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Students in the Stanley School get to take their face coverings off when they play outside. School board members at their Sept. 10 meeting discussed the possibility of letting these students learn in the green phase of the Challis School District’s reopening plan since there are no active cases currently in Stanley.

Sitting six feet apart in the Stanley School gym, Challis school board members discussed the possibility of exempting the school from the district-wide yellow coronavirus status at their Sept. 8 meeting.

Superintendent Lani Rembelski said Eastern Idaho Public Health representatives told her the active cases in Custer County are about evenly split between Challis and Mackay, the two largest cities in the county.

School board member Trish Farr asked Rembelski if it would be possible, given that there are no active cases in Stanley, for the Stanley School to return to the green phase of the district’s reopening plan while the rest of the district stays in the yellow.

In the yellow phase, students, staff and teachers must wear face coverings and all campuses are closed to in-and-out traffic during the school day.

“It looks like it’s really difficult to get out of the yellow,” Farr said, referring to requirements set by the health district for the county to return to minimal-risk status. “We could be in the yellow for the rest of the semester.”

The county can’t be downgraded to minimal-risk status unless the number of active cases drops for three consecutive days by Sept. 17, two weeks from when the county was moved into the moderate-risk category.

Rembelski replied that while the district has the power to exempt the Stanley School, it would be best to wait. Eastern Idaho Public Health workers told her earlier in the pandemic they would consider applying different standards to cities within the county, given Custer County’s large, rural area. However, because the active cases that put Custer in the moderate-risk category were split between Challis and Mackay, Rembelski said health officials decided to apply the moderate-risk label across the board.

In a separate interview, Rembelski said it made sense to apply the same logic for putting the district in the yellow phase because “there’s so much traffic between Challis and Stanley.”

Also, Rembelski told board members it’s ill-advised to go against the health district’s recommendation to stay in the yellow. If they decide to return the Stanley School to green status and the coronavirus makes its way to the students and staff, Rembelski said the district could be seen as liable.

The best thing to do is wait till Sept. 17, Rembelski said. She’s optimistic that by then, the active case load will drop to acceptable levels and the county will return to a minimal risk listing.