MERIDIAN, Idaho — The West Ada School District held a special board meeting Thursday afternoon on approving a hybrid learning model for schools as Ada County is now in the red category of coronavirus spread.
One of the major issues brought up in the meeting was a large planned "sick out" of teachers and staff on Monday if the district has not moved to full remote learning by then.
During the meeting, assistant superintendent Brett Heller brought up that 728 teachers across the school district are planning on calling out sick on Monday. 220 of those are in the district's middle schools, 150 in its high schools and 180 in the elementary schools.
550 of those planned absences were still not yet covered by substitutes
"What we had as far as how many absences are already in the books for Monday and it's significant that it's to the point where it's more than we're going to be able to cover, as of right now," Heller explained.
The board had two very important tasks for Thursday's meeting - to select a new board chairman and discuss a possible hybrid learning plan while in the red category.
At the end of Tuesday's board meeting, West Ada Chairman Ed Klopfenstein abruptly resigned, saying he doesn't think other board members appreciate what he does.
He will still serve on the board, however, he just won't be the chair of the board.
In the opening moments of the special meeting, the board unanimously voted Dr. Philip Neuhoff as the new chairman of the board of trustees.
In addition to electing a new chairman, the board also planned to make a final decision on how they will move forward in their reopening plan in the red category.
In the past, being in red meant remote learning only, but Central District Health gave Boise schools the green light to continue moving forward with its plan to bring kids back to the classroom.
At Tuesday night's meeting, Heller proposed a hybrid learning plan for the red category, in which students would be broken up into two teams and go to school in-person on alternating days.
Next week's schedule will see Team One attending school in-person on Tuesday and Thursday, with Monday, Wednesday, and Friday as digital learning days. Team Two will go to school Monday, Wednesday and Friday, using Tuesday and Thursday as their distance learning days. That schedule will then switch for the following week, with Team One in-person Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and Team Two in-person Tuesday and Thursday.
Heller said this plan would give more time for teachers to plan for the rest of the week.
“I think the answer is we are going to give teachers as much time as we can, as much guidance as we can, we are going to roll up our sleeves and continue to work together and do a better job every day," he said.
Now that it's been approved on a 3-1-1 vote by the board, the plan will go into effect starting on Monday, Oct. 19.
The Board of Trustees heard testimony from several people, including the president of the West Ada Education Association, a high school teacher and a parent in the district.
Eric Thies, president of WAEA, said that in-person learning wouldn't allow for social distancing, which is encouraged by health officials around the globe, and that teachers will not work on Monday if the new plan doesn't involve fully-remote learning.
"There is not a teacher in this district that doesn't love their job or students," Thies said. "Hurts me to say that if we are not remote on Monday, we are not going into our buildings. It hurts me to say that. I don't say it on behalf of my members I say it on behalf of the 700 teachers who have the guts to stand up to their principals and to parents and to protect children because other people won't."
Board members voiced concerns about the district's ability to handle all students learning remotely at once on such short notice.
Now the district, parents, and students wait to see what Monday's "sick-out" day brings and if those 728 teachers do call out, leaving hundreds of classrooms without a teacher or substitute.