Reopening Idaho schools this fall is a top priority for Gov. Brad Little.
Speaking during his weekly AARP telephone town hall meeting Tuesday, Little said much of the state’s effort to slow the spread of coronavirus was developed with three goals in mind.
“My goal is, ‘A’ to keep people safe, ‘B’ to restore the economy and ‘C’ to open the schools this fall, that’s probably one of my highest priorities and we have a plan to do that,” Little said.
Last week, Little’s COVID-19 task force unveiled suggestions to improve and expand testing in Idaho. But in order for it to work, Little said, Idahoans must continue doing their part to modify their behavior through physical distancing and other steps designed to limit the virus’ ability to spread.
“We have an adaptive plan and strategy to go forward to continue to keep people safe, for the economy to rebound and to open schools this fall,” Little said.
The vast majority of Idaho public schools have been physically closed since mid-March, as instruction has shifted to distance learning.
Little Tuesday did not offer a formal plan or guidance for reopening schools. Instead, the State Board of Education is working with his office to develop plans and recommendations for the upcoming school year.
However, when it comes to the plan to reopen businesses, Little said it’s too soon to tell whether Idaho will move to stage three this weekend. He said the Idaho Rebounds plan was intentionally developed in two-week increments to allow officials to see if the prior stage of reopening resulted in a spike in new COVID-19 cases.
“We don’t know about stage three because we still have the bulk of this week to get through,” Little said.
“I think we’re OK, but I don’t want to make any commitment until we see what the numbers and the statistics are,” he continued.
Stage three would allow gatherings of 10 to 50 people, if social distancing is maintained, allow bars to reopen and lift a 14-day self-quarantine for people arriving in Idaho. Little is scheduled to make an announcement during a 1:30 p.m. Thursday news conference.
Little said he and public health officials are more interested in overall trendlines and capacity than a one- or two-day increase in cases.