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West Ada survey finds majority of parents support students returning to school full-time while in yellow category

The district's staff are somewhat less enthusiastic about kids returning to school full-time.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — A recent survey found that a majority of West Ada School District parents support sending their kids back to school full-time while the district in the "yellow" category.

The state's largest school district sent the survey out earlier this month, asking for parents, students and staff to weigh in on a proposal to adjust the district's pandemic plan.

If the changes are approved, it would allow students to return to school for daily in-person learning while in the yellow category or on alternating days in the red category.

"Our mitigation efforts seem to be working," district spokesperson Char Jackson said on Tuesday. "We are not having spread in our schools and we have phased in grades one through four successfully so it's just looking at ways to continue that in-person learning despite what categories we might be in. Are there still ways to do that safely?" 

The color-coded categories are determined by Central District Health. Yellow means moderate community spread of COVID-19, while red means severe community spread of the virus.

Although the health district determines the categories, it is up to each individual school district to decide how and when they will bring students back for in-person learning.

The health district moved West Ada to the red category on Tuesday. Most students have been on a hybrid schedule that includes a mix of in-person and online learning.

Results from the survey showed the three main demographics are split - parents and students are in support of all scenarios while staff are more cautious.

According to the district, 64% or more of parents or guardians who responded to the survey are in support of students returning to school daily in yellow or on alternate days in red.

West Ada parent Michael Athay told KTVB he supports in-person learning. He said the COVID-19 case numbers in school are not alarming enough for him to consider fully remote learning 

"It's better than not going at all and all online it won't give that you know, any in-person learning for any grade but especially kindergarten through fifth grade, I mean it's detrimental to these kids," he said.

The percentages decrease to 55% of students in support of the alternating days in red, though 59 to 73 percent of students support attending daily when in yellow. 

School building staff who responded to the survey are not in support of any of the scenarios, with the least-supported scenarios being those that would have grades 6-12 attending school daily while in yellow.

"I respect the fact that the staff didn't like it and reality says you can’t properly social distance if you have everybody there, which goes against health guidelines," parent Farrah Storli told KTVB. "A lot of students are going to be around people and staff as well that could be high risk and there are some studies that suggest that kids can be asymptomatically spreading the virus so I think you're asking for trouble by doing that."

District Service Center and maintenance staff responding to the survey are in support of 6-12 daily attendance and K-5 on alternating days in red by more than 51%.

West Ada's COVID-19 taskforce and the Board of Trustees will review the most recent data and consider advice from health officials before making changes to the pandemic plan, district officials said.

The school board will discuss the results of the survey at Tuesday night's board meeting.

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