Public charter school eyes May 18 reopening

Local health officials approved Treasure Valley Classical Academy’s plan to bring students back to school in the coming weeks, Principal Stephen Lambert told EdNews Thursday.

The approval by Southwest District Health puts the Fruitland public charter school in compliance with reopening criteria laid out for K-12 schools by state leaders, Lambert said.

The school is eyeing a reopening date of May 18, which would give students two weeks in the classroom before leaving for summer break.

Despite the approval from health officials, Lambert said he’s being “thoughtful and careful” about bringing kids back amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s no crystal ball here,” Lambert said. “This is not a static situation.”

Lambert said some issues still need to be addressed, including how to screen students hoping to reenter the school. This will include taking students’ temperatures, and other details need to be finalized.

A forthcoming town hall meeting with families will help inform the process, said Lambert, who added that the school’s plan to reopen includes options for families and teachers who may be apprehensive about reentering in-person learning environments.

Those hoping to continue remotely will be able to, Lambert said.

Though the school’s plan won’t be available for public view until sometime before Saturday, Lambert said it will include social distancing guidelines for various situations.

Lambert encouraged parents to check the school’s website for a full plan and approval letter from local health officials in the coming days.

Caldwell-based Elevate Academy, a year-round public charter school with around 315 students, is working on a plan to reopen around June 1, said Principal Monica White. She expects to have details solidified next week.

Most Idaho public schools remain closed amid the pandemic. With tightened criteria for reopening and summer around the corner, the prospect of widespread re-openings is less likely by the day.

Local health officials turned down the West Side School District’s plan to reopen its schools earlier this week, Superintendent Spencer Barzee told EdNews.

Elevate and TVCA have been working with charter support group Bluum to create their plans.

“There’s harm caused by our kids not being in school, and if there’s a way to bring our kids back thoughtfully, safely … we should,” Bluum CEO Terry Ryan said.

The nonprofit is helping a “handful” of schools considering reopening before summer break, Ryan  said.

On Thursday, Ryan shared with EdNews a series of social-distancing pointers for leaders hoping to reopen now or in later phases of the pandemic. Bluum’s Creating Social Distance When Re Opening Schools provides 26 suggestions for social distancing in school settings.

Despite the fluid nature of the pandemic, Lambert said he feels obligated to get kids back in the classroom.

“We all miss it tremendously,” he said.

Disclosure: Idaho Education News and Bluum are funded through grants from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.

Devin Bodkin

About Devin Bodkin

Reporter Devin Bodkin covers education issues in East Idaho. He is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He is a 2019 Solutions Journalism Network fellow and the Idaho Press Club's 2019 print reporter of the year. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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