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Local schools response to reopening for fall

Posted at 9:52 PM, Jul 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 11:26:01-04

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — Governor Little hosted a press conference Thursday regarding school districts reopening with safety measures for this upcoming fall. Schools all over Idaho will react differently to how they host their students.

Cassia County School District currently finds itself battling clusters of COVID-19. For this reason, the district would be in Category Two of Governor Little's framework if reopening started now. In Category Two, districts with COVID cases are allowed to have their buildings at fully, limited, or staggered openings to keep fewer students in the school at one time.

As the school year edges closer, a committee for Cassia monitors COVID numbers and is looking to ramp up safety measures across their schools. On July 14, the committee will meet one more time to finalize their proposed plans and then meet with the board on July 16 to vote on ideas for the school year.

COVID is an everchanging situation, but the district is thinking of all sorts of possibilities. That could mean attempting to implement social distancing in classrooms, sanitizing regularly, and encouraging usage of masks and other forms of PPE.

The district is even contemplating refining the schedules for the school; that way, students can limit contact with one another.

"Do we need to alter our day, do we need to look at a split schedule, do we need to look at something that alternates so that we can get all the kids in front of their teachers in at least every other day type of pattern," says Jim Shank, Superintendent of Cassia School District.

For students who may not be comfortable going back to such a crowded setting, Cassia is taking to digital means through an online academy. They are also implementing this in the event a closure was to take place. If a school potentially needed to close, that district would communicate with their local health district who would advise them on whether or not to stay in session or go digital.

Kimberly School District demonstrated a robust response plan when school closures first took place. As they plan to reopen, many are confident with what the district will decide to do. Yet, there is still concern from teachers who will be on the front lines every day, assisting kids in learning.

"I think as educators, we always dig in and try to make the very best of it, but it's going to be hard with this additional layer to try and deliver the quality education in a safe environment," says Julie Underwood, a teacher in the Kimberly School District.

Underwood also discussed how she would try and make it as safe as possible in her classroom. That includes spreading out chairs and desks within the class for limited--if any--group work and hand sanitizer being regularly available for her students.

While it will be difficult to adjust and adapt to policies for the upcoming fall classes, everyone will be working to keep staff and students safe.

"I just that think that we all have to hope for the best and take care and take part with our own safety, and just know how serious what we're facing is and how creative we're going to have to be and flexible we're going to have to be to make this work for everybody," says Underwood.