Mackay School District Superintendent Susan Buescher can now close schools for up to 10 days if student absences reach at least 20 percent of district enrollment due to illness or quarantine situations, according to the district’s updated COVID-19 plan.

The plan was updated in response to a recent COVID-19 spike in Mackay, according to Buescher. Schools were closed under an emergency situation on Sept. 27 and a special board meeting held. Board members chose to conduct classes remotely for the rest of that week.

According to Buescher, allowing her to close schools and move students into remote learning makes the virus response plan more “streamlined.” It means board members won’t need to meet if schools need to be locked up for as long as 10 days, Buescher said.

The metrics used to decide when the district is at a low or high risk of transmitting the virus were also changed. Low risk is now defined as fewer than two new cases in Mackay during a 10-day period, using data collected from Eastern Idaho Public Health. The district is considered at moderate risk when there are two or three new cases in Mackay in 10 days. Four cases in a 10-day period moves the district to substantial risk of COVID-19 exposure and five or more puts it at high risk.

If the district reaches the moderate, substantial or high-risk categories, the plan states masks will be required on all buses and restrictions will be placed on travel and outside community use of district facilities.

If outside use of district facilities was approved during minimal-risk conditions, and moderate, substantial or high-risk conditions are predicted to be in effect at the time of the event, the plan says district personnel will assist with rescheduling the event or increasing safety measures, which may include limited attendance, face masks and increased sanitization.

Mackay school board members also added the Lost Rivers Medical Center to the decision-making hierarchy for operating schools under COVID-19 conditions, between the public health department and the Idaho State Board of Education.

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