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What will school look like in the fall? Idaho education board president weighs in

"Schools are preparing for every contingency," SBOE President Debbie Critchfield said in an interview for Viewpoint.

BOISE, Idaho — As this strange and challenging school year comes to a close, the question now becomes, what will school look like in the fall?

It's a question that education leaders are working to answer now.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, teachers and students had to quickly pivot to teaching and learning remotely from home.

In an interview for Viewpoint, Idaho State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield said the goal for the fall is to have the kids and teachers back in their schools.

But the virus will still be a big concern, so school will inevitably look different when classes resume.

An added wrinkle for school districts is financial uncertainty after Gov. Brad Little ordered a 5% budget holdback for the 2020-21 school year. So in addition to coming up with a plan for how safely and effectively teach students, administrators are having to work out where to make up for that lost funding.

RELATED: Teachers unions to local school districts: 'If a global pandemic doesn’t qualify as a 'rainy day,' we don’t know what does'

Below is an excerpt from Doug Petcash's interview with Critchfield. You can watch the full interview on Viewpoint this Saturday, May 23, at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 6:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 4 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Editor's note: the following interview has been edited for clarity.

Debbie Critchfield: Any school district superintendent, board trustee that I talk to that is their goal - that we move forward with some type of physical nature in a brick and mortar setting. But we also know that schools are preparing for every contingency. That is very important - that we plan and we hope for where we'd like to be but we make sure that we've got back-up plans.

Doug Petcash: Will there be social distancing involved?

Critchfield: So long as that is a protocol in the state. I haven't heard of any school that part of their plan doesn't include that. And there are aspects of school operations that are easier to accomplish [including] recess and lunch and instruction. Some of those things are easily figured out. Bussing is another situation. And so every school district that I have talked to and has visited with other regions, they're all looking at some aspect of physical distancing with anything that they deliver to their students. 

Petcash: Extra cleaning as well?  

Critchfield: Absolutely! And a part of that also includes discussions about PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) or masks or thermometers and some of these other topics that we've heard about nationally. What that looks like logistically in our state as far as access and budgetary support for those types of things have yet to be determined. 

Petcash: I've seen reports that schools in other states are considering things such as students going to school in shifts so there aren't so many in the building at one time and having a mix of in-class and online work. Are you considering recommending anything like that?  

Critchfield: As a board of education we haven't gotten detailed in those types of recommendations. Having said that, we definitely have heard from other districts and around the state that that is one of their contingencies. How can we make sure that all of the students have some type of brick and mortar experience? If social distancing or physical distancing is in place, what do the shifts look like, making sure that smaller classrooms are in medium-sized rooms and looking at it from that perspective? 

Petcash: So, what about parents who aren't comfortable sending their kids back to school? How will they be handled and provided for? 

Critchfield: One of the requests that our board is asking school districts is to have some type of absenteeism policy in place for that very thing. Ultimately parents have all of the rights pertaining to their children just like they do in any other circumstance or any other year. So long as schools are addressing that and figuring out what that looks like so that families aren't penalized, and I know that a lot of districts are considering that for faculty that may have chronic illness or feel as though they're more at risk. So these are some of those aspects that are yet to be completely settled.

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