MELBA, Idaho — While most school districts in the Treasure Valley will begin the school year either entirely online or with limited in-person learning, the Melba School District in Canyon County is bringing students back to class full-time.
According to the district, it will start the school year in the "green" category, meaning low community spread of COVID-19. It also means kids will be back in class five days a week.
Superintendent Sherry Ann Adams told KTVB that the district sent out a survey to parents and staff who overwhelmingly supported returning students to school.
The poll found that 83% of parents planned on sending their child back to school. 14% were unsure, while 2% said they will send their child back when a vaccine is ready, and 1% said they will not be sending their child back.
“We want everyone to make the best choice for their family," Adams said. "Ultimately, we do believe it is a parent’s choice to make that decision whether they want to come into school or do online, or maybe there is another option out there for them."
The district is basing its community spread status on data for the city of Melba, which has a population of just over 500, and not the county as a whole. Canyon County has consistently been one of the state's hot spots for new coronavirus cases and is listed in the "red" alert level by Southwest District Health, meaning there is substantial community transmission of the virus.
The state's back to school framework recommends remote learning for schools in counties with substantial community spread. But that decision is ultimately up to each school board.
SWDH reports that, in the last week and a half, there have been seven confirmed and three probable cases in Melba.
Precautions are being taken, according to Adams, including enhanced sanitizing and cleaning. There will also be assigned seating on school buses and family members will sit together.
But students and staff will not be required to wear face coverings at school.
"We've put out there they're optional," Adams said. "They're recommended and we're going to encourage people to wear them. But we're going to stop short of that actual requirement. We've talked with staff that they need to be the example for their students and saying it's okay to wear a mask even if someone else doesn't want to."
Masks will be available for staff and students who want them.
There is also an online option for families not comfortable with sending their children back to school. As of Wednesday, about 40 students had signed up for the online option.
The first day of school will be Wednesday, August 19.
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