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West Ada School District introduces 'pod system' for returning elementary students

The new system limits group sizes in schools, shortens recess and staggers student lunch times.

BOISE, Idaho — Maintaining the proper social distance in schools is a challenging task for teachers and administrators. To make it easier, the West Ada School District introduced a "pod system" to minimize student gatherings through their phased return to school. 

The pod system will allow about 25 students to be together at once, according to West Ada's spokesperson Char Jackson.

“The idea is that it’s a classroom, a small group that does not interact with the other classrooms or pods," Jackson said. "They go out for recess for less than 15 minutes, staggered lunches, things like that. You’re minimizing interactions with other groups as much as possible.”

First and second graders filed back into classrooms for the first time this school year on Monday, while preschoolers and kindergarteners made their return on Sept. 14.

West Ada plans to have all elementary students back in classrooms by October 19 unless Central District Health (CDH) moves Ada County back to the red category, in which community transmission is high.

If the alert level regresses, students will be allowed to go back to school for 48 hours while parents make arrangements to return to online learning. Students would be able to return in phases once CDH placed West Ada back in the yellow category.

In the meantime, the pod system will be most effective if parents limit their gatherings at home.

“We are hoping parents go home and keep their groups small and their interactions stay small so we don’t spread this any further," Jackson said.

West Ada requires all students and staff to wear masks and social distance when possible, but with more and more students expected to re-enter school buildings, social distancing is not always possible.

The school district wanted to make it clear that social distancing is just as important as wearing a mask.

“Both are equally important and we have tried to educate everyone on that as much as possible," Jackson said. "Just because you have a mask on doesn’t mean you can stand next to someone for 10 or 15 minutes.”

West Ada schools each have their own health and safety plan they are required to follow on top of district-wide mandates.

“We are working to get kids back full-time as soon as possible," Jackson said. "We know the best and safest place for them to learn is in the classroom.”

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