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Idaho school districts take different approaches to COVID-19 impacting schools

The Bruneau-Grand View School District canceled class for the elementary after just two weeks in session due to COVID-19 exposure.

GRAND VIEW, Idaho — As school districts around the Gem State welcome students back into classrooms, some are already having to respond to students and staff getting infected with the contagious virus.

The Bruneau-Grand View School District has been been in session for the 2021-2022 school year for two weeks but due to COVID-19 exposure, the elementary school canceled all classes. Students will have to remotely learn until next Tuesday.

"We followed our protocol and quarantined those students but we know that COVID is in the community and we have several adults who have tested positive and so just out of an abundance of caution and to pump the break a little bit on covid, we are closing that school just for this week and students will report back on Tuesday," Todd Shumway, the Bruneau-Grand view School District superintendent, said.

On the other side of the Gem State in Victor, which is near the Idaho-Wyoming state border, classes started on Monday. The mayor of Victor, Will Frohlich, recently issued a face mask mandate for all students and staff.

"I then declared an emergency declaration for the city of Victor and then the following night on Wednesday, city council approved that ordinance as well and then they were also in support of then putting a mask order into place inclusive of all businesses and building inside the city limits," Frohlich told KTVB.

However, the Teton School District, which has jurisdiction in Victor, is moving along with no face mask mandate this school year.

"That's when the school board felt that that mask order did not apply to them," Frohlich said. "They basically approved a plan in the end that did not follow CDC guidelines and the plan does not seem to be complete about what entails going back to school and keeping kids safe."

He explained that he had three goals: keep businesses open, keep students in classrooms and make sure the local health systems don't collapse. But he said the school district's decision goes against all three.

"As an elected official, whether you are council or mayor, you are not making a personal decision you know you are looking out for the health and safety of your community," Frohlich said."Unfortunately, now the community becomes more divided instead of the school board making the same decision that they have made so importantly last year to require masks and it worked last year we were one of the few school districts in the entire region that remained open our entire school season."

The school district's superintendent wrote a letter to the city, and said the district is "an independent governmental entity" and that the city "does not have jurisdiction or authority over school district matters."

"Now, we have a lot of parents who are concerned of what's gonna happen or when it does how are we going to handle it and what are we going to do to protect our kids," Frohlich said. "We don't feel like we are in a unified approach to the same time that we were in last year."

Former Idaho Attorney General David Leroy told KTVB that this situation is a perfect storm since both the city and the school district have the responsibility to oversee the health and safety of people in their jurisdiction. If both sides hold their ground, Leroy said the resolution could be negotiated privately between the city and district or could be decided by a judge.

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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