Boise sets date to decide on in-person vs. online learning

BOISE — The Boise School Board will decide Aug. 3 whether to reopen its schools for face-to-face learning this fall.

Trustees approved the date Thursday after an hourlong virtual workshop with Central District Health program manager Gina Pannell and doctors from St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus health care systems.

Discussion revolved largely around the risk of reopening more than 40 schools for in-person instruction as coronavirus cases continue to climb in Ada County, which has emerged in recent weeks as one of five hotspots in Idaho.

Health officials are still working out metrics to measure outbreaks, a key to the state’s school reopening guidelines. But the number of local cases rounds out to “substantial community transmission,” Category 3 under the school reopening plan, Pannell told trustees. That spread would bring a recommendation to keep school buildings closed.

Still, recent measures aimed at minimizing spread could change the situation before Boise’s planned Aug. 17 reopening day, Pannell said. The Idaho Division of Public Health is working on guidance to help schools determine whether they should reopen for in-person learning.

The discussion also revolved around sports, social-emotional health and local hospitals’ ICU capacities.

Boise in June released its plan to open for in-person classes five days a week. The recent surge in cases prompted trustees to revisit the plan.

Three parents pleaded with trustees not to reopen with in-person learning.

Trustees will take public comment during the Aug. 3 meeting, which will be held virtually.

The board will also work with Central District Health, public healthcare providers and district administrators to monitor the changing conditions, Board President Nancy Gregory announced. “We are all going to move forwards to make the best decision for our community and our students.”   

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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