USD 497 to remain in hybrid model



Schools are now in an orange phase of reopening guidance from the Douglas County Health Department.

By Nadia Sanburn and Tony Racy

USD 497 will stay in the hybrid schooling model despite the county moving into the orange status for reopening. 

The move came after the Douglas County Health Department changed it’s gating criteria on Thursday afternoon as the county entered the orange zone for the first time. Up until that point, orange status had called for remote learning but changes in the criteria now allow for both hybrid instruction and some sports.

This came as a surprise to many, as the school board’s emergency meeting had been scheduled for later that evening in response to rising COVID-19 numbers. 

School board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood expressed frustration over the sudden change in gating criteria. 

“Who’s to say that maybe we wake up tomorrow, next week, and maybe gating criteria is going to move,” she said. “The goal post just keeps moving.”

County health officer Tom Marcellino said the change came as officials believed schools could effectively manage pandemic risks in the hybrid model under current conditions.

For now, school will continue in the hybrid plan and proceed with athletic tryouts next week for most sports. It appeared that indoor sports like basketball would continue with mask requirements while play for both USD 497 athletes and their opponents. It was still unclear if wrestling would continue.

“Our message is clear: we don’t recommend wrestling,” Marcellino said. “It cannot be done safely with a mask. The mask will be removed. It’s close contact. When it comes to those other activities that are high risk, the arguments can be made for those as well. They’re not recommended.”

Douglas County jumped up to a 14-day moving average of positivity rate of 13.8 percent. The 14-day moving average of new cases now sits at 44 new cases per day, up 26.5 from October, according to a new report from LDC Public Health.

The school board made plans to meet Thursday, Nov. 19, to form a more concrete plan. Board members are concerned that the county will be in the red zone by that point and the district may need to definitively return to a remote option. 

Sophia Kaufman, Zora Lotton-Barker, and Kenna McNally contributed to this report.