Covid-19 prompts return to remote learning in some Idaho schools

Students in Snake River’s Rockford Elementary school got to attend school in person for only a few days this fall, before community spread of COVID-19 among staff members sent them home for two weeks of remote learning.

In the second week of in-person learning in the Bruneau-Grand View district, more than a third of the 94 students at Grand View Elementary had been exposed to COVID-19 after a couple of students tested positive for the virus. Students at that elementary are learning remotely from Aug. 30 through Sept. 7.

Compass Public Charter School, in Meridian, is also closed until after the Labor Day holiday due to “substantial spread” of COVID-19 within the school community, according to a Monday letter to families. The charter serves some 1,150 kids.

Just weeks into the 2020-21 school year, COVID-19 has again disrupted in-person learning for some Idaho students in districts without mask mandates, as the virus continues to rip through the Gem State and cases climb among school-aged kids.

Neither the Snake River nor Bruneau-Grand View school districts require students and staff to wear masks at all times. Idaho Education News has asked the superintendents of each district whether that might change following the school closures.

At least 12 Idaho districts and charters are requiring their 32,000 students to wear masks. About 163 districts and charters are not requiring mask for their 275,000 students, including West Ada, which allows students to opt out of wearing a face mask with a parent/guardian permission slip.

East Idaho News reported on the Rockford Elementary closure last week. At the time, superintendent Mark Kress told the paper that four staff members had confirmed cases of COVID-19, but zero cases had been confirmed among  the 145 students. EdNews reached out to Kress on Monday and will update this story if new information becomes available.

Rockford students will be allowed to return to the classroom after the Labor Day weekend, according to a note from principal Dave Dougal. Kress told East Idaho news that most teachers and some students were allowed to work in a  hybrid format from the school building last week, and that the district is trying to make accommodations for students with two working parents.

“I’m disappointed that we’re back in this situation. Everybody hoped that it would fade away, but COVID is still around,” Kress told the paper. “Our healthcare facilities have informed us of their dire needs. We don’t necessarily have an outbreak that’s outrageous, but we’re trying to make sure that we don’t have an outbreak that’s outrageous.”

Grand View Elementary students will also be allowed back to school after the Labor Day holiday, according to a notification from principal Alex Meyers. KTVB Channel seven first reported on that school closure Sunday night.

“In the past we would have said it’s better to air on the side of caution, and I think that’s more relevant now,” said superintendent Todd Shumway. “It helps parents and students to all remember, too, we’ve got to do the things that are necessary to keep this  away: We need to make sure that we’re washing our hands, we’re wearing face coverings, we’re getting vaccinated and we’re sanitizing our work spaces.”

Regardless, Shumway said the district will keep its mask policy optional once the students return to school.

“It’s very supported by our community that people have the ability to chose for themselves,” Shumway told Idaho EdNews.

Compass Charter had also not been requiring masks, but was asking families to do a daily COVID-19 screening before school, asking whether students had any potential COVID-19 symptoms or had been exposed to the virus.

“Unfortunately, we have had a lot of students attending school who either have symptoms of illness or have family members at home who have COVID symptoms,” school administrators wrote in a letter to families. “This has resulted in a substantial spread within our Compass community.”

Upon a return to school “staff and  students are encouraged to wear a face covering,” the letter says.

Do you know of another schools closed due to COVID-19?  Let us know by emailing reporter Sami Edge at [email protected] 

Sami Edge

About Sami Edge

Reporter Sami Edge, a University of Oregon graduate, joined Idaho Education News in 2019. She is a 2019 Education Writers Association fellow reporting on Latino student outcomes in Idaho. She also is a 2019 American Press Institute fellow. She can be reached at [email protected].

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