Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Garth Meyer
Whitman County Gazette 

Colfax schools to start online


August 20, 2020

COLFAX—The Colfax School board voted unanimously Monday night to start school on time in full K-12 distance-learning mode, following the recommendation of the Whitman County Health Department.

With the board’s decision, the local re-opening plan was posted to the district website and sent to the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Board of Education.

In the livestreamed meeting Aug. 17, each Colfax board member and Superintendent Jerry Pugh appeared in squares on the screen, Pugh talking at the start about the district’s options, which included a delay of two weeks to see if local COVID infection numbers change.

“First and foremost our students need to be safe,” Pugh said from his office/the district boardroom. “The probability still remains... the statistical reality is that without people wearing masks, we are susceptible to not bringing our kids back to school.”

He noted that even in an area with a low population density, a community travels, which makes a delay of two weeks a toss-up -- as people move about to and from denser areas.

“My recommendation to the board is to follow the guidance of the health department,” Pugh said before the board’s vote, referring to an Aug. 11 announcement from Troy Henderson, county public health director. “In my professional opinion, I am not qualified to second guess that, and I won’t second guess that.”

The superintendent then answered board questions, noting that if the health department’s view changes to allow for in-person learning, it would take the district “at least a week” to adjust and go back to normal – re-starting full food service, transportation and sanitizing.

Could they go back and forth as numbers rise and contract?

“We’re not that nimble enough to be able to do that,” Pugh said.

Boardmember Brian Becker concurred about starting on time (Aug. 31), to “save those potential days for later on.”

Further questions and comment ensued.

“I don’t see any other way except for what Jerry recommended us to do,” said board member Terry Huber.

“I agree from a liability standpoint,” said board president Jennifer Hauser. “To get back to the classroom, it’s gonna be a community effort to make that happen.”


To start online, the district will pick up where it left off in the spring, during which teachers went for two months on an impromptu system. That has since been modified and refined through discussions among administrators and staff over the summer.

The new format will include live-teaching sessions (online and recorded), tutoring sessions, grades and attendance requirements, through log-in check-ins.

“I feel a lot better with the new (distance-learning) plan, it’s much more robust, I feel a lot more confident... that we’ll be successful with it,” said Becker. “I think it’s a huge step in the right direction.”

“It’s very well thought-out,” said board member Erica Anderson.

Google Classroom will be the district’s universal platform for distance-learning. Paper packets will be distributed for students without online access, or limited access.

As the county is now in Phase Three of virus re-opening, some special needs students will be allowed in-person teaching in the fall at the building. Teachers may also bring in struggling students on a limited basis.

As in the spring, the district will again run bus routes to distribute food.

At the conclusion of Monday’s meeting, the board agreed that the previously established school calendar for 2020-21 remains in effect.


The 25-page district re-opening plan posted Monday night includes survey results of 238 parents who responded in mid-July to questions such as; what is needed for your student to return to in-person school?; I feel my student will be safe at school in the following areas; and what is the most pressing need for your student this fall?

To the last question, 85.7 percent of respondents chose socialization with other students. A total of 85.3% chose in-person, teacher-led instruction as the most pressing need while 60.5% chose athletics and activities.


District administrators, teachers and other staff now turn to prepare for the start of the school year at distance.

“The key for all of us is, if you’re wearing a mask, thank you,” said Pugh Tuesday. “If you’re not, please do, so we can get our kids back.”

County plans


The Garfield and Palouse school boards voted unanimously Aug. 13 to start school online for the fall.

The joint board followed the recommendation of superintendents Calvin Johnson of Palouse and Zane Wells of Garfield, along with the Whitman County Department of Health – which recommended Aug. 11 all high schools and middle schools go to online.

Middle school students attend school in Garfield, while Palouse has the elementary school and high school. Elementary students in Palouse will also begin online.

The first day of school will be delayed to Sept. 2.


The Colton school board approved Sunday, Aug. 16, a plan for in-person learning for K-12, to begin Aug. 31. The school will also offer distance-learning as an option.


Superintendent Jake Dingman speaks on a video on the district website posted Aug. 12, confirming Oakesdale will open Sept. 2 with face-to-face instruction, adding distance learning as an option.

The plan, which Dingman noted is not complete, was reviewed by the district after recommendations by the county health department, and conferring with Oakesdale Schools’ insurance carrier.

Dingman talked about the importance of in-person teaching for elementary students, as well as older kids.

“Missed by many, in my opinion, is the absolute need for students in grades sixth through 12 to be in school... the peer interactions are critical for the mental well-being of all students, of all grade levels, especially those in middle school and high school, and they are needed on a daily basis.”

The district is set to hold a modified open house Aug. 31.


The Tekoa School District board was set to meet Wednesday night, Aug. 19, for a special meeting on re-opening plans for the fall.

St. John-Endicott:

At a Monday night meeting, the school board decided to go with the hybrid model option.

Elementary students will attend in class Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with on-line classes Wednesday. Middle school and high school students will be divided into two groups with the first meeting Monday and Thursday and the second group meeting Tuesday and Friday for in-person class with the other days on-line.

Preschool in Endicott will meet in person Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with on-line Wednesday. Preschool in St. John will have 3-year-olds in-class on Monday and Tuesday and 4-years-old meeting Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

An all on-line option is available for families with tools and support offered by the districts.

The school board will review progress and make any adjustments or changes at its September meeting.


Rosalia School Board was set to meet Tuesday night after deadline to approve its plan. Once the decision is made, the information is expected to be relayed to parents and posted on the school’s website.



At a Monday night meeting, the school board approved a plan for students in all grade levels to meet in class Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday would be on-line for students while the building is cleaned and sanitized.


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