Coronavirus: Idaho school district to move to online-only classes until at least October

Coronavirus-confirmed healthcare workers can return to work without being testing negative
Posted at 11:34 AM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-11 13:34:14-04

This article was originally published by Jacob Scholl and Michael Lycklama of the Idaho Statesman.

Caldwell joined the list of Idaho school districts starting the academic year online Monday.

The Caldwell school board unanimously approved a plan to move all classes online starting Aug. 27. They will remain online until at least Oct. 2.

The decision to start online follows the advice of Southwest District Health, which has placed all of Canyon County in the red category of Idaho’s back-to-school guidelines. That means a community has substantial community spread of the coronavirus and comes with a recommendation to close school buildings.

Three weeks ago, Caldwell delayed its first day of school and planned to use an alternating schedule to limit the number of students. But Caldwell Superintendent Shalene French said the virus’ conditions have worsened.

“We’re disappointed. I’m disappointed,” French said during Monday’s meeting. “I was really hopeful, because we really want the children back and our youth back. That’s the joy of school.”

Dr. Richard Augustus, the chief medical officer for West Valley Medical Center, described the virus’ spread in Canyon County in stark terms for the school board Monday.

“Right now, with the health of our students, the physical health is at risk,” he said. “The CDC recommendations were that our local rate of testing positivity should only be 5% (to open schools). We haven’t done that in six or eight weeks.

“They say that we should have a low rate of community transmission. That is not our current situation. We’re currently tops in the state.

“Blaine County was really scary initially. I’m sure you all remember the news reports out of Blaine County and how scary that was. Canyon County is worse today than Blaine County ever was. We’ve exceeded that.

“... Right now, we have a serious problem. Our transmission is really high. And I think if you get the kids together right now, you’re going to increase the outbreak. And it’s already a bad outbreak in Canyon County.”

As of Monday, Canyon County reported an average of 105.8 confirmed cases per day in the past two weeks. That’s down from a peak of 143.1 but significantly more than the 39.9 it was on July 1.

Ada County, with more than twice the population, averaged 131.2 confirmed cases per day in the past two weeks.

Caldwell joins the Boise and Nampa school districts in starting the school year online. But neighboring Vallivue plans to start the year in-person with an alternating schedule Aug. 19. And West Ada, the state’s largest district, delayed the first day of school until Sept. 8.

Caldwell will distribute a laptop or iPad to all of its 6,000 students to aid with online learning.

The district will provide more information on meals and other issues before classes start virtually Aug. 27.


The coronavirus has added more burdens to many in Idaho, and state officials are providing more help.

Idaho announced a new COVID-19 crisis counseling hotline on Monday that is available for anyone facing mental health issues connected to the coronavirus outbreak, according to a news release from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Trained counselors will be able to help callers and provide emotional support. Counselors can also connect callers to resources in their communities to further help address their needs. The hotline is completely anonymous, as counselors do not label or diagnose callers and case records are not taken.

The hotline can be reached through calls or texts and is staffed seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mountain Time.

To reach the hotline, call or text 986-867-1073 or call toll-free 866-947-5186.

Other resources can also be accessed online by going to


On Monday, Idaho’s seven health districts reported a total of 379 new, confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the state’s total to 25,582.

Over half of those cases — 194 to be exact — were found in Ada County. The county’s case total is 8,600 as of Monday evening. Behind Ada was Canyon County, reporting 90 new cases Monday and bringing its total to 5,605 confirmed cases.

Three deaths were reported Monday — two in Ada and another in Owyhee County. The deaths mark the 83rd death in Ada and the third in Owyhee. Overall, Idaho has reported 239 coronavirus-related deaths since the outbreak began.

Double-digit cases were reported Monday in counties like Bannock (16), Bingham (12), Kootenai (10) and Twin Falls (15).

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported that 1,006 people have been hospitalized since the coronavirus outbreak began. The number of those admitted to intensive care units is now approaching 300 since the outbreak began. These are not numbers for those currently hospitalized, just total hospital and ICU submissions for those who tested positive for the virus.

As of Monday, Idaho’s positive testing rate is around 12.4%, as 206,830 tests have been completed since the pandemic began.

Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in nearly all of Idaho’s 44 counties: Ada 8,600, Adams 18, Bannock 402, Bear Lake 23, Benewah 58, Bingham 275, Blaine 562, Boise 40, Bonner 176, Bonneville 901, Boundary 37, Camas 1, Canyon 5,605, Caribou 29, Cassia 481, Clark 8, Clearwater 16, Custer 10, Elmore 204, Franklin 45, Fremont 76, Gem 162, Gooding 152, Idaho 31, Jefferson 172, Jerome 431, Kootenai 1,790, Latah 97, Lemhi 24, Lincoln 53, Madison 138, Minidoka 447, Nez Perce 144, Oneida 12, Owyhee 241, Payette 360, Power 60, Shoshone 96, Teton 76, Twin Falls 1,297, Valley 57 and Washington 198.

Community spread has been detected in the majority of Idaho counties: Ada, Bannock, Bear Lake, Benewah, Bingham, Blaine, Boise, Bonner, Bonneville, Boundary, Canyon, Caribou, Cassia, Clark, Clearwater, Custer, Elmore, Fremont, Gem, Gooding, Idaho, Jefferson, Jerome, Kootenai, Latah, Lemhi, Lewis, Lincoln, Madison, Minidoka, Nez Perce, Oneida, Owyhee, Payette, Power, Shoshone, Teton, Twin Falls, Valley and Washington.