Idaho coronavirus update: 3.30.20: State Board to consider extending school closures

The State Board of Education may revisit the length of time it is closing schools in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

But a decision isn’t likely to come until next week.

During a special remote meeting Monday afternoon, State Board members discussed the updated White House guidance on social distancing. On Sunday, President Trump extended social distancing guidelines until April 30. Because the guidance is so new — and because the State Board already closed schools through April 20 — board members will wait until next week to make a decision.

Board members want to discuss several topics.

“For me, it’s not just when you reopen, it is then also how long you must stay open before you shut again for summer,” Board member Dave Hill said.

“If we don’t get back to school this year, then what does that mean, especially for the seniors?” Board member Shawn Keough said.

Board President Debbie Critchfield said to consider the bigger picture.

“That would be No. 1, is this question of re-opening and looking at it from two viewpoints,” Critchfield said. “One being what would reopening look like before the year is up? And what would reopening look like for the fall?”

Before next week’s meeting, State Board members said they would contemplate guidance from public health officials and members of Idaho’s emergency K-12 council. Gov. Brad Little convened the emergency council to address the state education system’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. The council has met almost daily since then, and includes State Board members Critchfield, Linda Clark, Kurt Liebich and Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, a representative from each of the six regional superintendent’s groups, the Idaho Education Association, Idaho School Boards Association and representatives from IDLA, the charter school community and a private school representative.

The next State Board of Education meeting is expected to take place April 6.

Idaho receives waiver on food service restrictions

Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra announced Idaho has received a new federal waiver that will allow school food authorities to feed more children during emergency school closures.

Sherri Ybarra

During a Monday afternoon webinar with school leaders, Ybarra announced the United States Department of Agriculture approved Idaho’s request for a waiver that allows schools to feed students even though most in their area are not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

USDA officials granted the waiver after Ybarra wrote a letter Friday to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking for help.

“With the closure of schools in Idaho and across the nation, the children who rely on USDA nutritional programs are facing increased risks,” Ybarra wrote. Inconsistent guidance and regulatory inflexibility are currently hampering the ability of local education agencies to provide crucial nutrition to schoolchildren who otherwise will go hungry.

“Anything you can do to provide consistent guidance, expedite waiver requests, provide maximum flexibility and eliminate red tape in this time of crisis are greatly appreciated,” Ybarra concluded.

Ybarra and State Department of Education officials are hosting webinars each Monday and Wednesday to provide guidance to school leaders amid the coronavirus pandemic. Ybarra said more guidance about the recent 1 percent state holdbacks is expected to arrive later this week.

Confirmed cases update

As of the 5 p.m. Monday update, the state’s coronavirus website and Idaho’s public health districts reported 419 confirmed cases across the state, including seven deaths.

That number increased from Sunday’s confirmed statewide total of 310 cases and six deaths in Idaho.

Overall on Monday, the state was reporting confirmed cases in 25 of Idaho’s 44 counties. The counties with the highest number of cases are Ada (151), Blaine (148), Canyon (48) and Kootenai (28). Check out our map for more details. 

 

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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