Nampa schools preparing to teach online

The Nampa School District announced Thursday it will transition to online instruction on March 31.

There is no instruction during next week’s spring break.

District and school offices will be open during normal office hours starting March 30, to answer questions and assist students and families. Teachers will use March 30 as a final preparation day before launching online distance instruction the following day.

Nampa Superintendent Paula Kellerer

Remote learning will continue for at least that week, at which point district leaders will decide whether to allow students to return to the classroom.

Nampa’s decision to go virtual follows President Trump’s guidelines to slow the spread of coronavirus by limiting contact with people and practicing social distancing.

Nampa is Idaho’s first large district to announce a fully online transition. The West Ada, Boise and Blaine County districts have voiced concerns about not being able to reach all students online.

“(We don’t) have the resources to provide online learning to all students, which is a requirement to provide a free, adequate public education for all students,” West Ada spokesman Eric Exline told EdNews Wednesday.

Exline’s comment reflects language in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which requires students to receive a “free and appropriate public education.”

Blaine County sent a note to teachers Wednesday stipulating that virtual instruction for students is optional and not associated with schools because “there are legal consequences to the district if we provide school for some, but not all students.”

Nampa has 14,000 students and about 1,700 are on individualized education plans. Half of the district’s students qualify for federal free or reduced-price lunch, a measure of poverty.

Nampa spokeswoman Kathleen Tuck told EdNews Thursday that the decision to move instruction online followed consultation with the district’s attorney. Administrators are confident the approach can be shaped to individual needs, including for students on IEPs.

The district is addressing Internet-connectivity roadblocks for some families by turning schools into hotspots and updating its Facebook page with updates on softened Internet eligibility requirements amid the pandemic.

A grab-and-go school lunch program in Nampa will also be put into effect on March 30 at bus stops in areas of high need. Nampa will release more information next week on where to pick up a daily lunch.

For families with no access to the Internet, all Nampa School District buildings will have outdoor coverage for about 50 devices at a time by the March 31 online launch.

District officials encourage patrons to check with Internet providers — AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile — who have said they will wave data overage charges or late fees. The district will continue to seek other options for connectivity for all families.

“We look forward to learning together in this new adventure,” superintendent Paula Kellerer said in an email to parents. “Thank you for your patience and support of students and staff during this challenging time.”

Idaho Education News reporter Devin Bodkin contributed to this report. 

Jennifer Swindell

Jennifer Swindell

Managing editor and CEO Jennifer Swindell founded Idaho Education News in 2013. She has led the online news platform as it has grown in readership and engagement every year, reaching over two million pageviews a year. Jennifer has more than 35 years of experience in Idaho journalism. She also has served as a public information officer for Idaho schools and as a communication director at Boise State University. She can be reached at [email protected].

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