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Boise schools could begin reopening Sept. 21 — but gradually

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Posted at 11:46 AM, Sep 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-03 13:46:02-04

BOISE, Idaho — This article was written by Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News.

Some students could return to Boise school buildings as soon as Sept. 21 — as part of a phased reopening plan over the course of nearly two months.

But the plan and the timetable hinge on recommendations from local health officials.

The reopening plan, spelled out during a Boise School Board meeting Thursday morning, is a moot point for now. On Monday, Central District Health officials kept Ada County in the “red” Category 3 for coronavirus — and based on substantial virus spread, CDH said Boise schools should remain online. Boise schools opened Aug. 17, and all of the district’s 25,000 K-12 students have been learning online.

A new CDH report is due Tuesday, after the Labor Day holiday weekend. With new coronavirus case numbers dropping, Boise school administrators are optimistic; they’re hoping CDH will move Ada County into the “yellow” Category 2, recommending some mix of online and in-person learning.

If that recommendation comes next week, here’s how a Boise school reopening plan could unfold:

Sept. 21: Schools could open for pre-kindergarten through second-grade students. All of these students would still attend virtual classes on Monday. But they would come back to school two days a week: students with last names beginning with “A” through “L” would attend in-person classes Tuesdays and Thursdays, while students with last names beginning with “M” through “Z” would be in school Wednesdays and Fridays.

Oct. 5: Elementry schools would open to all students. Third- through sixth-graders would start hybrid learning, on the same schedule used in pre-K through second grade.

Oct. 19: Seventh- through 12th-graders would return to school, following the same hybrid schedule used at the elementary schools.

Nov. 9: All students could return to school full-time.

The timetable is fluid, and represents the earliest possible dates in the reopening plan. The schedule could slide, depending on CDH recommendations and coronavirus cases in schools.

CDH has reviewed Boise’s reopening plan, Deputy Superintendent Lisa Roberts said. “They really like our idea of going slow,” Roberts told trustees.

But it’s unclear whether Boise schools could fully reopen in November — or any time soon — without running afoul of CDH guidelines. In July, CDH said it’s unlikely that Ada County could ever reach the “green” Category 1 this school year — which comes with the recommendation that schools can fully reopen.

Trustee reactions were mixed. Troy Rohn said he would like to see junior high school and high school students return to class sooner. Others praised the gradual approach.

Board Chairwoman Nancy Gregory said she was just hoping for the go-ahead from CDH. “It’s exciting to know that we’re moving somewhere.”