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West Ada school board discusses connectivity problems, reopening plan in Tuesday's special meeting

The district's superintendent also explained the tentative plan to bring first through fifth grades back into the classrooms.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — Trustees on the board for the West Ada School District spoke with the district's technical support about its connectivity issues and with the district's superintendent about the next steps of the reopening plan during a special meeting on Tuesday.

Board members took the second half of the meeting to discuss if they needed "take action to approve, deny, amend, modify or postpone" the current revised reopening plan. The reopening plan is staying the same, but it took a lengthy discussion for the board to shelf a motion for a later meeting.

Boardmember Steve Smylie motioned to add sixth through twelfth grade to Superintendent Mary Ann Ranells' reopening plan. The motion failed on a 4-1 vote after the board agreed that the discussion on that part of the reopening plan needs to be held at a different time.

Ranells also explained to the board that she met with a COVID-19 task force and principals from the district's elementary schools about phasing in grades back into classrooms.

The tentative plan would be to have first and second graders return as early as Sept. 28, third graders back on Oct. 5, fourth graders on Oct. 12 and fifth grade back on Oct. 19. However, she emphasized that this is just the tentative plan and there are more details that need to be ironed out.

"We know that we still have many details to work out. Again, this is only the second day of the alternate-day schedule," Ranells said. "We know that it will be important that our teachers and our parents and our students have at least two weeks to become familiar with that alternate-day schedule, in case something goes awry with the virus in the coming months, and that would give at least two weeks where we could be thinking about first grade and second grade coming back, and it would also give us time to see how Pre-K and K are doing."

In the first half of the meeting, the board spoke with the district's technical support about its connectivity issues for students, which caused some problems in the district. Some students doing remote learning have been unable to connect to the VPN or log on to their classes.  

The official added that the district is opening up more helplines and are now helping more students, mostly younger kids, get their login information, rather than connecting to the servers. He added that the internet filters for students' devices can bog down the district's systems.

The district began phased in-person learning this week after Ada County was downgraded into the yellow category for coronavirus transmission. Students in first through twelfth grade have been split into two "teams," with the groups attending class in person on alternating days.