Across the country, students, parents and teachers are preparing for a school year unlike any they’ve experienced before. In the Wood River Valley, exactly what back-to-school will look like in the time of COVID-19 depends on what school you attend.
The Blaine County School District has opted to implement a mix of in-person and online classes to start the year, which is scheduled to begin districtwide on Sept. 8.
The district’s hybrid plan calls for students to attend school two days a week. Those with last names in the first half of the alphabet will attend on Monday and Wednesday and the remainder will attend on Tuesday and Thursday. Student will be expected to participate in online learning on the days they aren’t physically in school—including Fridays, when teachers will have the chance to provide additional help to students who need assistance.
The district’s board of trustees will reevaluate learning models in a special meeting on Sept. 24. There, they’ll consider whether to bring all students back into the classroom five days a week. Board members have also indicated that they might be open to allowing some schools to operate on different learning plans than others—for instance, if a school wishes to bring all students back five days a week in a safe and socially distant way, the board may grant that school the necessary permission to do so.
The Sun Valley Community School, meanwhile, is currently planning to bring all students back into the classroom five days a week when school resumes on Monday, Aug. 31, according to school spokeswoman Ryan Waterfield.
To protect students and staff, the school will require masks indoors and when social distancing is not possible, Waterfield said. The school is also encouraging teachers to take advantage of outdoor learning opportunities and outdoor class time when possible.
The Community School will also offer an online learning option for families who are not comfortable sending their kids back to school.
Students at the Syringa Mountain School will also return to the classroom on Aug. 31 with safety measures in place. Those safety measures include staggered arrival times for staff and students, with students divided into five groups based on the alphabetical order of their last names. Parents will not be allowed into the building during drop-off.
All students and visitors entering the building will be screened for a fever and other health concerns, according to the school’s reentry plan. Students’ temperatures will also be taken as they leave the classroom for lunch and prior to leaving school for the day.
Physical contact between people will be “strongly discouraged,” and students will wear face masks when social distancing is not possible. The school will provide two washable cloth face coverings for students. Masks are not optional for those entering the building.
A reentry plan for the Sage School could not be found on the school’s website and the school did not respond to a request for information by the Idaho Mountain Express.