BOISE, Idaho — After months of anticipation from students and teachers, the two largest school districts in Idaho, Boise and West Ada, are set to bring all students back to the classroom for full-time, in-person learning on March 29 and 30.
The Boise School District (BSD) brought students in grades K-6 back full-time in early March. On Monday, students in grades 7-12 returned full-time as well.
“Today is a historic day, if you will, as far as the district's history. For the first time in over a year, we’ve been able to say we have students back full-time learning in-person five days a week,” BSD spokesperson Dan Hollar said. “Learning best occurs when it’s in-person with our students and they are delighted to be back. I know after making some calls to our schools and staff members there is an uptick in morale. An uptick in morale among our students, too. They can see their friends and reconnect and so we are happy, it's been a great day.”
While it is exciting to get back to a more normal schedule, things at school will look and feel different than the last time students were learning in-person full time. BSD students will be wearing masks asked to distance as much as possible for the remainder of the school year.
“That will be key to making sure we can remain in-person full-time learning," Hollar said. "We want to finish the school year strong and I think our staff and families want to do the same thing."
The neighboring West Ada School District will make a similar move on Tuesday.
“Our students in grades six through 12 have been going on a hybrid schedule for the past few months," West Ada spokesperson Char Jackson said. "The lower grades have been in-person every day but the upper grades, this will be the first time in a year that they have all been together starting tomorrow.”
West Ada will continue teaching students remotely on Mondays for the rest of the school year, according to Jackson, but Tuesday through Friday will be in-person.
“We know with that comes a lot of excitement but we want students to be mindful of our safety protocols and remember that we have to wear our masks, wash our hands, keep distant from each other when possible and use all of those safety protocols that we have talked so much about over the course of the last few months,” Jackson said.
West Ada saw students and staff make it clear they wanted to be full time by demonstrating a commitment to mask-wearing as well as distancing as much as possible. They know to finish the year in-person that commitment needs to continue.
“We know that the more time they can spend in the classroom, the more valuable that is going to be for their education," Jackson said. "Fulfilling these last few weeks of in-person learning, we're just really happy that’s a goal that we’ve been able to attain and be able to maintain, hopefully."
Health experts in Idaho and around the country have worked to remind people that even though things are getting back to more normal times, the COVID-19 pandemic is still very active.
For both BSD and West Ada, the return to in-person marks a major milestone.
“It’s going to be a really welcoming day for all the students, just making everyone feel really welcome and just keeping in-mind that we need to be safe at the same time," Jackson said. "But it is exciting and teachers do have a lot of special things planned for the students who are returning."
“It’s been a rough go for all of us as a community, but I think that we are stronger together," Hollar said. "We are stronger together because we work together as a community. So, there is a level of emotion, of joy, to be able to have our students back with us in-person so that learning occurs in the most effective way possible."
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