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Gov. Little leaves decision to close schools over coronavirus concerns up to individual districts

The governor made the announcement on Sunday as Idaho had five confirmed cases of coronavirus

BOISE, Idaho — Gov. Brad Little announced on Sunday afternoon that no schools in the Treasure Valley and across Idaho will be forced to closed as part of precautions to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. 

See the full list of school closures and other postponed events here. 

In Idaho, there are currently 5 confirmed cases of COVID-19. See our real-time updates here. 

The decision was made during a conference call on Sunday afternoon between Idaho Gov. Brad Little and several Southern Idaho superintendents and other education officials, according to the athletic director of Ririe Middle and High School, Matt Harris.

The call involved leaders in with West Ada, Nampa, Caldwell, Kuna, and other Treasure Valley schools, according to a memo on the Boise School District website from district superintendent Coby Dennis.  

Scott Phillips, a spokesperson for the Idaho State Department of Education, says the reason school closures were left up to individual school districts is because Idaho is a local control state.

"As a local control state, the Idaho State Department of Education and the superintendent believe that the decision whether to close or remain open at this time is a decision that is best made by local officials, the school board trustees, the superintendents, charter school administrators, in conjunction with their local public health officials," Phillips said. "They are the ones who know what is happening in their communities and really understand what parents need, want, and what is best for students. The department is here to  support the local school districts and charter schools in making those decisions."

On Sunday morning, The Idaho Education Association (IEA), an advocacy group for educators in Idaho, called on the Idaho Department of Education to close all schools in Idaho to address the novel coronavirus situation.

A spokesperson for Gov. Little told KTVB that individual school districts can coordinate with their local health agencies to make a plan. Any school closures will be made by individual school districts.

The West Ada School District announced that they will be holding normal classes on Monday and are being urged to continuing having school this week.

Superintendent of West Ada School District Dr. Mary Ann Rannells said:

Over this weekend, we have agonized over the decision whether to close schools prior to spring break.  Our entire COVID-19 task force met Saturday and Sunday.  We spoke with various government agencies at every level of government all the way to the Governor’s office.  We read your emails.  We heard from staff.  We watched what was being posted on social media. 

This was an extremely hard decision, but agencies at every level of government urged us to continue school next week.  We are continuing school tomorrow. 

Many aspects of your lives are now being affected by the arrival of COVID-19 in Idaho.  All of us will be thinking about how best to get through the spread of infection during the next few months.  At the heart of our decision-making process was thinking about what is best for our students, our families, and the community as a whole.  The decision meant thinking about all of the students we serve, from those who depend on the various services schools offer to students who profit from their academic success.

The following are the guidelines for tomorrow, Monday, March 16th.  Events are changing rapidly, and we will be meeting again tomorrow to review what steps we will need to take next.

KTVB is closely monitoring COVID-19 in Idaho. See our real-time updates for the latest news and check our list of all events canceled or postponed.  

For detailed information about school and event closures and cancelations, visit our comprehensive list that is updated in real-time.

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.

If you haven't already, you can download the KTVB news app to get push alerts for significant updates. 

RELATED: List of events canceled or postponed in Idaho due to the coronavirus

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