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West Ada School District board approves plan to return students to in-person learning

The West Ada School District Board of Trustees approved a plan to return middle and high school students to the classroom at the end of March.

The board voted 4-1 to approve the district’s plan to return students to in-person classes, with an amended start date of March 29.

The original plan listed April 9 for high school students and April 13 for middle school students.

Trustee Rene Ozuna made a motion for an amendment of a possible return date between March 29 and April 9 with a decision to come from the superintendent at the next board meeting. The motion died with no seconds.

In discussing plans, Ozuna said the board will continue to watch the situation over the next few months and adapt as needed.

“I hope that it’s clear to everyone we want kids back in school, we have a responsibility to continue to watch what’s happening,” Ozuna said.

Some board members presented concerns over the lack of social distancing in the plan and questions regarding what safety precautions would be in place in high-risk scenarios such as lunch hours.

The district announced its plans to return middle and high school students to in-person learning Feb. 4. According to the plan, students in 6th through 12th grade can return to the classroom upon meeting two criteria: all West Ada School District staff had the chance to get the COVID-19 vaccine and the student/staff test positivity rate is below 2% for two straight weeks.

Two committees were formed for the decision, one for middle and one for high school, according to the district.

The district estimated it will be able to meet its criteria by April 9 and April 13. The timeline was developed based on the first date the COVID-19 vaccine became available to WASD staff, Jan. 16, and how long it would take staff to be given the chance to get both doses of the vaccine based on allocated doses.

The plan detailed Monday will remain a remote learning day and students and staff will be required to wear masks through at least the end of the current school year, according to West Ada School District. Mitigating measures will remain in place, such as hand washing and sanitizing. However, physical distancing of 6 feet “will not occur when all students are back in the building.”

Teachers are also expected to “deliver fully synchronous learning” to students both in-person and those in quarantine or isolation.

The board opened up public comment, with parents and students, staff and community members voicing concerns for both reopening in-person learning as well as remaining virtual.

Following public comment, West Ada Assistant Superintendent Bret Heller said there has been a rate of 2-3% more students with F grades but cautioned those grades are “a fairly subjective measure.”

After a student gave public comment discussing concerns of mental health and suicide rates of students during remote learning, Heller said the district has not had any deaths by suicide this year.

Watch the full meeting here:

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