Central District Health aligns K-12 guidance with new CDC recommendations

The 2021-2022 school year could look a lot like the previous one for kids throughout the Treasure Valley, if their schools embrace new guidance from Central District Health.

CDH’s new K-12 guidelines, released Friday, bring back several COVID-19 mitigation measures from the 2020-2021 school year, including masking while indoors, regardless of vaccination status, maintaining six feet of physical distancing and quarantining those exposed to the coronavirus while not wearing a mask.

Students in the cafeteria wait for classes to start at Payette Primary School on Thursday, January 7. Nik Streng/Idaho EdNews

CDH oversees public health in Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties — an area that includes the state’s two largest school districts, West Ada and Boise.

So far, none of the state’s other six health districts updated guidance following new CDC recommendations, which were released Tuesday and suggest vaccinated people should wear face coverings indoors when in areas with substantial or high coronavirus transmission rates.

Adopting those guidelines would mean most Idahoans would be required to wear masks while indoors.

While K-12 leaders have sought guidance from health districts during the pandemic, schools don’t have to comply with local recommendations — and many didn’t last school year.

Still, CDH’s new guidelines could shape learning environments for thousands of students with the new school year around the corner.

Confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been climbing across Idaho in recent weeks. And the spread of the coronavirus delta variant has sparked new health concerns nationwide.

None of the school districts that are within CDH’s boundary currently have mask mandates in place for the fall. On Wednesday, West Ada Superintendent Derek Bub issued a statement assuring patrons that the district would stick with its current mask-optional policy. West Ada’s pandemic protocol for the new school year, which trustees approved in May, gives Bub the authority to make operational decisions for mitigating the spread of the virus.

Bub said he hopes to address mask protocols at the building level this school year, not with district-wide mandates.

Boise School District made masks optional on July 12. District leadership will meet with local healthcare partners to see how the new guidance could affect Boise’s response plan, Boise Public Affairs Administrator Dan Hollar said.

While most school districts prepare to return to school without masks, Moscow School District bucked the trend.  Trustees there voted Wednesday to require masks for at least the first three weeks of the school year.

Click here for the CDC’s nationwide coronavirus tracker.

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