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Staff at Saint Alphonsus Meridian Health Plaza use a tent as a home base outside the urgent care facility for administering tests for COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases on July 8 in Meridian.

BOISE — Because of rising COVID-19 cases, Central District Health is poised to move Ada County schools back to the red category Monday, which recommends online learning.

But instead of pushing for only remote learning, the health district is offering support to schools trying to maintain some level of in-person instruction.

The red category recommends closure of schools, while yellow recommends hybrid in-person and online learning and green allows for in-person classes. 

The categories are tied to average daily case rates per 100,000 population over a 14-day period.

For Ada County, if there are 20 or more COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population, that means schools will be in the red zone. As of the week of Sept. 27, the county was at 17 cases per 100,000 population, and the number of positive and probable cases in the county have continued to creep higher.

The school categories will be updated Tuesday.

Bars, whose reopening last month was tied to schools being in the yellow zone, are currently not impacted by the potential change, and the Central District Board of Health will discuss potential changes in Ada County on Tuesday, according to district spokesman Brandon Atkins.

“We recognize that many schools and districts have some excellent plans in place that they are consistently following to keep kids in school," Central District Health Director Russ Duke said. "While we are seeing cases within our schools and are working closely with those impacted, fortunately, at this time, we are not seeing much school transmission, where people are becoming infected from others in the classroom environment."

Central District Health said the recommendation could change depending on if case rates continue to rise and the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 keeps increasing. But for schools looking to use a hybrid plan, the district has a number of actions they should be using to keep students and staff safe.

  • Slow down reopening plans
  • Keep 6 feet of space between individuals consistently
  • If physical distancing cannot be maintained throughout the school day, consider remote or hybrid learning models
  • Work with Central District Health to manage COVID-19 cases and transmission
  • Schools should have COVID-19 contingency plans if transmission occurs in specific extracurricular events or physical spaces
  • Assess whether extracurricular activities can be done with physical distancing and face coverings. If they cannot, the activities should be paused until schools are back in the yellow zone
  • Follow all quarantine guidelines outlined by Central District Health, including a full 14-day quarantine from the date of last exposure 

Central District Health does not expect Boise, Elmore or Valley counties to move to the red category next week.