West Ada elementary students could return to full-time learning by the end of October

The West Ada school district is considering a plan to phase-in full-time learning for grade school students by the end of October, superintendent Mary Ann Ranells told trustees during a school board meeting Tuesday afternoon.

West Ada adopted a hybrid model of in-person and remote learning this week after starting the year on Sept. 8 with one-week of online-only instruction. While most students only attend school part-time, preschool and kindergarten students attend full-time instruction.

The school board told Ranells she could phase-in full-time learning for other grade school students depending on COVID-19 conditions. Ranells gave a potential preview of that full-time return Tuesday, but said the district is still working out the details of the transition.

  • Sept. 28: First and second grade students could return full-time.
  • Oct. 5:  Third grade could return full-time
  • Oct. 12: Fourth grade could return full-time.
  • Oct. 19: Fifth grade could return full-time.

Board members decided to delay a discussion on the potential full-time return for students in grades 6-12.

West Ada’s IT director Devan DeLashmutt told the district that widespread connectivity issues that plagued West Ada during the first week of school are waning this week, but staff are still working to get all students connected.

“It’s just going to take time,” DeLashmutt said. “Getting that last 20 percent, that last 10 percent done takes all the time and effort it took to get to the 80 percent mark.”

Connectivity was hit or miss for the more than 40,000 students in Idaho’s largest school district during the first week of online-only learning, in large part because of updates to a filtering system the district uses to prevent students from accessing inappropriate content on the internet.

The majority of the district’s laptops had updated that filtering system at the start of this week, DeLashmutt said. His team is working through “hiccups” with iPad updates and trying to address other individual connection issues.

“Teachers I’ve spoken to in the last day or so say it’s gotten significantly better. They feel the majority of their students, if not all of their students, are connecting,” assistant superintendent Bret Heller told the school board.

His family was among the thousands plagued by connection problems. Only one of Heller’s two children was able to connect with online learning last week, he told the board. His other student spent the first week of school unable to access online lessons.

But teachers for both students contacted his family to make sure kids knew what was being covered in class and could access school work, he said. If students can’t access online platforms for live virtual-classes, teachers are trying to get them connected to that instruction later in the day, or in some cases providing work on paper.

“Teachers are doing what they always do, which is finding every way,” Heller said. “But it’s certainly stressful for everyone, and it’s an added layer for teachers as connectivity issues continued.”

Sami Edge

About Sami Edge

Reporter Sami Edge, a University of Oregon graduate, joined Idaho Education News in 2019. She is a 2019 Education Writers Association fellow reporting on Latino student outcomes in Idaho. She also is a 2019 American Press Institute fellow. She can be reached at [email protected].

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