Idaho coronavirus update, 4.13.20: Pass/fail grading systems debate; stimulus funding update

The State Board of Education discussed the move to pass/fail grading policies during a special virtual meeting Monday.

However, as announced Friday, the State Board did not consider criteria local schools would need to meet if they hope to reopen this academic year. That decision will be debated Thursday morning.

As for Monday’s meeting, schools are considering pass/fail grades as the coronavirus pandemic has led to extended closures. Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra has already said local school leaders are allowed to decide how they want to handle grading, whether they retain traditional policies, adopt mastery or move to some sort of pass/fail system.

TJ Bliss, the State Board’s chief academic officer, said Idaho’s colleges and universities will work with students who receive “pass” grades during the pandemic.

“The postsecondary institutions have indicated they do not anticipate pass/fail grading in regular high school courses will have a significant impact on admissions placement or scholarship decisions,” Bliss said.

For example, Lewis-Clark State College will consider seven semester transcripts, not eight, for making scholarship decisions this fall.

However, pass/fail grades for specific programs, such as nursing or teacher’s education, may need to be specifically addressed, Bliss added.

Many high schools are considering adopting a pass/fail grading system for dual-credit courses they have moved to a virtual delivery model. Bliss said that is fine. Students who get a passing grade on a dual-credit course will not need to take any additional placement test related to that course at any Idaho college or university. Additionally, students will be allowed to move on to take the next dual-credit course in the sequence, if applicable.

Beyond that, higher education officials are working with K-12 counterparts to make the transition flexible for students.

“All of our postsecondary institutions are currently working with the high schools to determine changes in grading policies for dual credit courses that are in the best interest of students,” Bliss said.

However, University of Idaho President C. Scott Green said there is still uncertainty over collegiate athletic eligibility.

“We’ve given guidance that for those students that need to raise their GPA or otherwise for scholarship purposes or for athletic eligibility, should not take the pass/fail option,” Green said. “Our guidance, so at least what we are hearing, are those (rules) have not changed.”

In response, State Board members said they would meet with presidents and athletic directors in a week or so to iron out the issue.

Thursday’s State Board meeting begins at 9 a.m. and will also be conducted virtually.

Check back with Idaho Education News on Thursday afternoon for full coverage of that meeting.

Stimulus funding update

The possible expenses could run from the routine to the heartwrenching — mobile refrigeration units a coroner could use during a coronavirus outbreak. And with some $1.25 billion in federal money on the way within the next two weeks, a gubernatorial panel is starting to work on a plan to distribute the money and track the spending.

Gov. Brad Little’s Coronavirus Financial Advisory Committee met via conference call Monday afternoon to talk about some of these details. Little assembled the 14-member group to oversee the way the state spends its money from the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus law.

Much of the money will go to support businesses and families — the latter coming in the form of direct payments that are starting to show up in personal bank accounts. But state and local governments also will receive a share of the money.

Idaho’s share will include nearly $120 million for education: $56 million for Idaho’s public and private colleges and universities; $48 million for K-12; and $15 million Little could spend on K-12 or higher education.

The education money wasn’t discussed Monday. Instead, the committee focused on local governments. Idaho cities, counties and Indian tribes stand to receive about $375 million from the feds.

Cities and counties were asked to come up with a list of possible coronavirus-related costs. The Ada County coroner’s office said mobile refrigeration units could be one of those potential costs, said Idaho Association of Counties executive director Seth Grigg, a committee member.

In all cases, the federal money must be used to cover coronavirus-related costs from March 1 through Dec. 30. Ultimately, state officials are on the hook to make sure the money goes to cover appropriate costs, said committee chair Alex Adams, the head of Little’s Division of Financial Management.

Confirmed cases update

At its 5 p.m. update Monday, the state coronavirus website and Idaho’s public health districts were reporting 1,456 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 33 deaths across the state. That’s an increase of 27 cases and six deaths compared to Sunday.

Idaho is reporting confirmed cases in 32 of 44 counties. The counties with the most cases are Ada (529), Blaine (458), Canyon (161), Twin Falls (79) and Kootenai (45).



Kevin Richert and Clark Corbin

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday