As coronavirus cases rise, Boise downplays connection to classrooms

(UPDATED, 5:51 p.m., with a clarification from the Boise School District.)

Despite record coronavirus case numbers — and a stern warning from a local health official  — the Boise School District sought to ease public concerns Thursday.

The headline from a district announcement, distributed via email and posted on Boise’s website, reads as follows: “Medical Experts: ‘Boise School District Not Contributing To Community Spread of COVID-19.’”

That announcement — promoting a Monday school board meeting to discuss the district’s coronavirus plan —  prompted two parents to email Idaho Education News with questions and concerns.

Late Thursday afternoon, the district sought to clarify its announcement, acknowledging health officials’ “very real concerns” about coronavirus spread. The district also issued a letter from a local hospital official expressing support for Boise’s blend of face-to-face and online learning.

“We understand that you must weigh many factors in making decisions about the balance of in-person versus online education available to students in your district and may even determine at some point these factors weigh against in-person education,” St. Luke’s Health System children’s medical director Kenny Bramwell said in the letter, dated Wednesday. “We applaud your continued efforts to evaluate these risks and provide options that help families make the choice they feel is best for their children and families.”

Bramwell and Saint Alphonsus Medical Group President Mark Nassir are slated to issue a report to trustees Monday, and field questions about the reopening.

Boise students are attending in-person classes two days a week, with the blessing of the Central District Health department.

In early October, program manager Gina Pannell said CDH “(is) not seeing this school district contribute to transmission in the community.”

Since then, however, coronavirus case numbers have increased across the state and in Ada County. The state Department of Health and Welfare reported a record 1,290 new cases Wednesday, shattering a high mark set just one day earlier. In the past week, Ada County has reported 1,365 new cases, approaching numbers not seen since July.

“It’s pretty clear that the measures that we have in place right now are not sufficient to keep our case counts in check,” communicable disease control manager Kimberly Link told the CDH board Wednesday night, according to Rachel Roberts of the Idaho Statesman. “And to put that plainly, we’re asking folks to live a lot more as though there were stay-at-home orders in place, even though we don’t have them, just because our case numbers, they are so high.”

Monday’s Boise School Board meeting will begin at 6 p.m., and will stream on the district’s YouTube channel.

 

Kevin Richert

About Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on KIVI 6 On Your Side; "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television; and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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