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'You simply don't care about my friends and students': Former Borah High teacher calls out Boise School District's reopening plan

Kat Olsson, who resigned last year from Borah High, wrote an open letter to Boise School District's superintendent regarding the district's 'weak' plan to reopen.

BOISE, Idaho — Boise Schools are just 25 days out from their scheduled reopening.

On Wednesday, Boise School District superintendent Coby Dennis sent a video message to staff, trying to ease concerns over reopening.

"I've heard words like afraid, worried, and scared. I want you to know we're scared too," Dennis said in the video. "Even with all the uncertainty, I know this much is true: the single most important thing we will do this year is reopen our doors for our kids."

After the video was sent to staff, a former district teacher reached out to Dennis with her concerns.

Kat Olsson, who resigned last year from Borah High, wrote an open letter to Dennis, calling into question the district's "weak response to reopening".

"The video you sent today had no substance, no encouragement, and no plan.  It was an insipid attempt at pacifying your staff into silence," Olsson wrote in the letter. "I can't imagine that you honestly think that BSD's current reopening plan is sufficiently safe. You all are intelligent, educated people. So I'm forced to conclude that your weak response is either the result of cowardice or worse, that you simply don't care about my friends and students."

When asked why she decided to write that letter, Olsson said it was important to speak on behalf of those who are scared and struggling.  

"So many people don't know how to make decisions about their kids, make decisions about their families," Olsson said.  "So I was just trying to speak to that from my perspective."

Specifically, current teachers who are employed by BSD have concerns regarding the upcoming school year.

"So many of those conversations are people saying, 'Last year I had 38 kids in my classroom, and I didn't have enough desks. How are we supposed to social distance?'" Olson said. "People saying, 'I have immune-compromised family members. How am I supposed to decide between keeping my job and keeping them safe?'" 

RELATED: Idaho again to be held in Stage 4 as coronavirus rates soar

Olsson says this is not the fault of the teachers because they don't have the funding to do what schools are supposed to do, which is not just teach kids but support and protect. She wants the district to make a plan to help families already struggling with a lack of resources.

"Don't just say, 'Well, we're going to give it our best shot, and whatever happens happens.' That's not good enough because these are lives that we're talking about," Olsson said.  

In that video, Dennis said his staff has spent months planning and discussing the importance of getting kids back in the classroom.

"Without our schools, students can't build healthy relationships and society suffers," Dennis said. "Kids lose educational time and the next generation suffers. Parents can't work and the economy suffers."

While she understands and shares Dennis' point of view, she's not sure what's different now.

"I want to know what's changed since March when you told [staff members] it wasn't safe to be in school," Olsson said. "What's changed from now until then other than the political situation? There are plans in place. I appreciate plans in place. I think there needs to be better plans in place."

The Boise School District issued this statement in response to Olsson's letter:

"We do have plans to keep students, staff, and our community safe. Central District Health and other public health officials support our pandemic operation plans. 

We will release further information about how school looks for fall in early August, when CDH is expected to release guidance/recommendations about holding in-person school and when our Board is expected to make a decision about holding in-person school."

On Thursday, the Boise School District Board of Trustees said they would make a final decision on if schools would reopen for in-person learning by August 3.

Parents who would like to enroll their child in Boise Online School after July 31 can do so by contacting their child's school.

RELATED: Boise School Board plans to make decision regarding school starting in early August

RELATED: Local school districts adjusting plans as Idaho students prepare to head back to class

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