Friday, March 31, 2023

Libby schools edit pandemic plan during regular review

The Western News | January 7, 2022 7:00 AM

Libby Public School Board members reviewed potential changes to the district’s pandemic guidelines, including an entry on the district’s stance on COVID-19 vaccines, this week.

As part of a six-month review of the policies, Superintendent Ron Goodman suggested including a line stating that the district “encourages parents and staff to consider vaccination decisions with their medical provider.”

“That’s saying we’re not medical professionals,” Goodman told school board members on Dec. 13. “We’re not going to ask anyone else what to do with that.”

Among the potential changes, officials considered relying more heavily on school data when adjusting safety and health measures. Goodman suggested administrators could make more informed decisions by monitoring testing results, the number of students and staff in quarantine and any potential spread of the virus in school buildings.

“At this point we have pretty good data,” Goodman said. “If we see increased testing or quarantining, we may have to make changes based on that.”

School officials suggested adding a line in the policy to indicate the district’s strong preference for classroom-based education. The updated policy would include a bullet point stating: “onsite learning is viewed as educationally necessary. Every attempt will be made to ensure in person instruction. All safety measures are designed to support the option of onsite learning.”

“I think it reflects what we believe and what we’ve seen,” said Goodman.

Apart from these suggestions, the phased guidelines remained relatively unchanged.

In phase zero, the most restrictive phase, the district would switch to remote learning and close all school facilities to public use. The district would resort to phase zero if schools saw a significant shortage of staff or high spread of the virus on school grounds.

If school data reflected “increases that are a concern for safety” the district would enter phase one. In this phase, schools would remain open, but administrators would restrict student mixing and public visitation would be limited.

The district would strongly encourage face coverings under phase one and would permit students with valid health concerns to switch to remote learning. School officials would turn to the Montana High School Association (MHSA) for guidance over whether to allow school activities under phase one.

In phase two of the guidelines, administrators may require assigned seating on buses and adjust food service for social distancing. Face coverings would be recommended and school facilities may close to public use. School activities would follow MHSA guidelines and students with valid health concerns could switch to remote learning. The district would enter phase two when “data shows a change in status or spread within buildings.”

In phase three, when the district sees moderate to low numbers of infections, schools would hold to typical schedules. School officials would allow face coverings. Busing and food service would follow normal operations. Administrators would base extracurricular schedules on MHSA guidelines.

For all phases, the district would encourage hand washing. Testing would be available with parental permission and administrators would allow health plans for vulnerable individuals. School officials would continue following quarantine guidelines passed down from the Lincoln County Health Department.

Goodman suggested the school board could take action on the proposed changes to the guidelines next month.