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Boise School District releases phased return to school plan

Posted at 2:04 PM, Sep 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-11 08:23:51-04

BOISE, Idaho — Boise School District released its phased plan to begin to allow some students to return to in-person learning now that Central District Health has moved Ada County to Category 2 (Yellow).

The District received 383 public comments on the plan, with 86 respondents favoring the phased return plan, 70 requesting that all students return to in-person school immediately, 66 asking for school to remain all virtual, and 65 suggesting that junior and senior high school students be brought back sooner, according to a news release from the district.

Other suggestions included speeding up the phases, and variations on the proposed split schedule.

The plan will go into effect on September 21 with the goal to resume five-day-a-week in-person learning by November 9. Schools will notify parents with specifics on each school schedule beginning Friday, September 11.

  • Phase 1: PreK - 2nd Grade, SC/SLC Special Education, Alternating Schedule (3 virtual, 2 in-person)
  • Phase 2: PreK - 6th Grade, Alternating Schedule (3 virtual, 2 in-person)
  • Phase 3: PreK - 12th Grade, Alternating Schedule (3 virtual, 2 in-person)
  • Phase 4: All Students In-Person Five-Days-A-Week

According to CDH's Back to School framework, schools in Category 2 can open with the option of limited/staggered use of school buildings with physical distancing and sanitation in place. Any return to in-person learning will follow Boise School District’s Pandemic Operation Plans.

The staggered return to in-person learning will focus first on students with the highest academic needs while limiting daily in-person attendance and gradually build toward all students returning to their traditional classrooms. Students enrolled in the District’s Boise Online School will not be affected.

More information regarding transportation and specifics of meal service will be available beginning Monday, September 14.

Careful deliberation and consideration will take place before moving to the next phase. Progression through phases will be dependent upon:

  • Guidance from Central District Health
  • Guidance from Medical Professionals
  • Ability for Schools to Adhere to Safety Protocols
  • Impact of Quarantine Due to Positive COVID-19 Cases on Staff and Students

“We are excited that our community’s collective efforts have worked to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 and Central District Health has placed us in Category 2 (yellow) and we can begin to implement our phased plan to get students back safely in our schools," said Superintendent Coby Dennis. "Of course, we are hopeful everyone will continue to implement the basic precautions that have helped so far. Please, everyone, keep washing your hands, practicing social distancing and wearing your masks."

PHASED RETURN TO IN-PERSON SCHOOL PLAN

Phase 1 (Pre-K - 2nd Grade, Special Education; Alternating Daily Schedule)
Phase 1 will focus on students with the highest academic need, with a priority on early childhood education and special education. For example, PreK - 2nd grade students generally have little to no literacy skills making it very challenging for them to independently navigate online platforms, placing most of the burden on parents or caregivers. Also, young readers need intense targeted instruction that is difficult to accomplish in a virtual setting.

At a minimum, Phase 1 will last two weeks and is scheduled to begin September 21, 2020. Schedules will require half of the selected students to attend in-person two days a week and three days virtually:

Proposed Schedule:

  • Mondays: All Students Virtual
  • Tuesdays/Thursdays: Students will be divided in half alphabetically as close to 50% as possible per school while working to keep families together (Ex. Last Names A-L)
  • Wednesdays/Fridays: Students will be divided in half alphabetically as close to 50% as possible per school while working to keep families together (Ex. Last Names M-Z)

Student Demographics:

  • Pre-Kindergarten - 2nd Grade
  • Unless otherwise notified, Special Education and English Learners will follow the schedule of their general education classroom.
  • Students enrolled in classes involving specialized equipment will also continue to attend in small groups.

Phase 2 (Add Grades 3 - 6; Alternating Daily Schedule)
Phase 2 will begin no sooner than four weeks after the date when Central District Health determines Ada County is no longer in Category 3 - Substantial Community Spread. Students from grades 3 - 6 will be added to the Phase 1 daily schedule.

