BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho State Board of Education met Thursday morning to discuss reopening schools across the state once the threat of coronavirus has passed.
Board members hammered out a set of criteria that must be met before the "soft closure" of schools can be lifted. Although Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Wednesday extended the state's stay-at-home order until April 30, the governor explicitly said the closures and other restrictions did not apply to schools, leaving that decision up to the state board.
The criteria decided on by the Board of Education include not starting in-person learning until there are no statewide or local social distancing restrictions, including stay home orders or extensive business closures.
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Exceptions to that rule can be decided on a case-by-case at the district level, for things like proctoring exams or one-on-one work with special needs students, as long as the school is able to effectively maintain hygiene and sanitation.
Members also voted not to reopen schools until at least 14 days after the peak of COVID-19 infection, as determined by the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. Schools in counties without known community spread may be able to have the 14-day waiting period waived.
The criteria also included having the local public health district review school district and charter schools' disinfection protocols and sign off on reopening, as well as having a "re-entry plan" approved by the local board of trustees.
The various items required in a reentry plan are listed below:
a. Cleaning and disinfection protocols.
b. Identify and plan for vulnerable staff and students with a special emphasis on people over age 60 and those who are medically vulnerable.
c. Identify and plan for staff duties which require close contact.
d. Absenteeism plan for staff and students whose parents do not feel comfortable returning their student to school and for students who show symptoms of the coronavirus.
e. Communications plan for informing parents and staff of the school district and charter school response plans, protocols, and policies to manage the impact of the coronavirus.
f. Verify point of contact for each school district and charter school for effective communication and collaboration with the local public health officials.
g. Reopening plans are reviewed in consultation with local public health officials.
Board members voted unanimously to adopt the criteria Thursday.
Although the board stopped short of officially mandating distance learning through the end of the 2019-1010 school year, the criteria make it unlikely that many schools - if any - will be able to return ahead of the summer break.
Some districts, including the Boise School District, have already announced that they will continue distance learning through the rest of this school year.
At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.
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