Is it back to school this week … or not?

Caldwell, Boise, and Nampa school districts were scheduled to start this week.

Only Boise will open on time.

After a summer of crossed fingers and long days trying to plan what returning to school looks like for Idaho’s K-12 students in a pandemic, plenty of districts around the state aren’t quite done planning.

At least a handful have pushed back their school start date to allow an extra week or two to plan, to fight back against health-district restrictions — or to pray that COVID cases go down so districts can invite kids back in the building.

Parents are waiting on news, waiting on schedules, and on edge.

“I just want a decision made! I know it will change over time, but please just make a decision,” one parent commented on an Idaho EdNews post asking parents for their opinions.

“Planning? What planning? I have no idea what to plan FOR,” wrote another. “The uncertainty is hard.”

With more than 170 districts and charters in  the state, fall plans are very much a patchwork.

A midsummer spike in COVID cases complicated things for Idaho’s biggest Treasure Valley districts.

The Boise district, one of the first to lay a roadmap for potential face-to-face learning in the fall, had to pivot two weeks before school to an online-only format.

Nampa and Caldwell did the same, both deciding on full online education, but pushing their start dates back at least a week.

Of course, some are bucking the trend.

The Middleton School District decided last week to work on its own risk-level criteria.

Southwest District Health, the regional authority, says Canyon County is in the most restrictive “red” category for risk of transmission of COVID-19, a category that suggests schools implement remote learning. Caldwell is doing just that. But eight miles away, Middleton trustees think that guidance is “too restrictive” for their district, board chair Kirk Adams said.

Instead of relying on a countywide risk assessment, Adams and his school board plan to evaluate city numbers for themselves to determine whether to open.

“We don’t want to be ruled with a broad brush,” Adams said.

(The Idaho School Boards Association advised districts last week to follow the health guidelines of their district).

Central, East and North Idaho are looking a bit different.

Twin Falls last week decided to start the year with in-person learning as long as the health district’s guidance doesn’t change in the next few weeks. At the meeting where trustees made that decision, some in the crowd held signs reading “teach facts not fear” and “practice education, not medicine.”

Idaho Falls decided to open in person four days a week, with students learning from home on Fridays, East Idaho News reported. Some at the reopening meeting called COVID-19 a conspiracy.

Bonneville, one of the larger districts in the state, will open with blended learning and require masks.

And plenty of schools in North Idaho just don’t know yet how they’ll approach the year. Lewiston has a meeting Monday to figure out plans for the first day of school on Aug. 26. Coeur d’Alene also has yet to announce its exact reopening strategy.

We want to hear your story about returning to schools. Want to share? Email reporter Sami Edge at [email protected]

Sami Edge

Sami Edge

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