  • Phase 2 is scheduled to begin October 5, 2020.
  • Movement to Phase 2 will be carefully determined based on the success of Phase 1:
  • Are safety protocols able to be maintained?
  • Number of positive Covid-19 cases and students/ teachers being quarantined has not hindered school operations
  • CDH and medical professionals’ input

Phase 3 (All Students Attend; Alternating Daily Schedule)
Phase 3 will begin no sooner than six weeks after the date when Central District Health determines Ada County is no longer in Category 3 - Substantial Community Transmission [r20.rs6.net]. Junior High School and High School students will be added to the Phase 1/Phase 2 daily schedule.

  • Phase 3 is scheduled to begin October 19, 2020.

Phase 4 (All Students Attend Every Day)
Phase 4 will only begin when it has been determined we can safely reintegrate all students into their traditional classroom. Phase 4 will begin no sooner than November 9th, 2020.

PHASED RETURN TO IN-PERSON SCHOOL PLAN FAQ

How does this plan affect athletics?
Practices and competitions may now resume. This will be another step in phasing students back into our schools. While we start with PreK-2 students and athletic practices, we can closely monitor and adjust our safety protocols at all levels.

How will movement between phases be determined?
Careful deliberation and consideration will take place before moving to the next phase. Progression through phases will be dependent upon:

  • Guidance from Central District Health (CDH),
  • Guidance from medical professionals,
  • Ability for schools to adhere to safety protocols, and
  • Impact on school operations due to positive Covid-19 cases and staff and students in quarantine.

Why does the plan prioritize bringing Pre-K - 2 back in-person first?
Pre-K-2 students generally have little to no literacy skills, making it very challenging for them to independently navigate online platforms. Online instruction puts most of the burden on parents. Young readers need intense targeted instruction that is difficult to accomplish in a virtual setting.

Why not bring junior high and high school students back earlier?
The success of the overall plan depends on the ability to slowly integrate students while we ensure our safety protocols are being followed. Given that secondary students participate in classes with multiple grade levels, grades 7-9 and 10-12 will need to be brought back in the same phase.

Why does a phased reopening only involve half the students in each class attending each day?
By bringing in half of the students and teaching health and safety protocols, routines and procedures will be much more effective.

The smaller class numbers will allow for adequate physical distancing spacing in the classroom and overall lower numbers of students building-wide. In addition, the smaller class sizes will allow for targeted instruction.

Why implement virtual Mondays?
CDH provides updates to district leadership on Mondays, which will guide decision making about moving forward each week. Having three full days to identify, contact trace and quarantine students and staff after being together in the building for four days will be beneficial in stopping the spread. Custodial staff will also have more time to prepare for student return. Furthermore, teachers will be with their entire class (virtually) on Mondays and will have the ability to set expectations for the week, reinforce protocols prior to students coming to the building, and prepare all students for the week's instruction. Students will also have their 1:1 device with them in case there is a need for an extended closure beyond Monday.

Why wait to bring back grades 3 - 12?
This will allow time for adjustments in protocols and to determine what needs to change within a building to implement the pandemic operation plans while addressing the needs of our most vulnerable population.

What should families expect on the day their students are not in school?
Teachers will continue to use Google Classroom (grade 3 - secondary) and SeeSaw (grades K-2) as the platforms for instruction whether the learning is occurring in-person or virtually. For elementary students the days between in person learning will be more independent practice, some guided lessons, and work from the teacher.

How will it be determined what days students will attend?
Families will be contacted by their schools about their student’s schedule. It is the intent of the District to split the students by alphabet (for example A-L and M-Z). However, this may need to be adjusted to account for class size, combo classrooms, or to keep families together. Special consideration will be given for families with different last names.

What will happen if CDH moves Ada County to Category 2 and then determines Ada County is back to Category 3 after a period of time?
We will consult with CDH and medical professionals to determine if all students need to return to virtual learning only or if other measures can be put in place to continue in-person learning. In addition, some classes, grade levels and/or schools may have to move to virtual learning depending on positive cases and exposures. Following our safety protocols will be paramount to keeping incidents of exposure to a minimum.