Lawmakers push West Ada to fully reopen

As West Ada schools are opening their classrooms, 13 local legislators are urging the district to step up its plan.

“We understand that you are concerned about the risks. However, we believe that the benefits to our students and families outweigh the risks,” the lawmakers said in a letter to trustees, dated Thursday. “We urge you to vote to re-open our schools for daily, in-person learning immediately.”

West Ada schools opened their doors Monday, with most of its 40,000 students on an alternating schedule. First- through 12th-graders will attend face-to-face classes every other day. West Ada adopted the schedule of face-to-face and online learning last week, after Central District Health department officials recommended a hybrid plan, in light of slowing coronavirus case numbers.

“While the role of Central District Health is advisory in nature, ultimately the authority to decide when our students return to daily, in-person classroom instruction resides with you, our elected school board members,” the Republican lawmakers wrote.

The letter was signed by three members of GOP leadership: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Winder of Boise; House Majority Leader Mike Moyle of Star; and House Assistant Majority Leader Jason Monks of Nampa. Other co-signers were Sens. Regina Bayer of Meridian, Lori Den Hartog of Meridian, C. Scott Grow of Eagle and Fred Martin of Boise; and Reps. Gayann DeMordaunt of Eagle, Steve Harris of Meridian, James Holtzclaw of Meridian, Megan Kiska of Boise, Joe Palmer of Meridian, and John Vander Woude of Nampa.

West Ada trustees are scheduled to meet at 3 p.m. Tuesday, and the revised reopening plan is on the agenda. However, board Chairman Ed Klopfenstein described the listing as a “placeholder,” and said he doesn’t expect changes to the plan.

The text of the legislators’ letter follows:

“We realize how challenging the current situation is for board members, administrators, principals, teachers, staff, and most importantly our students and their families. We have heard from numerous parents, students and teachers and they collectively want the option to be in a daily in-person classroom environment. We share their concerns and the desire for students to have daily in-classroom instruction.

“We understand that there are multiple factors that must be weighed when it comes to the health and welfare of our community. We are concerned that students are not getting the academic skills or the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills that require an in-person learning environment. Children with learning challenges are even more in need of in-person instruction. We are increasingly alarmed by disturbing reports of child abuse and neglect during the closures of our school buildings. We understand that you are concerned about the risks. However, we believe that the benefits to our students and families outweigh the risks.

“While the role of Central District Health is advisory in nature, ultimately the authority to decide when our students return to daily, in-person classroom instruction resides with you, our elected school board members. With that in mind, we urge you to vote to re-open our schools for daily, in-person learning immediately.

“We appreciate that the West Ada online ‘Virtual School House’ will remain an option for students who may need to remain at home. With that in mind, and on behalf of the parents and students who want and need to be back in the classroom, we urge you to fully re-open schools for daily, in-person instruction.”

 

Idaho Education News reporter Sami Edge contributed to this article.

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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