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'We're committed to making sure that we look at the science': Boise School District awaits recommendation on re-opening plan

Central District Health will give the school board their re-opening recommendations on August 3.

BOISE, Idaho — Students in the Boise School District are set to begin school in three weeks. The district is attempting to clarify exactly what school will look like come August 17.

There was some confusion after a school board meeting last week. Officials with Central District Health reminded the school board that Ada County would fall under Category 3 of the state’s back to school framework.

This means if schools were to start this week, CDH would recommend that schools do not reopen physical classrooms and that all students would attend school remotely.

“They have not come out with any official recommendation,” Boise School District Spokesperson Dan Hollar said. “I want to stress that. We're expecting that on August 3rd Central District Health will have a recommendation for us.”

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This means students and parents in the school district will need to wait one more week to find out if students will be back in the classroom or learning remotely.

“We understand completely the level of stress, the level of uncertainty, the feeling of uneasiness that many of us have, including ourselves,” Hollar said.

CDH is waiting to make an official recommendation so they can continue tracking the data and better analyze the severity of Idaho's coronavirus pandemic.

Gina Pannell is a program manager for CDH. She’s also been working with schools in CDH’s region for several months now. She told the school board Ada County would fall under Category 3 of the state’s framework. This means there is substantial community transmission in the area.

“If you had to start, you know today, you'd be in Category Three, but that doesn't mean August 17 that's where we will put you,” Pannell said.

CDH monitors certain metrics to determine what category a community should fall under. Those include the rate of community spread, hospitalization data, and testing.

“We want to make sure we’re opening at a time where people feel comfortable,” Pannell said. “Including the public health professional being able to do contract tracing, hospitals with their admissions, and what they’re seeing for emergency department utilization for COVID like illness, we want our community partners to know we also agree and we feel that needs to be fairly stable.”

However, Pannell said she has a hard time seeing kids going back to school five days a week.

“It is hard to imagine everyone back five days a week with the rate of transmission that we see and even the foreseeable future, it’s going to be a challenge,” she said.

After the health district makes their recommendation to the school board, it'll ultimately be up to them to decide. They’re expected to make one on August 3.

“We're committed to making sure that we look at the science and that we work closely with CDH, our healthcare providers in St. Luke's and St. Al's being a number of those,” Hollar said. “And make sure we're making the best decision for the safety and welfare of our students, our parents, and our community as we move forward.”

Parents can still sign up for Boise School District's online program. The deadline to do that is July 31.

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