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Payette School District postpones first day of school due to 'significant community spread of COVID-19'

School had been set to start with in-person classes on Monday, August 24.

PAYETTE, Idaho — Just four days before students were set to return to class, the Payette School District on Thursday announced a change of plans.

The first day of school - Monday, August 24 - has been canceled.

In a Facebook post, the district said the move was due to "a significant community spread of COVID-19 for Payette City and County."

According to the post, the district's school board will meet "as soon as possible" to determine whether the first day of school will be pushed out even further.

"Thank you for your patience and continued understanding as we navigate these uncharted waters," the district said. "We hope to have your students in school soon."

According to Southwest District Health, the city of Payette confirmed 40 coronavirus cases last week, the highest 7-day total since the beginning of the pandemic.

The decision comes days after a group of students was asked to isolate, due to possible exposure at a sports camp.

The school board voted last week to open the school year in the 'green' category despite guidance from Southwest District Health warning that the county was actually in the 'red' category.

A 'green' designation means there is little to no community spread of COVID-19 and that all students can return to school. A 'red' designation urges districts to consider online, or remote, learning.

While the health districts can make recommendations, it is up to each school district to decide how to proceed.

Earlier this week, school board member Andy Kirkendall told KTVB that district leaders will continue to look at the data moving forward.

“We have to really focus on what the data tells us now instead of what it can be,” he said.

RELATED: Payette School District to open in 'green' category despite guidance from health district

Nikki Zogg, the director for Southwest District Health, told KTVB on Monday that the decision to open in the ‘green’ category with in-person learning was concerning.

“Since mid-June, we've seen quite a few cases coming out of Payette County,” she said. “The reason that's concerning to us is because, again, we're trying to bring down the amount of disease in that community and bringing people together in close settings without taking measures into consideration how to slow the spread of the disease, that could have consequences of spreading more disease across the community.”

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