Ada County schools got the news on Tuesday: Health officials say it’s safe for kids to return to school part-time.
On Wednesday, schools in Canyon and Washington counties got the same message.
The central and southwest health districts cleared about 40 districts and charters for a return to some in-person learning this week, easing suggested restrictions on school buildings in response to a decline in the risk of contracting COVID-19 in those three counties.
The decision applies to some 124,000 students, mostly concentrated in Idaho’s three largest districts: West Ada, Boise and Nampa. All three started the school year with online learning only after local health authorities categorized them in the “red” for high risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Payette County, on Idaho’s western border with Oregon, is the only county where health officials still report high-risk of COVID-19 spread.
That said, districts interpret health and state guidelines differently. Some moved to blended learning, without such a recommendation from a health district. Others could elect to stay with online-only learning despite the new health district recommendation. (Payette School District, for example, opened its school buildings in the “red” risk category, though the State Board of Education recommends districts in that category implement distance-learning.)
West Idaho’s largest districts indicated they will follow the guidance of their health districts and pivot to a hybrid learning model. With large districts in central and east Idaho already open for in-person learning, students in all 10 of Idaho’s largest districts could return to in-person learning by October.
West Ada: The district plans to reopen on Monday, after only one week of online learning that got off to a rocky start. The district will allow pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students into school full-time, while first- through 12th-grade students will attend school every other day, on an alternating schedule.
Boise: Boise will phase-in students gradually. Under the district’s proposed reopening plan Boise could allow pre-K through second-grade students and special education students back in school as early as Sept. 21, on a part-time basis. It could phase in third- through sixth-graders on Oct. 5, and reopen junior high schools and high schools for part-time learning on Oct. 19.
Nampa: Plans to allow all students to return to classes part-time by Sept. 21. Students will return to school two days a week and work online the rest of the week. Nampa also announced that a limited number of fans will be allowed into sports games. Each player, cheerleader and pep band member will be allowed to give out two tickets per game.
Caldwell: Students will remain in online learning through at least Oct. 2, according to a plan the Caldwell School Board approved in August. At a special meeting Wednesday night, the district allowed fall sports teams to join competitions, which it had restricted while the district was classified at high risk for COVID-19. Caldwell was the last district in the state to approve a return plan for fall sports, the Idaho Press reported.
To see a full interactive map of district reopening plans, click here.