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West Ada parents react to school board vote to cancel COVID notification emails

Like the board's 3-2 vote, parents were split on the question of whether the email notices were helpful.

MERIDIAN, Idaho — The West Ada School District Board of Trustees on Monday voted 3-2 to no longer send emails to parents about their children possibly being exposed to COVID-19 at school.

"I'm seeing a world, a country a local state, local communities, where people are afraid. There's a big unknown out there, and with all that data going out there it just creates that fear," said Rusty Coffelt, West Ada school board chairman.

Coffelt went on to say he believes publishing case information on the district’s dashboard is also creating increased fear. However, the board did not vote to remove the dashboard.

“We have reached a point, in my opinion, that we are doing more harm than good with that,” Coffelt said.

At least one parent who testified at Monday night's meeting said she did not want the school district involved at all in healthcare decisions for her children.

However, the West Ada board's vote to no longer send out exposure notifications has some other parents worried.

“We have a medically complex child whose primary diagnosis has to do with respiratory sickness, so this being a respiratory disease that he has no existing protection for, we need to know if he's had an exposure," said Emma Ballantyne.

Ballantyne said her three-year-old son is in developmental preschool in the district and, for her, receiving any potential exposure notification is crucial for her son's health.

"It was actually one of the first things I thought about when I woke up this morning and it honestly made my husband and I consider whether or not we wanted to pull our kiddo from school,” she said. “It’s important to us from a timeline perspective, also to keep him quarantined. He has a nurse that goes to school with him and she also does some home hours, so it's respectful to her as well.”

Ballantyne said keeping her son home from school would hinder his development, and she can't afford to have someone come into their home on a daily basis. However, she said she understands why some parents get frustrated by the emails.

"I get four emails, at least, a week, and I don't have any idea which kid they are for because they're not specific even though they are in the same grade. They have different classes," said Raquel Rasmussen, a mother of two sixth-graders in the West Ada School District.

Rasmussen said that she has a chronic form of leukemia, and has her children wear masks at school. For her, it is beneficial to know if one of her children has been exposed to the virus.

"Don't they have to notify us when your child has been exposed to something? Don't they have to notify us when our kids are in a space that isn't safe, it just doesn't sit well," Rasmussen said.

What was intended to calm some fears, for some West Ada parents, the district’s decision creates more COVID fear.

"When they struck down the mask mandate, that was one thing. But this is a whole other, and it feels like they have decided that this maybe doesn't exist, and I don't know that that's how we get out of this,” Ballantyne said.

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