. Allowing some time to see what kind of impact the change has within the school system before moving to red protocols makes sense given it appears we don’t have uncontrolled spread within our schools at this time. The numbers will be closely monitored over the coming week(s).
We recognize there will be those who support this decision, as well as those who do not. This is not an easy decision and was made after careful consideration of the data and discussion with our local health experts. Unlike some other districts in Idaho, the TFSD spent hundreds of hours creating a plan and building a strong relationship with our local health professionals. For those concerned with this decision, please know this team will watch the situation carefully and we stand ready to pivot to red protocols should it be determined that we have uncontrolled spread within the schools. Our hope is that the situation in our community will improve allowing us to move back to the yellow schedule where all students attend in person every day.
Staffing levels continue to be a concern as we are seeing more and more staff members and/or their family members contract the virus. When staff members are ill and are away from the classroom for an extended period of time it limits our ability to continue in-person operation. If the increasing trend we are seeing continues, there is a real possibility that we will need to move individual schools online for periods of time as staffing levels fluctuate.
Thank you again for everything you are doing to support education in our community. We are all frustrated by this situation and know it creates hardships for students, staff, and families. We will continue to make the very best team decisions we can, based on the advice of our local health department and after careful review of all available data. We know these are, and will continue to be, difficult decisions and we stand ready to make decisions in the best interest of students and staff.
Dr. Brady D. Dickinson, Ph.D
Superintendent of schools