More than 200 school administrators are gathering in Boise on Wednesday for the annual Idaho Association of School Administrators education conference. The two-day event will be one of the first, in-person, indoor public events in Boise since the coronavirus pandemic took hold and disrupted life across the globe.
The Idaho Association of School Administrators and Boise Center staffers sought and received the approval from Central District Health to go forward with the event, said IASA Executive Director Andy Grover said. An Ada County’s public health order has banned public and private gatherings of 50 or more.
Organizers decided to go forward with the conference because they said they have valuable sessions planned about school reopening and remote learning. They also hope to serve as a model for how to bring people together and hold events safely with hundreds of participants.
“We’re meeting all the (safety) requirements to show that it is possible to have a meeting and we believe the information that is going to be pushed out is very needed for all districts,” Grover said Tuesday morning. “There seems to be way more questions than answers at this point.”
This year’s conference will look and feel different than past IASA events.
- Attendance will decrease from about 450 to a max of 280.
- All guests will have their temperatures taken at the door when they arrive at the conference.
- Masks will be required.
- Social distancing will be required in the rooms. To accommodate social distancing, Grover said guests will be limited to seat one-per-table. Capacity for individual rooms will be capped at 50.
“We’re doing all these different things and doing them in a way most schools are going to have to replicate,” Grover said. “Whether it’s masks, or social distancing, all the different parts of that have to be addressed. We have to figure out how to do it.”
CDH officials approved the plans for the conference.
“Central District Health staff have reviewed the plan for this conference which is still taking place in-person,” CDH public information officer Christine Myron wrote in an email to Idaho Education News on Monday. “The Boise Centre submitted its plan and is following every protocol asked of them. For instance, this years’ attendance is reduced to 280, and individual conference rooms accommodate 50 or fewer attendees.”
Conference breakout sessions and speakers are geared around several topics, including:
- Learning from the 2020 pandemic and preparing for e-learning.
- Changes and new mandates of Title IX.
- Education laws review.
- The future of learning.
- Successful school reopening.
IASA’s board decided in April to have the conference in-person, Grover said. IASA officials weighted the pros and cons, including the possibility that school officials could contract the coronavirus in Boise this week, bring it back to their local districts and infect their staff or students.
Idaho’s first confirmed, positive COVID-19 case came from a woman who attended a conference in New York and brought the virus back to Idaho, public health officials said March 13.
In the end, Grover said school administrators who make up IASA’s members helped make the decision. When offered the possibility of a remote conference, just 14 people signed up to attend virtually compared to as many as 280 who signed up to attend in-person, IASA Associate Director Kristen Shreve said.
Due to the interest in staging the event in person, IASA staff worked with Boise Centre and CDH officials to develop and implement a safety plan, Grover said.
“That conversation has gone back and forth and we watch it (the pandemic) every day because things change monthly, weekly and daily and we’re trying to make sure to pull it off in the safest way possible and still give people the opportunity to come,” Grover said.
Each IASA conference session will be recorded for school administrators who did not feel comfortable or are not able to attend.
A full schedule of events and speakers is available on the IASA website. Once capacity is reached, Boise Center officials will close the doors and not allow standing room or walk-up attendees, Grover said.