Idaho Falls teachers’ union opposes revamped reopening plan

The Idaho Falls School District’s board of trustees and local teachers union are at odds over a plan to start the school year with a four-day, in-person learning model.

The Idaho Falls Education Association’s executive committee voted unanimously Thursday against the school board’s decision last week to revise the district’s reopening plan. The revisions allow the district’s more than 10,000 students to attend classes Mondays through Thursdays and learn at home on Fridays.

Idaho Falls Superintendent George Boland.

“This action took away the voice of our superintendent, our reopening committees, the district administrators and all of the input that the stakeholders gave on the previously adopted plan,” the association said in a statement Thursday.

Idaho Falls had approved a reopening plan that allowed for in-person, hybrid or fully online learning models built around the active number of local cases of coronavirus. Local spread of the disease had prompted school leaders to consider starting the school year off with a hybrid schedule, but trustee Paul Haacke voiced reservations during a board meeting Wednesday about holding classes online more than one day out of the week.

“I would much rather have our kids in school on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday than in school on Monday and at Rigby Lake on Tuesday interacting with a whole bunch of other people that aren’t in our community,” Haacke said.

After nearly five hours of public input and discussion during Wednesday’s meeting, trustees approved a plan spearheaded by Haacke for a four-day model during the first six weeks of school. Trustees may vote during that timeframe to adopt a fully in-person model or one with a heavier emphasis on remote learning, depending on local spread of the disease.

Wednesday’s decision reflects the controversy schools across Idaho face in shaping their reopening plans amid the pandemic. Some schools have already started online, others have pushed back reopening dates or haven’t decided what to do.

Idaho Falls teachers are apprehensive about contracting the virus, the association’s president, Angela Gillman, said during Wednesday’s meeting. “Every teacher wants to return to the classroom, but teachers are afraid.”

Further Reading: An EdNews-sponsored survey of 600 Idaho parents found that 76 percent of respondents believe their children learn best in an in-person environment.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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