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Gov. Brad Little Funnels Cash To Schools While Idaho Stays In Stage 4 Of Reopening

Idaho Statesman

The third time wasn’t the charm, apparently, as Gov. Brad Little announced Thursday that Idaho will remain in Stage 4 of his reopening plan once again.

“It’s not the end of the world if we don’t get out of Stage 4, but to me, it’s the message that we’re out of Stage 4 because we’ve done the right thing,” Little said.

While total case counts and the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus are beginning to decline, the numbers are still elevated. 11.7% of those tested are confirmed to have contracted COVID-19 – more than twice as much as benchmarks set by the governor’s plan.

Hospitalizations are also at an all-time high. Monday, which is the most recent data available, set a record for 242 people who were admitted to the hospital for the coronavirus. July was also the deadliest month of the pandemic in Idaho, with 113 deaths.

During a press conference, Little said the state was directing tens of millions of dollars toward schools as many prepare to reopen in a matter of weeks. That includes $10 million for personal protective equipment and disinfectant, as well as $48 million for technology to enhance online learning.

But plans on how to safely reopen schools are being left up to individual school boards. For example, West Ada School District, Idaho’s largest, will delay reopening until Sept. 8, though trustees will consider reopening schools even if public health officials say there’s still a high risk of transmission in the county.

When asked what he would say to teachers returning to physical classrooms who have to choose between their jobs and their health, Little responded, “It’s going to be tough.”

“But it’s tough for everybody. It’s tough for people in the media, I’ve even heard, to work in the time of a pandemic. It’s tough for governors, it’s tough for a lot of people,” he said.

Little said he doesn’t want students to fall behind and widen the achievement gap and that school districts will have to balance those needs with public health concerns.

A special legislative session is also set for later this month, where lawmakers might take up a bill limiting the liability schools would have to shoulder if students, teachers or staff get sick from the coronavirus.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!