While Idaho is experiencing its sharpest spike in coronavirus cases of the entire pandemic, Gov. Brad Little is pushing for K-12 schools to re-open for in-person instruction this fall.
“Before coronavirus, too many Idaho students faced a significant achievement gap and ongoing risks to their mental and social wellbeing (sic),” Little said in a statement Thursday.
“It’s imperative that students return to their classrooms and interact directly with their teachers and classmates at the end of the summer.”
The guidelines released Thursday outline how schools in areas with high amounts of community spread should either offer classes partially online or shut down temporarily. But others?
“By and large, these rural areas where they’ve got the least amount of community spread are some of the areas where we want those kids back in school,” Little said.
In the meantime, those schools, he said, should develop a remote learning plan to prepare for any potential outbreak the district might experience.
Masks will not be mandatory for students statewide. That decision will be left up to local school districts. In fact, none of the guidelines will be mandatory.
The governor’s move comes after the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supported reopening schools last week – with the caveat that coronavirus cases should not be surging in those areas.
Idaho failed to meet the criteria to move out of Stage 4 of Little’s reopening plan for the second straight check-in period in a row Thursday. It has recorded more than 2,500 cases in the last seven days. Had cases stayed low, all statewide restrictions would’ve been lifted June 26.
Despite confirmed cases swelling far beyond what Idaho has ever seen and hospitals already admitting higher numbers of people with COVID-19, Little said his reopening plan and its reliance on people taking personal responsibility for their actions did not fail.
When asked what had the sacrifices of Idahoans over the past several months achieved when the state is in the middle of its largest outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic, he said his response was better than taking no action at all.
“We took what we thought was a prudent action given the science of what we knew at that time.”
As of Wednesday night, Idaho still leads the nation in the amount of new coronavirus cases compared to two weeks ago.
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