Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties should not expect to see schools in lowest risk category

Families in Ada, Boise, Elmore and Valley counties should not expect their schools to be classified in the lowest level of coronavirus risk at any point during the 2020-21 school year, Central District Health officials announced Wednesday.

The announcement was not specific to any school. But it sets up the potential for a long year of blended or remote learning for Idaho’s two largest school districts — Boise and West Ada — and schools across the four-county health district.

Public health officials are working with local schools to help them understand where they fall under the nonbinding reopening guidance Gov. Brad Little and the State Board of Education issued earlier this month.

The state’s guidelines set up three categories based on the risk of virus transmission, with recommended levels of operations assigned to each category.

  • Category 1, or no community transmission, calls for schools to open with physical distancing and sanitation practices.
  • Category 2, or minimal to moderate community transmission, allows for schools to open but with the option of limited or staggered building use. This guidance also incorporates blended learning, a mix of in-person instruction coupled with online or distance learning.
  • Category 3, or substantial community transmission, calls for targeted short-term or extended building closures.

“Given the level of transmission and continued increases in our four counties, schools and families should not expect to see Category 1 school operations during the 2020-2021 school year,” Central District Health officials wrote in a Wednesday afternoon news release.

Central District Health also released a set of metrics to help determine the level of community spread as it relates to the state’s guidelines.

Central District Health said it will publish the recommended categories weekly on its website, beginning Monday.

Monday is also the day Boise School District trustees are expected to decide whether all students will begin the year virtually, or just students enrolled in Boise Online School.

Earlier this week, Boise administrators said Central District Health officials told trustees they were in Category 3 as of July 23.

“Under those conditions, if school were to start today, our recommendation would be to have all students in a virtual space and not physically attending our schools,” Boise school officials wrote in a Monday email to parents and staff.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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