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Caldwell, Kuna, Payette schools eye online options as school year draws near

Districts around the area are working to figure out how to provide a virtual schooling option, and how to make sure kids have the technology they need to learn.

CALDWELL, Idaho — As the coronavirus pandemic shows little sign of easing in the Treasure Valley, The Boise and West Ada School District have already announced that they will provide an online option for students whose families do not want them returning to an in-person classroom this fall.

Now, other districts around the area are also working to figure out how to provide a virtual schooling option, and how to make sure kids have the technology they need to learn in that environment.

Resources are a big factor in deciding how to proceed with online learning. According to a survey sent out by the Idaho State Board of Education in the spring, 176,000 Idaho students do not have a computer at home, and at least 30,000 do not have access to Wi-Fi.

Those children face a tougher uphill climb to learning online, putting them at a disadvantage.

RELATED: Idaho committee approves $50 million to fund coronavirus supplies, testing for schools reopening

But school districts say they are doing all they can to help students who opt for online school.

In the Caldwell School District, which has about 6,000 students, ChromeBooks will be handed out to students from second-grade to seniors in high school. Kindergartners and first-graders will receive an iPad to do their work.

Caldwell will provide Wi-Fi hotspots at school sites for kids without the Internet at home.

District officials say they won't know how many students need a Wi-Fi connection - or how many more devices the district needs to order - until online sign-ups are complete. The deadline to sign up in Caldwell is Aug. 6.

RELATED: Face masks will be required at all schools and universities in Ada County

Likewise, the Kuna School District has committed to providing ChromeBooks to every student and setting up a WiFi hotspot outside the schools. Students will also be allowed to check out mobile hotspots from the district, while supplies last. 

The Kuna School District currently has about 5,600 kids enrolled; it's unclear how many of those will choose to learn through the online program, officials say. The deadline to enroll online is also set for Aug. 6.

Further west, the Payette School District does not have an official online option for students returning to school. District officials say they may create one, but are waiting for the results of surveys sent out to the parents of the district's 1,365 students.

Current feedback says 432 parents prefer a traditional classroom setting while 98 would like an online option. 

The Payette School District currently has 1,200 ChromeBooks for grades 2 through 12.

RELATED: Nampa teachers want to start the school year with online-only learning

Students without Wi-Fi can connect to one of Payette's public hotspots, which were added in the spring after students were initially sent home.

Central District Health has mandated that all students in Ada County, both in K-12 schools and at the university level, wear a mask if they return to school in-person. In Canyon and Payette counties, where Southwest District Health has "recommended" mask-wearing but stop short of issuing an order, it is unclear whether students and teachers will have to wear masks. 

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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