Quail’s Eye View

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Dear Palouse Prairie Families and Community –

At last night’s board meeting, the PPCS Board voted to adopt a “mask-optional” policy as of March 7 (next Monday). Making this shift before spring break allows teachers to first prepare students for the change – and then have a week to practice supporting each other in this more fluid masking scenario in which some students and teachers may continue wearing masks, while others may wear masks only sometimes. We will continue to enforce good hygiene practices, careful monitoring of symptoms and exposure, and mandatory quarantining if infected. Students learned of this plan today from classroom teachers and Ms. Branen, and had discussions about what it would mean.

From the very detailed input we received from families and staff, we know that this decision may feel just right to many of you, while feeling too fast or too slow to some of you. I wanted to use the Quail’s Eye to provide some insight into our decision-making process.

As the Board considered and ultimately determined our path forward, we thought carefully about several factors:

  1. Alignment with CDC guidance and recommendations from local public health officials: The recent decision by the CDC to recommend more flexible masking policies in counties with low rates of transmission and hospitalization was at the forefront of our thinking. Our Covid safety policies have always been aligned with data and recommendations from the CDC and public health experts. The Board agreed that aligning with CDC recommendations has been a source of confidence and support to our decisions in the past, and that deviating from that guidance would make it more difficult to quickly align with CDC recommendations in the future. We feel that our school should avoid creating its own metrics and criteria for public health decision-making in almost all circumstances.

  2. Serious consideration of feedback from families, teachers, and staff: We received 120 survey responses from families and 18 from staff. Not surprisingly, our diverse and thoughtful community had diverse and thoughtful perspectives. While the majority of our families and staff were supportive of removing the mask-mandate, we learned a lot by reading your responses to the open-ended questions. The nuances, concerns, and questions raised there were significant drivers of our decision and will continue to inform how Palouse Prairie Charter School operationalizes the shift.

  3. Consistency with Moscow School District: At the start of this school year, our board decided to align closely with MSD’s covid safety decisions, because our families are part of both systems. While we were not ready to move to optional masking immediately following the shift to the CDC’s guidance – as Moscow School District and Moscow Charter School did – we felt that staying close to their timeline was a good decision for our school.

As many of your comments noted, this new phase of PPCS’s Covid Safety Plan may be temporary. If (or when) conditions change due to a new strain of Covid or other factors, we may need to go back to mandatory masking. We feel confident that PPCS can and will make that shift if needed. In the meantime, we encourage families to make mask-wearing decisions based on their own circumstances and needs - and our school’s CREW culture will ensure that these choices are valued and supported.

If you have questions or concerns about this change, please contact …

We are grateful to our teachers, staff, and whole community for your continued flexibility, encouragement, dedication, and compassion!

On behalf of the PPCS Board,

Jessica Bearman, Board Chair