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

The president of the teachers union wrote a letter to the district saying classes should remain online-only until Canyon County meets three criteria for COVID-19.

NAMPA, Idaho — The Nampa Education Association is calling on the school board and district to start the school year with online-only learning.

The teachers union sent a letter outlining their concerns about going back to school since Canyon County is currently one of the top hot spots for the coronavirus in Idaho.

The association wants classes to remain online until Canyon County can meet specific criteria - including keeping the daily case rate under 50, a downward trend in the seven-day rolling average of new cases, and a decrease in the positivity rate of new cases to below 5%.

According to Southwest District Health, the average daily rate of cases is more than 50 and the rolling average has increased in the last five days. The positivity rate is available at a district level, which is 17%.

The health district covers Canyon, Owyhee, Payette, Gem, Washington, and Adams counties.

The health district also said the area would fall under the 'Substantial' category for the state's back to school framework. Under this category, the suggestion would be full distance or remote learning and school buildings would be closed for an extended period of time.

“We recognize the teacher is the most powerful resource in a student's education,” association president Eric Maine said. “The last thing that we want is to extend this out any longer than necessary. That is why we gave the specific criteria after consulting with medical personnel.”

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In the letter, Maine expressed the association’s appreciation for the joint effort of the board, administrators, teachers and staff to support the community throughout the pandemic.

He also touched on recent studies that show that even though children aren’t as affected by the virus as adults, they can transmit the disease as effectively as adults.

“We're not focused on one but all the lives that are affected by being in the buildings in this situation,” he said.

“We're not asking to stay online the whole year," Maine added. "In fact, I don't know a teacher who would rather deliver instruction online than in the building face-to-face with our students. We all want to be in the building. We all want to be there working with our students.”

The Nampa School District is equipped to conduct learning completely online. They did it after spring break in 2020 when the pandemic forced schools across the state to close. Each student has their own personal device. Elementary students received an iPad and middle and high school students got a laptop.

This was praised by Maine in his letter to the district and board. He said there was such foresight and planning of the board to adopt the 1-1 technology.

“That certainly put us in a little better position in the spring when we did have to close,” Maine said. “Now we're in a position where our numbers are significantly higher than they were in the spring. It certainly makes sense for us to put the resources we already have available to us to work to make sure we’re doing everything we can to protect the lives of the students and teachers and students' families and teachers' families and all the staff members.”

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The board will meet on Thursday night. They're expected to make a decision regarding back to school plans at that time.

KTVB reached out to the Nampa School District for this story. The district responded with the following statement:

“The Nampa School District and the Nampa Education Association have had a long and strong partnership over the years. This partnership has continued through the Covid-19 pandemic and the many challenges it has brought forth. 

The district cares for and values all our staff and understand the thoughts and concerns that were expressed in our association’s letter. Our board is aware of the health concerns in our community and has diligently worked through these concerns for several months. 

The board and the district will continue to seek input from our community, our association, and medical professionals to make the most informed decision(s) on how to reopen school in the fall.”

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