West Ada schools should remain online until further notice, local health officials said Monday.
The Central District Health department again placed Ada County in the red “Category 3” for coronavirus transmission. According to this weekly report, Ada County is still experiencing substantial coronavirus spread — and as a result, CDH recommends online instruction for West Ada, Boise and Kuna schools.
The weekly report is especially significant for West Ada, the state’s largest district. West Ada will begin classes online on Sept. 8, for at least the first week of the school year. On Monday morning, hundreds of people showed up at district headquarters to protest West Ada’s decision. (Details from the Idaho Statesman.)
“Those who attended today’s rally did so respectfully and they’re certainly welcome to voice their opinions,” district spokeswoman Char Jackson said Monday.
West Ada trustees will meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday, and the fall reopening plan is again on the board’s agenda.
CDH will make its next recommendation on Sept, 8, after the Labor Day weekend. And it could be a report to watch. At West Ada’s board meeting last week, CDH program manager Gina Pannell said Ada County’s case numbers have shown signs of improvement, and suggested the district could back off of the “red” designation by Sept. 8.
The response to CDH’s online learning recommendation has been mixed. Boise schools opened online on Aug. 17, and will remain online until CDH decides to move Ada County out of the red category. Despite CDH’s recommendation, Kuna schools opened Monday, with some in-person learning. Kuna students will attend school two days a week, on an alternating schedule, with all students in online school on Fridays.
The state’s school reopening plan spells out a delicate relationship between health districts and school districts. CDH and the state’s six other health districts monitor coronavirus spread and can recommend whether schools should open, but the decision on reopening falls to local school boards. That’s why Boise is operating online while, on the southern fringe of Ada County, Kuna is open for hybrid learning.
West Ada respects CDH’s Monday decision, Jackson said.
“As much as we want students back in the classroom, we have to take their guidance seriously,” she said. “We understand their caution as the West Ada School District and its 40,000 students and their families, as well as our staff, can have a large impact on the transmission of the virus in our community.”
Elsewhere in the central district — in Boise, Elmore and Valley counties — health officials say coronavirus spread is “minimal to moderate,” and they recommend hybrid learning.