Lakeland superintendent explains decisions to parents

Lakeland School District’s monthly parent advisory meeting addressed traditional topics like enrollment and curriculum, but participants also talked through the unusual topic of “furries,” the wearing of an animal costume resembling the shape of a human.

“We absolutely don’t do furries,” said superintendent Lisa Arnold.

Meetings are scheduled monthly so parents can ask any question and for the district to provide accurate information. Arnold was unequivocal about furries.

“I have talked to our secondary principals and they have no knowledge of, nor have they seen, tails at school. I know that kids are coming home and telling their parents that everybody is wearing them. The board has said that we teach children, not animals, and so nobody gets to identify as a dog or a cat,” she explained.

About 20 parents met at the Lakeland district office Tuesday afternoon. One parent asked about possibly reducing student exposure to technology.

“It’s part of what we do,” Arnold responded. But “our teachers have worked to find the right balance.”

Adopting social studies curriculum

The district is beginning the process of adopting a new social studies curriculum by vetting about seven different fifth-grade textbooks — where most history books first discuss slavery — from multiple publishing companies. The new curriculum will be implemented next fall.

“If we’re going to have an issue, it’s going to show up there. Our goal is to kind of weed out the publishers where there’s a little bit more controversial speech around social justice and social reform ideas,” Arnold said. “We just want a social studies textbook that’s going to teach our history without any biases on either side.”

To avoid political or ideological slants, Arnold suggested Hillsdale College’s curriculum as a solution.

“Hillsdale may be our only option for that,” she said. “We looked at it and it’s really good.”

Students start interacting with the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence beginning in kindergarten and first grade. Hillsdale provides the curriculum free of charge but there is a cost to print and bind textbooks because those are not included, she said.

Any parent who is interested in serving on the curriculum adoption committee can do so. Members will read textbooks from cover to cover, looking for questionable material and academic rigor, said assistant superintendent Lynn Paslay.

Arnold said Gov. Brad Little made it illegal to teach critical race theory in Idaho.

“We’re trying to vet it really early,” Paslay said.

Political conversations should happen at home, Arnold added. “We want to feel good about the material we are putting in the hands of our kids.”

Enrollment data for each school

According to Idaho law, students can transfer to any public school within or outside their school or district boundaries. And at least four times each year, every district and charter should post on their website the space available at each school.

Idaho Education News data analyst Randy Schrader was unable to locate enrollment reports for several districts, including Caldwell, Middleton, West Ada and Boise.

Lakeland is complying. The district’s report for each school is prominent on the website.

Athol and John Brown elementary schools are full; Betty Kiefer has 22 openings and Spirit Lake 16; Garwood eight and Twin Lakes 22; Lakeland Middle School 27 and Timberlake Middle School 99; Lakeland High School 41, Timberlake High School 26 and Mountain View High School is full.

“We want to be transparent,” Arnold said. “Laws matter.”

Darren Svan

Darren Svan

Reporter Darren Svan has a background in both journalism and education. Prior to working for military schools at overseas installations, he was news editor at several publications in Wyoming and Colorado. You can send news tips to [email protected].

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