BOISE - In a press conference Thursday, Governor Brad Little and education leaders rolled out the new Idaho Back to School Framework today, providing recommendations to local officials in their upcoming decisions about the safe reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 school year. While this Back to School Framework will aim to provide guidelines for districts, the decision to reopen for in-person classes will ultimately be made by each individual district.
Governor Little emphasized the importance of students returning to school for in-person instruction, and the need for all Idahoans to slow the spread of COVID-19 in order to minimize disruptions in education delivery.
“We do know the 2020-2021 school year will not look the same as in previous years, but the expectation is that schools will not be closed for extended periods of time. Before coronavirus, too many Idaho students faced a significant achievement gap and ongoing risks to their mental and social wellbeing. It’s imperative that students return to their classrooms and interact directly with their teachers and classmates at the end of the summer,” Governor Little said.
The Idaho Back to School Framework sets expectations for reopening in the fall, provides support for local governance and decision-making, and offers guidance and best practices on the key operational components of reopening.
According to Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, one thing you will not see in the framework is any sort of mask "mandate." That decision, if made, will come from local officials.
Idaho State Board President Debbie Critchfield says opening schools is a priority and local school officials should use the Back to School Framework as a guide in working with local stakeholders and public health districts to open schools in a manner that fits local circumstances.
“We’ve outlined recommended procedures based on the level of coronavirus transmission occurring in various communities across the state at any given time and we’ve listed the procedures by category,” Critchfield said. “For instance, a school located in a Category 1 area where there is no community spread occurring can use this framework as guidance on how to open the school. On the other hand, a school located in a Category 3 area where there is substantial community spread will see suggested considerations for school board decision making.”
“We put this framework together with help from educators, administrators, public health officials and lawmakers,” Critchfield added. “Local governance is paramount in Idaho’s public education system. We want these decisions to be made locally and this framework is designed to help school board trustees to do what they think is best for their schools and their situation on the ground.”
The entire 30+ page document can be found HERE.
Governor Little also announced that Idaho will remain in the final stage of the Idaho Rebounds plan for another two weeks.
“We cannot succeed in rebounding our economy and safely send children back to school if we do not individually and collectively take steps now to slow the spread of coronavirus in our communities,” Governor Little added.