SDE distributes hand sanitizer, masks to schools ahead of reopening

Lance Hansen, assistant superintendent of the Lewiston School District, pumps hand sanitizer into containers on July 6 for schools in Region 2. Photo courtesy of the State Department of Education.

State Department of Education officials have worked with local education officials to distribute thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer and masks in anticipation of returning to school next month.

SDE officials delivered seven 330-gallon drums of hand sanitizer and 1,000 masks to schools, using six regional distribution sites.

The delivery was timely. Last week, amid a record number of new cases of COVID-19 in Idaho, Gov. Brad Little and the State Board of Education adopted nonbinding guidelines that encourage schools to reopen.

The state guidance recommends making lots of sanitizer available. Depending on local coronavirus rates, the state guidance also recommends schools provide masks for staff and anyone who doesn’t have one but wants one.

“School safety has always been a huge part of our mission, but it has taken on additional meaning during this pandemic,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra said in a written statement. “I am thrilled that we can distribute hand sanitizer and face masks to districts and schools throughout the state to make our schools safer, healthier spaces.”

In the East Idaho town of Terreton, the West Jefferson School District served as one regional distribution site. Superintendent Shane Williams said there was “a very high response” among area schools, with officials from every school district and three different charters accepting the donations.

“For West Jefferson, we were really grateful for the opportunity to be one of the locations for the schools to come and get the sanitizer,” Williams said. “We’re grateful the State Department of Education was able to pass on this hand sanitizer and help us out at this time.”

SDE Transportation specialist Brent Mahannah pumps hand sanitizer into containers for Region 3 schools in New Meadows on July 6. Photo courtesy of the State Department of Education.

School officials transferred the sanitizer from 330-gallon drums into five-gallon jugs the SDE provided, and into empty bottles.

Williams said the donation was especially well-received because administrators and trustees are navigating funding cuts and holdbacks as the 2020-21 school year looms.

“As we look at it, it may not cover everything (for the year), but every little bit helps, especially with our current financial realities we have in school districts,” Williams said.

In West Side, district officials are finalizing their plans for the new year. But they are planning for the first day to be Aug. 19. Now, district officials will be able to count on a supply of sanitizer being on site.

SDE officials worked with Director Brad Richy and the Idaho Office of Emergency Management to distribute the sanitizer and masks.

All told, the state received a donation of 16 330-gallon drums of hand sanitizer from Exxon Mobile, SDE Communications Director Karlynn Laraway said. The SDE was given seven drums to distribute to schools and is working with Richy to deliver an additional 2,000 gallons of sanitizer, Laraway said.

Ybarra’s office purchased 100,000 masks and had 100,000 more donated, Laraway said.

Representatives of Region 3 schools line up for hand sanitizer in Meridian Tuesday. Photo courtesy of the State Department of Education.

Clark Corbin

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