GOODING, Idaho — After ongoing staffing shortages and student absences, Gooding’s North Valley Academy announced they would return to distance learning until February 21.
“We were missing between 20 and 40% of our staff and 15 to 25% of our students at least, and sometimes it was more, so for the staff that’s here, it’s exhausting for them to cover everything, and we are not finding enough subs. So we wanted to give everybody the best opportunity to learn, but safety and health is the number one priority,” said Jeff Klamm, principal of North Valley Academy.
Starting February 3, North Valley Academy students are home, on their Chromebooks. The decision comes after 85% of parents, who responded to a survey sent out by the school, opted to keep kids home for distance learning, instead of extending school into summer due to a closure.
Staffing is down due to COVID-19 as well as other illnesses.
The school is better prepared for distance learning, than at the beginning of the pandemic. Teachers have more resources and the school now has better devices for students in a higher quantity, according to Klamm.
For parents, making arrangements for distance learning has required sacrifice.
“Because of all of the problems that we’ve had throughout the last couple of years, I actually had to resign in my position last year, in January, due to the fact that we we’re going to be home off and on with Cori,” said Chris Welker-Sutliff, Cori Welker-Sutliff’s mother.
Welker-Sutliff fears that time away from the normal classroom structure could lead to her fifth grade daughter to fall behind.
“Her teachers at North Valley are great about responding back to us, giving us all the help and support that they can, of course from a distance, but it’s still a struggle,” said Welker-Sutliff.
Cori Welker-Sutliff, a North Valley Academy fifth grader, worries about missing out in her music class, where she plays the violin.
“How do we play as a whole class in a video chat?” said Cori.
The school is hoping for a fast and safe return for staff and students.
“We do know that it is hard to learn virtually and we know that this is a short term solution. We are not planning on this being long-term, that was one thing that we stressed to students yesterday, work hard for two weeks, we will be back in person,” said Klamm.
The school has provided Chromebooks to students who need them; they can be requested here. North Valley also continues to provide lunch to students. Parents can access a request form online and then pick up lunches at North Valley Academy or at bus pickup locations.
“I really hope when the return happens they stay in school. North Valley Academy has been dynamite, they work really hard to keep the kids in school so if they had to close it was for a very good reason, otherwise they would have the kids in school because those teachers love their students,” said Welker-Sutliff.