BOISE, Idaho — As schools across Ada County open for the new school year, more attention is being shifted to how each school plans to reopen, including how schools will enforce the county's face-covering public health order.
The county's two school districts are handling the new school year in a different way. The Boise School District kicked off their year on Monday with virtual learning, while West Ada pushed back their start of the year with the hope of being able to start in-person.
Meanwhile, some private schools in Ada County are heading back to school soon with in-person classes. Central District Health says those private schools returning in-person are held to the current health orders in Ada County, there are no exceptions.
“They are expected to follow the same rules. In fact, the order is very clear. It says both private and public schools have to abide by the ordinance,” said Brandon Atkins, spokesperson for Central District Health.
Schools going back to in-person learning are expected, for example, to have students and staff wear masks, per the health order.
Each school though may have different explanations of expectations.
For example, Bishop Kelly in Boise writes in their back to school FAQ: "It is our expectation that students and faculty/staff will bring a face-covering/mask daily to school and be required to wear them for the duration of the day."
Innovate Academy & Prep School in Eagle wrote in an email to parents that students will be given a comfortable face scarf. Further explaining that “The face scarf must remain on body for the entirety of the school day”.
The email included three pictures of a scarf on a mannequin, with only one picture showing the scarf covering the face.
Atkins said regardless of what schools say, the order in Ada County is clear.
“It says face covering and it does indicate that the face-covering is to be worn over the nose and mouth and it’s for all private and public schools regardless of where they are located in Ada County,” said Atkins.
While masks guidance from CDH is very clear, there is room for individual schools to control other aspects of their school plan.
“What their learning process is going to look like for their students and how they can best meet the criteria they have been provided,” said Atkins.
Attention has been drawn to the section of the CDH order asking for groups of no more than 10 people gather. Atkins explains how that plays into school settings.
“If you’re getting together for parties, if you are getting together for weddings, those are the type of social events that we are seeing community spread heightened in. So, that’s what it’s really addressing in terms of private settings, or social settings,” said Atkins. “Private schools have the ability to navigate a little differently as far as how many people are coming in for instruction as long as they are able to meet other guidelines to help reduce the risk of COVID spreading withing their populations.”
So, things like wearing masks during the day. Atkins does add however that if schools begin to be the site of new COVID clusters, changes may need to be made.
“If we start seeing that schools are an incident where many, many cases are being attributed to school exposures, there would have to be additional tightening of regulations,” said Atkins.
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